The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

March 4, 2014

Our Lady of Peace Parish pulls rezoning request

ASHTABULA — Our Lady of Peace Parish on Monday withdrew a rezoning request hours before City Council planned a public hearing on the matter.

Our Lady of Peace Parish had requested that eight parcels at the Mother of Sorrows Church site, on West Sixth and West Eighth streets, be changed from Residential-4 (R-4) to Commercial-1 (C-1), excluding the actual church building.

Existing zoning usages include residential housing, multi-family housing, parking lot, school, church and rectory. Proposed zoning usages include multi-family housing, commercial, such as restaurants and small businesses.

On Thursday, the City Planning Commission voted 5-1 to recommend  a zoning change with President James Giannell casting the dissenting vote.

But, shortly before noon Monday, Pete Olsen, the parish’s director of business, announced the parish was pulling its request.

“We believe it’s in the best interest of the parish not to rezone,” he said.

He would not elaborate.

The Rev. Raymond Thomas, pastor of Our Lady of Peace Parish, is on vacation, but wrote in his request that he had been approached by a number of interested parties, who would wanted to buy the lots for commercial use.

“The uses range from a community center to serve the youth and seniors in the harbor community, a multi-cultural dormitory and a funeral home,” he said in a letter to the zoning board.

Luciana Ratermann, director of planning and community development, said the rezoning issue started with a request from Michael Czup, who wanted to get a conditional-use permit to open a funeral home in the former rectory. However, his plans included building an addition onto the building. Consequently, he was told the church had to get involved in the process.

The parish then presented nine parcels to the planning commission for rezoning, but shortly before last week’s Planning Commission meeting, pulled Mother of Sorrows church building from the list.

City Manager Jim Timonere said the parish owns 25 structures and they are not all churches.  

The Planning Commission discussed R-4 and C-1, looking at all the different scenarios and expressing concern about multi-family housing.

Ann Rapose, chair of the Ashtabula Harbor Historical District’s Architecture Review Board, sent a letter opposing the zoning change. She cited several reasons, including piecemeal splitting up of the church properties will likely leave Mother of Sorrows Church, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a source of community pride, isolated on a small parcel without off street parking. This will negatively impact the building’s future, she said.

Planning Commissioner Jim Paulchel said the marketability of the church could be affected by a lack of parking.

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