Grove City Council this week overturned a variance that would have allowed a former councilman to grow soybeans on his property.
On Monday, April 7, City Council voted unanimously to reverse a decision by the Board of Zoning Appeals that would have granted a variance for planting on about 5 acres of residential property at 5000 Haughn Road owned by former councilman Larry Corbin.
"I have a couple of farmers who want to farm the property," said Corbin, adding that they wanted to plant soybeans. "Nothing out of the ordinary."
Corbin said long-term he would like to develop apartments on the property, which is zoned for single-family residential.
"I would eventually like to rezone it," he said. "I'm not ready to do that yet."
However, his proposal to farm the property in the meantime drew opposition from neighbors adjacent to the property who raised concerns about the use of pesticides and other agro-chemicals.
"Our major concern is possible health concerns," said neighbor Cindy Howell, who said she has allergies to oil-based chemicals while her husband has health problems related to exposure to Agent Orange when he served in Vietnam.
"I don't think it's fair we should live so close to chemicals that could be harmful. We are the closest (to the property)," she said.
The property was previously located within Jackson Township when Corbin purchased it.
"We encouraged him to annex it into the city," said Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage.
When the property was annexed into the city, it was designated as single-family residential.
"He applied for the annexation. He accepted the single-family residential zoning," said Thomas McCash, an attorney representing two neighbors.
Councilwoman Maria Klemack-McGraw said she has great respect for Corbin for all he and his wife have done for the community.
"(But) their generosity does not grant them special consideration," she said.
Councilman Jeff Davis said this was one of the most difficult votes he's had on council. He said initially he had no issues with farming on the property until he heard from the neighbors.
"There is genuine concern about the health effects of agro-chemicals," he said. "There might be other ways to farm this property. My opinion is you (Corbin) go back and have those discussions with your neighbors."
Council President Ted Berry said this was a tough vote for him as well.
"I love agriculture and growing things," he said. "I wonder if there's a happy a medium."
Berry suggested the possibility of renting out plots on the land for an organic community garden.
"That would be a benefit to the city and the residents," he said.
In other news from Monday's meeting:
* Council voted unanimously to spend $196,040 for additional improvements at Breck Community Park of Demorest Road. Current improvements for the park, which include an off-leash dog area and 19 parking spaces, are projected to be completed this spring.
This new appropriation will add 52 parking spaces and historical education signs as well as cover the engineering costs for designing restrooms for the park.