STOW — City Council is looking at using its rezoning authority to try to preserve more green space in the city.

Council on Thursday voted 6-0 in favor of asking the planning commission to decide whether the Kent State University Airport property, Roses Run Country Club land, the Marsh Reclamation Plant and and undeveloped parcels west of Route 8 should be rezoned to a conservation district. Council president Matt Riehl (Ward 1) was not at the meeting.

If the planning commission makes recommendations in favor of rezoning the sites, the issue would then return to city council for a final vote.

The KSU Airport site has a zoning designation of limited industrial, while the other parcels are all zoned residential.

City Council member Mike Rasor (At Large) said he would like to rezone these pieces of land to a conservation designation in an effort to "preserve … larges swaths of green space in Stow."

On his Facebook page, Rasor said he felt the KSU Airport site is a "prime candidate" for being rezoned to a conservation district. "[Rezoning the land] will protect neighbors from the university selling for housing or other uses, which may not be on KSU’s agenda today — but this is a long play for the future of our community," stated Rasor.

KSU spokesperson Eric Mansfield told the Sentry, "This is the first we are hearing of the idea, but based on our strong relationship with the city of Stow, we would expect to discuss this topic with city leaders at the appropriate time."

On Thursday, Rasor emphasized rezoning the airport site would not prevent KSU from continuing to operate it. Rasor said he spoke with with an official in KSU's government affairs office about his proposal.

Rasor said the rezoning proposal is "not a problem with [the KSU official]. He has to run it up the chain. [The airport has] a long-range plan that the [Federal Aviation Administration] requires them to put out. Rezoning this to conservation does not conflict with that long-range plan."

Law Director Brendan Mackin noted rezoning the KSU Airport site could mean the city would lose a potential future source of income.

Council member Bob Adaska (Ward 4) said he thought the city "might be shooting themselves in the foot" if it rezones the airport property and noted the land was adjacent to the city’s retail and office district.

"The city may want to expand into that [retail and office district] and we may need the revenue at some point," said Adaska.

Rasor noted he was not trying to rush the issue through and wanted to have planning commission study the issue thoroughly. If the land were no longer an airport, Rasor said he felt the property could end up having hundreds of homes rather than corporate offices.

"Houses in the market are snapping up fast," said Rasor. "Builders are desperate for land to build in Stow ... If we had this property rezoned, we’d control that process." 

Adaska noted he felt the city may be putting itself "at the mercy of a future council as far as what they want to do with that." Rasor said he would prefer a future council have the chance to make a decision about the site’s usage than not have that choice.

Noting there are homes near the airport property, Council member Brian Lowdermilk (Ward 3) said "I can only imagine the crowds we would have" if a developer wanted to install a light industrial project on the airport land if it were no longer an airport. He added he felt the rezoning would give the city the ability "to vet projects." 

The airport, which is also known as Andrew Paton Field,  opened in 1917 and is located at 4020 Kent Road. The airport supports approximately 55,000 flight operations each year and has one active runway that is 4,000 feet long and 60 feet wide, according to information provided by the university. The site has about 300 acres of open space and wildlife habitat.

Roses Run property

The Roses Run property, 2636 North River Road, is in a residential zoning district, and Rasor noted while he is "not aware of any plans to develop [on the land]," he noted golf courses are closing across the country.

"If we wait until we learn of a threat, it will be too late to do anything about it," said Rasor. 

Jill Lockhart, one of the owners of Roses Run, told the Sentry she supports the rezoning, adding, "It should always have been green space."

Roses Run opened in 1998 and contains 179 acres, according to Chad Lockhart, one of the managers.

Other items eyed for rezoning

Through an analysis of the green space and parcels that are west of Route 8 and south of Wyoga Lake Estates, Rasor said he compiled a list of about 10 parcels containing about 100 acres in the northwest quadrant which are now zoned residential that "could be rezoned." The Marsh Road Water Reclamation Plant property has a "huge swath of undeveloped land," said Rasor.

He noted he was concerned that changing the zoning of these privately owned parcels would mean the city was creating "another degree of difficulty" for who wished to develop their land.

Rasor is continuing an approach he started last month when he and fellow Council member Sindi Harrison (Ward 2) led an effort to ask the planning commission to make a recommendation on rezoning the Fox Den Golf Course property from a residential classification to a conservation district. The commission on Aug. 27 voted in favor of recommending the zoning change. Legislation to rezone the land is now before council and had a first reading on Thursday. Rasor said the legislation must be given three readings before council can vote.

A public hearing on the proposed rezoning of the Fox Den Golf Course is Oct. 24 at 5:30 p.m.

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