With time running out for another applicant looking to do business out of the former Kent VFW building, the looming threat of foreclosure proceedings may mean the closure of the Stow VFW post
Earlier this month, the Kent Planning Commission denied a request to allow the building to be used as a reception hall because it is in an industrial district. Applicant Josh Dobrilovic asked the commission if the hall space could be rented for various events with food provided that was brought in. Community Development Director Bridget Susel said that was not allowed under the zoning.
Though the building does have a kitchen and serving area, Susel explained that the VFW was allowed in the industrial district because it was a fraternal organization and that was its primary purpose. The group moved out of the building six years ago. Susel wrote in an email to the Record-Courier that finding a new tenant for the building has been difficult because of the zoning district’s limited permitted and conditionally permitted uses.
At the meeting, Carla Herbert, a Realtor who has listed the former Kent VFW building for four of the six years it has been vacant, said it is possible that Portage Community Bank would begin foreclosure proceedings if plans were not approved by the end of December. She added the foreclosure could impact the Acker-Moore Memorial Post in Stow because the two buildings are tied together under one mortgage through Portage Community Bank.
"My speech to the committee here is that I wouldn't want to be the city that tears down a VFW Post in two different counties," Herbert said.
Stow VFW Commander Michael Farmer said in a later interview that he does not think foreclosure proceedings would mean the end of the Stow chapter, but it may necessitate moving out of its current building on Fishcreek Road. He explained that the former Kent VFW site needs to be sold so the mortgage on the Acker-Moore building can be satisfied and restructured into a more manageable monthly payment rate.
Farmer said the former Kent VFW building was purchased without VFW board approval by George Fisher, former Stow American Legion Post 175 Commander. For the two buildings together, Farmer said, the mortgage is currently $12,800 a month. Though the bank has been very lenient with the organization and has gone out of its way to help, Farmer said, it can only do so much.
Dobrilovic entered into a purchase agreement with the organization to purchase the Kent building in June, Farmer explained. Obtaining the correct zoning is a contingency in the contract. If Dobrilovic is unsuccessful in obtaining that by the time his contract expires on Tuesday, Farmer said, a backup offer is ready. The new contract, which will go live on Wednesday, will be the sixth offer on the Kent VFW building that will require rezoning. Farmer said he prefers Dobrilovic’s offer because it is more money than the backup contract.
Herbert said finding someone new to occupy the former Kent VFW building has been a battle. For Dobrilovic’s plans to be approved, either the permitted uses must be updated or the zoning map itself must be changed. With the commission denying Dobrilovic’s request and the consideration of a change to the map being held on Jan. 7, after Dobrilovic’s contract expires, she said it is highly unlikely he will be able to do anything with the building. The change to the map was supposed to be discussed earlier this month but had to be postponed because the city did not properly notify neighbors.
"There's so many opportunities and so many things out there, but because of the zoning, the city is restricting themselves," Farmer said. "In the long run, it is going to hurt the VFW."
Reporter Kaitlyn McGarvey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-298-1127.