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Whitwell neighbors voice disapproval of proposed apartment complexes

Issue currently out of city’s control

Several neighbors of the Whitwell School came to the Ironton City Council meeting Thursday evening to object to the apartment complexes developer and owner of the property Jack Hager plans to turn the building into.

“Once again, we’re back talking about the Whitwell issue,” Cliff Back said to council, referring to last year from May to July when Hager went through the process to get the approximately 50,000 square-foot property changed from a Residential-2 to a Residential-3 to build apartment complexes for veterans and senior citizens.

“We’ve been through this before and don’t want the apartments in the school,” he said.

The ordinance to change the zoning from an R-2 to an R-3 died at council last year after it received an unfavorable recommendation from the planning commission and criticism from neighbors at a public hearing.

Currently, Hager has given up on getting the property rezoned, but is continuing to build the apartment complexes as an R-2 by splitting the building into three separate two-story buildings with breezeways in between. Two will contain four apartments and the third, two apartments for a total of 10 apartments.

Hager said two more apartments would eventually be added to the building with two for a total of 12, and there’s the potential for a fourth building where the gymnasium will stand for potentially 16 total apartments. Hager said he rents the gym out to a cheerleading group and will continue to do so for the near future.

Ironton Mayor Katrina Keith said Hager has met with her and city code enforcement and zoning officer Susan Dooley, but the issue is currently out of the city’s control.

“The building is commercial, not residential,” Keith said. “So he was referred to the county and is dealing with state building director Bill Toole. As it stands now, Mr. Hager is working with the state and the county. The issue is out of Ironton’s control.”

Dooley said that right now, Hager needs to get approval from the state and submit it to the city, where the city can then give him a building permit.

“The city’s not in a position to do anything yet until the state approves it,” Dooley said. “Then, if the state approves it, the city can deal with it if it’s in compliance with being an R-2.

Hager said the building must be split before it can be approved, but that he has an architect working on the two-story drawings to be submitted for approval.

Also at council:

• Three Ironton residents from the city’s north end spoke to council about flooding issues in their home’s basements. The problems have been reoccurring and possibly have to do with issues within the storm/sanitary separation project. Mayor Keith, councilman and former mayor Rich Blankenship, city wastewater superintendent Dennis Gumbert and city engineer Michael Williams, from E.L. Robinson all said they have discussed the issues and are looking into options to get the issues resolved.

• Ordinance 16-30, authorizing and directing the mayor to negotiate and enter into an agreement for engineering and design services with E.L. Robinson Engineering Company, Inc. regarding the Memorial Hall Park improvement project and declaring an emergency, was given its first reading. The improvements include new sidewalks, a bench and flagpole and will cost a total $23,955. The city of Ironton received an allocation grant of $24,000 from the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization (CAO) for the project.

• Ordinance 16-31, authorizing the mayor to submit an application to the Ohio Department of Development for the use of revolving loan funds (RLF) for façade improvements and declaring an emergency, was given its first reading. Joe Unger, owner of Unger’s Shoes has requested $2,200 from the RLF for the improvements.

• Ordinance 16-32, amending the annual operating budget for the city of Ironton for the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2016, and declaring an emergency was given its first reading.

No further action could be taken on the above ordinances due to not enough council members present. Craig Harvey and Kevin Waldo were not at the meeting.

• Resolution 16-33, authorizing the transfers and indirect cost reimbursements as adopted by the 2016 annual budget appropriation ordinance and declaring an emergency, passed.