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Council passes zoning change

Move finalized over objections of land owner

Ironton City Council Thursday night gave third reading to and then adopted a zoning change that changes a parcel of land on Liberty Avenue back in completely residential status. This came after an eleventh hour protest from the man who owns the property.

Doug Philabaun, along with his wife, Kathy, and son, Andrew, attended the council meeting and asked the council not to make any change to the parcel of land that is right now zoned partly residential and partly commercial.

He said passage of the zoning change would take away his opportunity to use the lot commercially and pointed out that in that area recent developments have topped $100 million. He added he had bought the property 30 years ago and had relied on that piece of property for his future.

Philabaun said the zoning of this land has been in place 60 years with no adverse effect on the community.

“I can’t think of one valid reason why this needs to be changed at this time,” Philabaun said.

He also said he would never have demolished a $50,000 house on the lot if he had known the city council would remove the commercial status from part of the lot.

Philabaun also said he has always been told by city officials that if part of the land is zoned commercial, it is all commercial, thereby making the entire lot open to commercial development. When asked what city officials had told him that, he said two people had told him that and mentioned one by name: former city code enforcement officer Karl Wentz.

As for the petition signed by several neighbors who oppose his using the land commercially, Philabaun said he had heard from three neighbors this week who do not oppose his plan.

Council member Philip Heald asked what neighbors had told him that. Philabaun said that was private.

Council member Aaron Bollinger questioned Philabaun as to why he had waited until the matter was to be given third reading before he came forward and expressed his opinion. He pointed out that the matter has been debated for months and there had even been a public hearing on the issue. But Philabaun and others who support his plans had never been spoken to city officials at any of these meetings.

“Others, if they had no problem, they got the notice about the public hearing. That would have been an opportunity for them to speak,” Bollinger said.

“I didn’t think it would get this far,” Philabaun said. He added he had sent position statements to city officials during the months-long debate of this issue.

Bollinger pointed out the deed restrictions on the land prohibit its use for commercial purposes. Philabaun countered if the city applies this deed restriction against his property, it should apply it against other parcels of land in the same circumstances as his.

Philabaun pointed out he has spent money to demolish the house and put in a curb cut — money he would have not spent if he would be told later he could not have a business there.

“This is not the right way to treat a small business in this city,” Philabaun said.

Common Pleas Judge Charles Cooper, who lives near the parcel of land, also spoke to council. He said all the people who signed the petition that was circulated months ago gave their names as being in opposition to the land being used commercially. He also pointed out that this matter has been debated and discussed for months.

The vote on the ordinance to rezone the portion of land from commercial to residential was six in favor. Council members Bollinger, Bob Cleary, Heald, Mike Lutz and Beth Rist voted in favor of it; council member Dave Frazer abstained from voting, saying all members of council should be present for this matter to be decided. Council member Kevin Waldo was absent.