And then there were ... still eight.

And then there were ... still eight.

With the special election to fill the vacant District 8 post on the Clintonville Area Commission a thing of the past, last week's monthly meeting should have seen the advisory panel returned to its full complement of nine members.

Instead, District 3 representative James R. Blazer II was absent.

Nevertheless, chiropractor Kristopher Keller was welcomed to the board following his victory in last month's special election, 58 votes to 34, over Laura S. Braun to fill the vacancy created by John DeFourny's resignation May 16.

For his inaugural session, Keller was treated to a presentation on COTA projects and four unanimous votes on zoning and variance issues.

Robert M. "Marty" Stutz, COTA's vice president of communications, marketing and customer service, along with Mike Bradley, director of capital projects and planning, updated CAC members on anticipated fleet upgrades and progress on a bus turnaround at North High Street and Westview Avenue.

The turnaround was the subject of major controversy in north Clintonville more than two years ago when transit authority officials initially intended to buy and bulldoze a shopping center at North High and East Kanawha Avenue.

Both that rejected plan and the facility currently under construction resulted from Casto Co. officials, the owners of Graceland Shopping Center, asking COTA to stop using the center's parking lot to turn northbound buses around for a trip back downtown. Bradley said COTA will continue to take riders on some routes into Graceland, but only every 30 minutes on the No. 2 route.

The new facility at Westview and North High should be completed in the first or second week of December, Bradley said.

"It is coming together pretty well," he said. "It does look nice. We appreciate the patience of the community."

While the turnaround will go into service in January as part of the semiannual route changes COTA officials institute, Stutz said a dedication ceremony probably will be put off until spring when the landscaping will look nicer.

Stutz also said COTA is in the process of changing over its entire fleet of buses to ones powered by compressed natural gas, with the first two arriving early next year.

It will take perhaps a dozen years to switch over the entire fleet, he said. Once the transition is complete, the cheaper fuel should result in an annual savings of $6 million in today's dollars, Bradley said.

In the zoning and variance matters, CAC members gave their blessing to an increase in the size of a garage at 63 Brevoort Road from 720 to 900 square feet. Another variance on garage square footage, this one from 720 to 840 at 125 Amazon Place, also was unanimously approved.

A request for a demolition permit at 34 Fenway Road was approved 7-1. District 9 representative D Searcy cast the lone dissenting vote. The single-family home is owned by Wesley Glen Retirement Community and was purchased to be torn down in order to expand the parking lot. Representatives from Wesley Glen did not attend the zoning and variance committee meeting at which the subject of the demolition permit came up, Chairwoman Dana K.G. Bagwell said, but nearby residents were on hand with a memo issued by the retirement facility saying city officials demanded the dilapidated home be torn down or fixed up.

In casting her vote, Searcy said she felt granting the permit sent a message to Clintonville businesses that it's OK to purchase property and then let it deteriorate.

The final matter, also a demolition permit, initially was disapproved by zoning and variance committee members because the owner did not attend the meeting and people living in the vicinity of 128 E. Beechwold Blvd. expressed some concerns, Bagwell said.

Owner Alan Zeis was on hand last week and apologized for not attending the earlier session. He said he plans to tear down the existing small house and replace it with a one-and-a-half story, 1,300-square-foot bungalow that would become his residence. Zeis, who works for a contractor, said the current home is probably beyond repair.

Next-door neighbor David Warner said his worries were allayed by the comments from Zeis.

"Almost anything would be better than what exists now," Warner said.

The vote on the East Beechwold Boulevard demolition permit was 8-0.