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Planning commission says no to zoning change

The Ironton City Council Thursday rejected a proposal from developer Jack Hager to change the zoning designation on a piece of property to allow him to develop apartments there.

Hager, who owns the old Whitwell Elementary School, wanted the city to change the zoning from residential 2 to residential 3 and thus allow him to make 20-25 apartments for senior citizens and veterans.

“You have to get 60 percent of the neighbors to agree to the zoning change,” commission member Dave Swartzwelder told Hager. Hager told the commission the adjacent neighbors supported his plan but as he spoke several people who live near Whitwell looked at the commission and shook their heads.

“He never came to my door and asked me (if I supported his plan),” Mary Bonnie Brown Sutton said. Sutton said she is concerned that the proposed development for seniors and veterans would end up renting units to less-than-desirable people who would turn their peaceful into a neighborhood of drugs and violence.

“It’s a nice neighborhood, no trouble and stuff,” her husband, Mike Sutton, said.

Mary Ann Depriest submitted a petition bearing the names of more than 50 residents who oppose Hager’s plans.

One neighbor, Mike Pearson, handed Mayor Rich Blankenship a classified ad from The Tribune in which Hager was advertising apartments for rent at the Whitwell building. That ad was printed despite the fact he does not have the necessary permits in place to develop the site or zoning change from the city.

Hager said the ad was supposed to be a survey, not an ad.

Blankenship, who is a member of the commission, noted Hager had exterior drawings of the proposed development but no drawings of what the interior would look like. He also said he did not want to start “spot zoning” the city, rezoning parcels of property here and there.

“I don’t want to open that can of worms,” Blankenship said.

Blankenship said he truly did not have enough information from Hager about his plans to be able to support it.

In the end, members opted not to recommend the proposed zoning variance to city council, a decision that upset Hager, who left after telling the planning commission, “I can’t believe you’d turn your own mother out.”