Zoning Commission rules on garage


The Berlin Zoning Commission heard a case regarding Maeve Meadows at its July 25, 2023 meeting.

The model home at the entry of the subdivision was mistakenly built with a front-load garage instead of a side-load garage, so Jim Hilz from developer Pulte Homes asked to have a side-load garage installed on a different lot to meet the required percentages. Designer Todd Faris also proposed additional landscaping to provide more screening for the model home. The homes are in the $600,000 to $800,000 price range.

The BZC’s task was to decide whether this was a minor or major modification. “If it is minor, the BZC would then decide whether to approve or deny the request,” said the meeting minutes. The board members each had comments and questions, among them being it sticks out like a sore thumb, and it has more of a suburban look than the preferred rural feel.

Attorney for the applicant Tom Hart said, “This is not a major modification because it is not a change in use.” When asked if the model home could be converted into a side-load, Hart said, “not without some major reconstruction, at significant expense.”

After discussion, a straw poll of commission members was taken. Then a vote on the resolution was taken, and the board voted 3-2 to accept “the requested deviation” as a minor modification of the final development plan, as long as the landscaping enhancements took place.

Next, there was an informal discussion with Joe Walker of EMH&T “to discuss potential light industrial/light commercial improvements on two parcels comprising 113.5 acres near routes 36/37. A plan was distributed. Due to a roadside swale, a moat was being considered built around the site perimeter to aid in stormwater retention and drainage.

“Mr. Walker said his client is in contract to purchase the land and he asked whether they could get a straw poll regarding the BZC’s feelings on the concept,” the minutes said. There were concerns expressed with parking (up to 600 vehicles at six buildings) and setbacks.

The BZC met on Aug. 8 and held a public and administrative review for a multi-family residential development on 31.6 acres zoned Berlin Commercial Overlay (BCO)/R10 at North Old State Road in the Berlin Business Park on the other side of the Savko concrete property. The applicant is based in Galena.

“After the conclusion of the hearing, the administrative review matter will be submitted to the Berlin Township Board of Trustees for their action,” said the minutes. It was noted that the application has already gone through the Architectural Review Board process.

The BZC met Aug. 22 to hear a final development plan for Berlin Farms West, Section 2 on Berlin Station Road. The 18.4-acre parcel is on Berlin Station Road and was zoned R-3/Planned Residential District.

“The model at Berlin Farms, on the east side of the peanut roundabout, has been open for about 30 days and has been doing well, as around 30 homes have been sold since March (2023),” the BZC was told by the M/I Homes representative. The homes cost in the $500,000s.

There was much discussion about garages, with side-load garages approved for 35% of the homes. There was also discussion of pools, with state law stating that no lifeguard is required if the pool is 1,999-square foot or less. The name of the development was also discussed, originally known as Longhill. It was said the original development had 531 homes, which was decreased to 482 and now at 434.

Chairman Jerry Valentine said, “Longhill was approved in 2018 and M/I Homes purchased it later,” the minutes said. “Mr. Valentine said it is the developer’s choice what to name a development. Another development with 90 homes was originally Berlin Farms, but it was renamed Berlin Farms East. Piatt Road is going to be extended, and that is where Berlin Farms West is dissected. It all used to be Longhill. The BZC makes recommendations to approve or 219 deny a rezoning request and then it goes to the trustees for final approval. The residents have 30 days to referendum a zoning plan, but that did not happen. It went to the trustees in 2022 and was modified. He is not certain of all that was changed.”

There was also discussion of continuing lawn mowing in the area instead of the developer’s proposal to make it “a natural habitat for weeds.”

Then the resolution was voted on. The final development plan was approved by a 3-1 vote.

The next BZC meeting, Sept. 12, was Valentine’s last “as he has been appointed as the assistant zoning inspector,” the minutes said. The commission discussed the township’s zoning documents going before the trustees on Sept. 25. It was said there were some “gotcha items that needed to be fixed … language needs to be corrected and made clear so developers cannot pick and choose … the terminology should be consistent.”

Valentine said, “the original zoning resolution was crafted for farmers who wanted to develop their land. However, today there are many developers with attorneys, and they look for the loopholes in order to maximize their returns. He would like to see the resolution revised so it is clear and fair.”

The BZC consists of Valentine, Vice Chair Darcy Kaplan, Angela Brown, Keith Goshia, Jenny Sloas, and alternates Jasper DeChristopher and Tara Shields. The zoning inspector is Jake Bon, the zoning secretary is Cathy Rippel and the zoning clerk is Lisa Knapp. The BZC meets in the Berlin Township Hall, 3271 Cheshire Road.

Assistant Editor Gary Budzak photographs and reports on stories in eastern Delaware County and surrounding areas.

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