“Commercial creep” was the dominant theme of Friday’s meeting of the Cincinnati City Planning Commission.
The commission chose to table a zoning change request by Stagnaro, Saba & Patterson Co. (SSP) to rezone a property at 3443 Zumstein Avenue in Hyde Park from single-family residential use to office use, which would allow the firm to relocate four of its 13 employees from its adjacent office to the building’s first floor.
The zoning change was opposed by the Hyde Park Neighborhood Council, which fears the expansion of businesses onto its residential streets, a loss of parking, and uncertainty about the property’s future use.
“In our meetings with Mr. Saba [Peter Saba, attorney and SSP shareholder], he revealed that the short-term plan was to use the first floor for office, which appears to be rather innocuous,” said Gary Wollenweber, chair of Hyde Park Neighborhood Council’s Zoning Committee. “But then he explained that future plans may be to occupy the entire building, or demolish the entire building and build a parking lot, or perhaps enlarge his current building.”
Saba said that his firm was only exploring its options.
“Specifically, at that point in time when we looked at it, we realized our only plan we wanted to do is use that first floor space,” he said. “At this point, that’s all we have on the table. Anything else is beyond economic feasibility for us right now.”
SSP has a second office in Anderson Township, and it has been suggested that the firm could expand there. But Jeff Stagnaro, who is also an attorney and shareholder with SSP, said that the majority of his firm’s clients prefer the Hyde Park location.
“Your choice is really to move the entire firm to Anderson Township, or stay here in Hyde Park,” he said. “It is somewhat about us, but it’s about our clients more than it’s about us.”
To Wollenweber, the residents of Zumstein Avenue may have little defense over the zoning change, citing a recent change on Edwards Avenue as precedent.
“One of the arguments that was used against us was that it’s just one more parcel in the middle of a block, and what difference would it make if you just move one more parcel north?” he said. “This is the first parcel with a Zumstein address. So we are turning the corner off of Erie and now starting to march down Zumstein.”
The issue may appear before the commission again in May or June, giving time for the firm and the neighborhood to explore possible solutions.
In a less contentious debate, the City Planning Commission rejected a zoning change at 1780-1816 Section Road in Roselawn from residential multi-family use to office use.
Property owner Schuyler Murdock, who has run design-build firm CM-GC from the property since 2009, wants to make utility upgrades to her non-conforming building and is trying to market the adjacent parcels for the construction of two condominium buildings of four units apiece, plus a spa and wellness center.
Murdock told commissioners that she has already lined up an operator for the spa and has pre-sold two condominiums.
But with no concrete development plans and a fear that nothing would be built and the stepped-up zoning would remain, she failed to draw the support of the Roselawn Community Council.