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Cheer team appeal denied in 3-2 South Point vote

Business had sought use of former elementary school

SOUTH POINT — A cheer and dance team who were seeking use of the former South Point Elementary School were denied a variance to village zoning law at a hearing on Wednesday.
Joe Freeman, who owns the building, had applied for a variance for the property, for which he was donating use of the building to Trinity Cheer and Dance, who were displaced from an Ironton gymnasium earlier this year.

The request was initially denied by the village, as it did not meet specifications for a variance and an appeal was filed.

A hearing took place before the council meeting last week, in which village council served as the appeal board. As there is no role designated under law for mayor Jeff Gaskin, village solicitor Randy Lambert served as moderator.

Last week’s hearing allowed Trinity, owned by Katrina Anson, and neighbors to make their case. Comments from the public were also taken.

Anson said her business would provide a positive outlet for youth and contribute to village. She said there were no other buildings that fit the group’s needs and that Freeman had agreed to forgo rent until the group got re-established.

Neighbors opposed to the variance feared an increase in traffic and a snowball effect if the building, which is zoned for residential use and certain types of businesses, was approved for another use.

Due to time and the hearing encroaching on the monthly meeting of council, a second hearing was scheduled for Wednesday. Lambert said its purpose was for deliberation.

After some discussion, Lambert said the board members could either grant the variance, based on restrictions, or vote to deny it.

Council member Bill Patrick put forth a motion to deny, which was seconded by Mary Cogan.

The council vote 3-2 to deny the variance, with Patrick, Cogan and Chris Smith in favor of denial and Chuck Austin and Mike Lynd opposing.

Marlene Arthur, who was not present for the first hearing, chose to abstain from voting.

Following the meeting, Lambert said the decision was rooted in concerns of neighbors for preserving the character of the neighborhood.

“It’s a residential area, with mostly elderly people,” he said of the neighborhood, which is one of few in the village zoned completely as residential. “They want to maintain it as a residential area.”

He said the decision could be appealed higher to a court, but it would have to be proven that the village acted arbitrarily.

Sandra Daniel, who lives on Washington Street adjacent to the former school expressed her approval.

“The neighbors are very happy it was denied,” she said of the decision on the neighborhood. “We want to keep it residential.”

Anson, who exited village hall immediately after the vote, described the decision as “ridiculous.”

She said she had hoped they would be considered for a limited variance for at least six months.

“Until we could get the flooring we need,” she said of the required padding for a practice space.

She said the council was not concerned with the needs of the children, who had been displaced from their Ironton location, and that she and her staff had hoped to “build things back up for them.”

Anson said she had seen posts on social media from residents that showed strong support for the team.

“But they voted to make about 10 people in South Point happy,” she said.

Anson said she was unsure of her next move. As some council members had expressed concern that the language of the variance request was too broad, she said they may consider another variance that would be more specific.