Freeman gets OK from council

Published 1:10 pm Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Variance approved to allow businesses


SOUTH POINT — An issue that has been disputed for more than three years has finally been settled.

The South Point Village Council held a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss again a variance to the zoning order sought by businessman Joe Freeman.

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Freeman bought the former South Point Elementary School building in 2012 and was seeking a variance that would allow him to use that property for commercial purposes.

This time with a new legal document drafted by village solicitor Randy Lambert, the council was able to come to a decision by unanimously voting in favor of the variance.

“I can’t speak for every council member,” councilwoman, Mary Cogan said, “but, the legal advice of our village attorney really went into my decision. He didn’t tell us to approve the variance, but he did advise us that approval of the variance would be legal.”

For Cogan, once it was clear that approving the variance could be done legally, it became a matter of what was best for the village.

“Basically it was a matter of neighborhood improvement,” Cogan said. “You can watch a building sit empty and become dilapidated and worthless, which could also lead to a rise in crime. Or you can allow businesses to move in and keep the property up.”

The approved variance does have some stipulations and limitations placed upon Freeman and what he can do with the property. One of those limitations is the type of businesses that can occupy the old school building.

Freeman willingly accepted to limit businesses to six licensed professions as well as agreeing to restrict parking on Ninth Street in South Point by allowing the village to put in a fire lane.

“I have compromised several times because I felt it was the right thing to do,” Freeman said. “I felt the compromises were fair and felt like they were all things I’d want as a neighbor or as someone living in the neighborhood.”

The six businesses that the variance allows are accounting, appraisal, architectural, engineering, legal and surveying firms. Freeman said he’s just happy to be able to begin bringing businesses to South Point.

“I’ve been fighting this fight for three years,” he said. “I’m glad it’s over, but I’m really just happy to start bringing in reputable businesses and jobs to the village.”

One of the main points of opposition to the variance was the potential for an increased traffic problem in the residential area making it unsafe for playing children who live in the neighborhood. Cogan doesn’t believe that will be an issue.

“I don’t think it will cause significantly more traffic,” Cogan said. “I certainly don’t think it will cause more traffic than when the school was there and parents were picking up and dropping off children.”