MUNROE FALLS — The city’s board of zoning appeals on Monday night voted 4-1 in favor of a variance requested by Circle K for its plan to build a $3.3 million gas station/convenience store at the corner of Main Street (Route 91) and Munroe Falls Avenue.

The 15-foot variance on the city’s 20-foot front parking setback approved by the BZA will allow Circle K to have its parking lot 5 feet away from the street right-of-way along Munroe Falls Avenue. This was a modified version of a requested variance that was turned down by the BZA in October 2018.

The approval of the variance is only one step in Circle K’s effort to build the station and store. The planning commission in May voted against recommending approval of Circle K’s overall plan. City Council will ultimately have the final say on that issue. Council will have a first reading and a public hearing on the plan on June 18 at 7 p.m. in City Hall, 43 Munroe Falls Ave.

BZA chair Nicole Welsh, who favored the variance, said she felt the property "proposes a hardship on anybody who goes to build there because of the location and because of the traffic and because of the frontage."

"It’s a corner lot, it’s narrow to both frontages no matter what you build there," said Welsh. "It’s not against the residential district and it’s within the business area."

BZA member Larissa Mavrides, who cast the dissenting vote, said she did not feel the proposed project would fit on the lot.

"I feel that granting this variance at this site will negatively impact our future decisions," said Mavrides.

Mavrides said she felt Circle K had not demonstrated a hardship to obtain the variance. She noted she felt Circle K was trying "to squeeze a building" onto a 0.9-acre lot and noted she felt the company needed about 1.5 acres for the structure size they wanted.

Robert Weller, a civil engineer for the project, said Circle K is looking to construct a 4,600 square foot building with 24 parking spaces on the site. He added he felt the site was a "nice location."

Trevor Hardy, an attorney representing Circle K, said the company had shifted the angle of the canopy, and was planning to install pavers, as well as perform landscaping for the project that "will benefit and beautify the city."

"I think that people traveling through the city are going to stop here, they’re going to use it, it will contribute to the city as far as tax revenues…Circle K does not want to do anything to take away the character of the neighborhoods [or] take away the character of the city. It’s been a good corporate partner for years and it wants to continue in that."

Bill Kremer, who owns property next door to the proposed Circle K site, said there is "more than ample room" for Circle K to build a gas station and convenience store without requesting any variances. He added Circle K officials knew that the lot was "woefully undersized" for the building size they wanted to construct.

"It’s obvious the hardship has been self-created," said Kremer. He noted that the expected traffic volume is a concern.

The BZA in October 2018 approved eight variances for the project. That BZA action is the subject of two different court challenges: In November 2018, the Kremer Family Revocable Trust, which owns a neighboring property, appealed the granting of the variances; and in January, the Kremer Family Revocable Trust sought a court order to invalidate the variances, claiming the BZA violated the Open Meetings Act when the variances were approved last fall.

Both of those cases are pending in Summit County Common Pleas Court.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.