Upper Arlington News

Amended MSC rezoning plan gains BZAP approval


Roughly a month after rejecting city officials' request to rezone the Municipal Services Center property, the Upper Arlington Board of Zoning and Planning agreed Monday, June 2, to recommend a smaller portion of the land be used for office development.

The June 2 BZAP meeting had everything from accusations that Upper Arlington officials have unconstitutionally snuffed opponents' freedom of speech, to Joni Mitchell lyrics and intervention by the city's police chief.

In the end, BZAP members voted 4-2 to recommend that Upper Arlington City Council approve rezoning approximately 5.4 acres of the 7.43-acre site to allow for office development. The land is home to the city's municipal headquarters.

The action came after BZAP members unanimously rejected the city's request May 5 to rezone the entire MSC property. This time, only members Dan Barringer and Kevin Carpenter voted against the proposal. BZAP Chairman Robert Tullett was absent from the meeting.

In supporting the smaller development request, BZAP recommended a 20-foot buffer be maintained between the MSC and the neighboring Trouville condominium community, and that developments on the site be limited to financial institutions, business and professional offices, insurance carriers, publishers of periodicals and books, and technology, survey and medical research and development firms.

Council is expected to address the matter at its June 9 meeting, slated for 7:30 p.m. at the MSC.

In seeking the rezoning, city officials have maintained the MSC site represents Upper Arlington's only current opportunity to lure high-paying jobs to a "Class A" office development.

Trivium Development LLC has proposed a 36,000-square-foot medical office project at the site, half of which would house the Central Ohio Urology Group.

Additionally, Daimler Group Inc. and Kohr Royer Griffith Inc. have jointly identified the investment firm Morgan Stanley Wealth Advisors and the commercial insurance agency Overmyer Hall Associates as tenants for a proposed 40,000-square-foot office on the site.

"We really thought the (June 2) hearing was unfair," said attorney William Loveland, who represents Trouville residents. "We've got all the various departments of the city of Upper Arlington acting as advocates."

Although turnout for Monday's meeting appeared slightly smaller than for the May 5 meeting, most of the 154 seats in council chambers were full, and an armed Upper Arlington police officer stood at the back of the room.

Tensions rose among the Trouville contingent early on, after BZAP members allowed city officials unlimited time to speak about the rezoning, but denied Loveland's request to waive the three-minute limit for all other attendees -- including himself -- to speak.

Later in the meeting, Loveland protested after City Attorney Jeanine Hummer made repeated trips to the podium to provide information to BZAP members and rebut statements made by audience members.

"This is grossly unfair," Loveland stood up and said. "You're allowing (Hummer) to speak eight times."

At that, Upper Arlington Police Chief Brian Quinn walked across the room and intervened.

Loveland later said Quinn threatened to eject him from the meeting if he continued to speak without BZAP's invitation.

Numerous Trouville residents reiterated their opposition to developing the MSC site because they said the property is a civic gathering space. They also said not enough is known about the potential users of the site, and they questioned whether a development would create traffic problems or negatively affect their property values.

"Some have called the MSC an office building," said Priscilla Mead, a former member of Upper Arlington City Council and the planning commission. "This is not an office building. It's our city meeting place ... This is the people's house."

Trouville resident Judi Stillwell invoked the lyrics to Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi, which includes the lines, "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone. They paved paradise."

Loveland said after the meeting the matter might be headed to litigation.

He said he would discuss that prospect during a meeting with Trouville residents on Tuesday, June 3, but maintained BZAP violated its rules of "reconsideration," which state BZAP can't reconsider an application it has already disapproved unless one year has passed, circumstances affecting the property in question have substantially changed or new information becomes available that wasn't at the prior hearing.

"It seems to us (BZAP) doesn't care what their rules say, and they don't care about giving people equal time and an opportunity to rebut," Loveland said. "In our opinion, they just ignored their rules."