Stow -- Two months after the city's planning commission informally rejected a proposal for an office / warehouse building and two self-storage buildings at Allen and Hampshire roads, the commission gave its OK for a scaled-back plan.

The commission voted 4-0 on Sept. 26 approving a conditional zoning permit for a single 13,000-square-foot self-storage building on a 3.5-acre vacant parcel zoned I-2 industrial on the north side of Hampshire. Commission member William Ross was absent.

Property owner and developer MRT Properties Inc. already has three office / warehouse buildings, called flex buildings, totaling 52,766 square feet and two self-storage buildings totaling 27,600 square feet in its Allen Road Business Center to the west of the Allen and Hampshire corner parcel.

The proposal is expected to go before City Council's planning committee on Oct. 13 and may be on Council's regular meeting agenda later that evening.

MRT Properties Vice President Martin Levin told the commission that the building would be for storage of motor homes and recreational vehicles because although Stow allows people to park them at their homes, other communities in the area have more stringent requirements.

"There is a lot of demand for this type of business," he said.

At a July 26 meeting, the commission considered a more ambitious plan for two 13,000-square-foot self-storage buildings and a 15,000-square-foot flex building on the corner. It was a study item, with no vote, but commission members and Planning Director Rob Kurtz said they found the proposal problematic.

MRT Properties President Jim Levin told the commission at the July meeting that the company wanted to construct the storage buildings in the near future, but he estimated that due to current market conditions, the flex building probably would not be constructed for another six to 10 years.

Kurtz said this would bring the proposal too much in conflict with city ordinances, which would require the storage buildings to be constructed behind the flex building. He said this is partially due to aesthetics, but also because the city considers buildings such as office / warehouses beneficial to economic development efforts and wants to encourage their construction over self-storage buildings, which are not considered beneficial because they bring in few if any jobs.

Kurtz said exceptions can be made, but he and the city's planning department were having difficulty justifying one in this case. For the revised proposal, however, Kurtz said it is more palatable because there would be only one storage building and while it would be 60 feet from Hampshire, it would be 380 feet from Allen road, leaving plenty of space for future development between Allen and the storage building.

"The plan is consistent with the spirit of the code," said Kurtz.

Kurtz said he was recommending the commission approve the conditional zoning certificate, providing that MRT Properties meet certain conditions, He said this includes joining the parcel with the developed parcels to the west, adding a fire hydrant and making any needed improvements to an existing pond to handle stormwater runoff from additional impervious surfaces.

"It looks like they have room to expand the pond," said Commission Vice Chairman David Kohlmeier.

MRT Properties constructed the current Allen Road Business Center buildings over a 20-year period, beginning in 1987.

"MRT Properties is a homegrown business, a Stow business, for 30 years," said Martin Levin.

He said MRT Properties may try to develop the vacant portion to suit an as yet unknown tenant or may split it into a separate parcel and sell it, but he noted that his company has tried to sell it for the last 30 years.

"It's hard to believe, but in 30 years, I have not had a bone fide offer on that property," said Levin.

Ward 4 Councilor Bob Adaska, who lives in the Wyoga Lake development to the west of the Allen Road Business Center, told the commission that he supports the MRT Properties proposal.

"Personally, I've driven by this property four times a day for the last 30 years and I've always found this property well maintained," said Adaska.

Levin said his company takes pride in what it has done and how it has maintained the property.

"We are very proud of what we have done," adding later that, "We know we will make you very proud."


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