Orange Township Zoning Inspector Tom Farahay will decide if an adult-oriented hotel can be built in the township near several places that attract children and families.
Township residents have come out in strong opposition to the proposal for the hotel, which would be similar to one in Perrysburg in northern Ohio.
During a special township trustees' meeting Monday, April 29, Mark Fowler, an assistant Delaware County prosecutor, advised trustees that his interpretation of the township zoning code is that Farahay should make the decision and trustees stay out of it. Trustees Rob Quigley, Lisa Knapp and Debbie Taranto have followed the past practice of trustees individually signing off on zoning permits.
"At this point, the zoning inspector should make the decision," Fowler said. "He is acting in your place. You legislatively said the zoning inspector is to (approve permits)."
Farahay said after the meeting that he is leaning toward approving the zoning request by John Kranjec, who operates the Belamere Suites in Perrysburg, a hotel that caters to romantic getaways for adults. Kranjec filed an application for the hotel last week, including a site plan.
"It's an approved use and it meets all the standards," Farahay said after the special meeting.
The site is in a planned commercial district just northwest of the fire station on Gooding Boulevard and west of U.S. Route 23.
Fowler and Quigley told residents who packed into the April 29 meeting that once a decision is made, there is a 20-day window for anyone to appeal that decision to the township board of zoning appeals. After that, the next step would be legal action.
In response to questions from ThisWeek Olentangy Valley News sent to trustees last week about Belamere Suites, Knapp responded in an email late last week that she would recommend trustees seek guidance from the prosecutor's office on who should act on the application and permit request.
"Trustees technically would like to have some role in this, but our hands are tied," Knapp said at the April 29 meeting, adding she appreciated the interest of the residents.
Quigley and Taranto also thanked the residents for turning out and said there is still a process, if the plan goes before the BZA, for them to be heard.
Resident Bob Steele, a member of Orange Township Community Watch Inc., a group formed recently to oppose Kranjec's proposal, said after the meeting that the group expected the matter would be left to Farahay and that residents anticipate going to the board of zoning appeals. The group also will take the matter to court if necessary, he said.
Quigley, who is trustee chairman, allowed discussion on Belamere Suites for nearly 45 minutes during the April 15 board of trustees meeting. Kranjec engaged in sometimes lively exchanges with several residents during that meeting, attended by about 80 people.
Quigley said at the end of the April 15 discussion that he knows it is a contentious issue. Orange Township Community Watch was formed several days after the April 15 meeting.
Spokeswoman Anne Seghi said last week that the group is not opposed to Kranjec operating such a business, but is opposed to such a facility being built near the township's library, a day-care center, the community pool and other facilities that cater to children and families.
"It's an adults-only business inserted into an area where it's impossible to remove kids ... The location is very odd," Seghi said.
Kranjec, who has operated Belamere Suites in Perrysburg for the past nine years, told ThisWeek that he does not know about the residents' group and has not spoken to any residents since the April 15 meeting.
"Everybody has a right to oppose what they want to oppose," he said of the group. "As I said at the (April 15) meeting, I'm willing to meet with anybody" to talk about the proposed hotel.
Kranjec also said last week that he is following the normal process in Orange Township for the filing of his application and any steps required after that.
At the April 15 meeting, he said Belamere Suites is considered a four-star hotel and more than 75,000 couples have stayed there over the past nine years.
"This isn't a fly-by-night" operation, Kranjec said. "This has not been a secretive thing."
But residents told him the location is not right for an adult-oriented facility. Some worried about how the business operates. The Perrysburg location has offered daytime getaway specials for couples between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. A one-day stay runs $250.
Seghi said last week that the group, which includes residents, business owners and others, plans to fight the proposal by using a section of the township zoning code that refers to the promotion of health and safety, morals, comfort and general welfare in zoning issues.
"We don't feel like he owns a hotel. He calls it a destination," she said in explaining that the Perrysburg hotel looks more like apartments without any windows. A member of the group went to Perrysburg last week and took pictures of the facility.
"We are confident the (township) will find this does not match" with what is in the area," Seghi said.