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Stow's planning commission has given its blessing to an estimated $5 million in improvements to Marhofer Chevrolet on the southeast corner of S.R. 91 and S.R. 59.
The commission has approved a number of items related to the project, including site plans and a conditional zoning certificate. Other items OK'd by the commission were the vacation of Yukon Road -- which runs between the two state routes through the dealership -- and 80 feet of Thorndale Avenue at its west end where it meets Yukon, and the rezoning of a parcel on Yukon, on the south side of Thorndale, from R-3 residential to C-3 community retail.
Stow Planning Director Rob Kurtz said all of the items are now subject to City Council approval. Council is expected to discuss them at its planning committee meeting Monday, with the possibility that they could be introduced at council's regular meeting on Thursday.
Kurtz said council will have to schedule public hearings on the rezoning and street vacation before voting on them. The site plan and conditional zoning certificate do not require a public hearing, he said, but since they are contingent on the rezoning and vacation, council is unlikely to vote on them until after the public hearings.
"There are significant improvements that will be made that will benefit the community and the schools," said Marhofer attorney John Slagter, adding "we believe the dealership is important to the community."
Owner Ron Marhofer said last year that the project was needed to update the dealership, the current configuration of which dates back to the 1960s. He said he wants to close Yukon because motorists often speed through it, using it as a cut-through between the two state routes and putting dealership employees and customers at risk.
Terry Donovan, a traffic engineering consultant for the city, said that a recent study included a traffic count indicating that about 830 vehicles used Yukon as a cut-through between the two state routes during a 12-hour period during the day.
"This is obviously used as a cut-through," said Donovan, who added that the study indicated that the intersection at S.R. 91 and S.R. 59 could handle the additional traffic.
Marhofer told the commission that the difference in the number of parking spaces will be "virtually nil." He also said that the dealership currently has about 80 employees and while sales staff is not expected to increase, there will likely be some increase in support staff.
The site plan calls for the demolition of the existing sales building along S.R. 91 and the construction of a new 30,293-square-foot showroom, sales and service building to the east. The dealership is zoned C-3 community retail, which requires a conditional zoning certificate before a new auto sales building can be constructed. A service building on the north side of Thorndale will remain.
In addition, two businesses at the north end of Yukon, Stow Glass and State Farm Insurance, will continue to be able to have access from S.R. 59 at that point.
The site plan and conditional zoning certificate approval also includes variances to allow for a 28-foot-high sign, which the dealership has now, above the 20-foot minimum allowed under city ordinances, and for 17 percent of the dealership property to be greenspace, below the 25 percent minimum now required.
"The current amount of greenspace is significantly less than what is in the plan," said Slagter.
The plan also calls for the closing of Thorndale at Yukon, with the construction of a cul-de-sac partially on the residential parcel under consideration for rezoning, and for two formerly residential parcels on the north side of Thorndale to be incorporated into the dealership while a third, the eastern most of the three parcels, will remain as is.
"The residential structure that's there will remain there," said Slagter.
Last year, when Marhofer was seeking the rezoning of the parcels from R-3 to C-3, residents living on Thorndale and Margaret Avenue to the east objected over what they saw as an encroachment into their neighborhood. Slagter said in December, when council approved the zoning change, that leaving the one residential property as is for additional buffering, as well as a cul-de-sac at the end of Thorndale to answer resident concerns of increased traffic on Thorndale, would be considered.
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