The proposal to convert the house at 38-40 E. New England Ave. into an antique shop is still alive, and will be back before Worthington City Council in the fall.

The proposal to convert the house at 38-40 E. New England Ave. into an antique shop is still alive, and will be back before Worthington City Council in the fall.

By a 3-2 vote, the Municipal Planning Commission approved a rezoning request for the property at its July 22 meeting.

Council has the final vote on rezoning requests, but it will go before council with a recommendation for approval from MPC.

The contentious proposal provoked heated words from both sides at last week's meeting, causing MPC chairman Richard Hunter to demand that the exchange be halted.

The Old Worthington Association and approximately 100 signers of a petition oppose any change that would permit the old house to be turned into an antique shop.

The latest request from owner John Coffey asks that the property be rezoned from its current AR 4.5, low density apartment, to AR-3, medium-density apartment.

If approved, the rezoning might allow Coffey to operate an antique shop in the house.

Under the city's zoning code, an antique shop is considered a "neighborhood commercial" use, which is a conditional use in AR-3 districts.

Even if the zoning is approved, Coffey will need to receive a conditional use permit from MPC, which could enforce restrictions on the owner.

Because Coffey allegedly did not abide by maintenance codes when he lived in the house and refinished and sold antique furniture from his yard, restrictions would be definite, Hunter said.

"I can tell you that control on you will be very strict because of your track record," Hunter told Coffey.

Coffey said he had no problem with that.

But MPC member Mikel Coulter, one of the dissenting voters, said he objects to commercial uses encroaching into a residential neighborhood.

"It's a house, it's always been a house," he said.

Coffey and his wife, Maureen, purchased the duplex in 2003 and planned to restore it and make it their home.

The problem is, the house nearly abuts a driveway leading to parking behind shops and restaurants on the east side of High Street, north of New England Avenue.

After he was hit by a car speeding along that drive one day, Coffey decided to move his family out. They now live in Plain City, and the New England Avenue house sits empty.

Everyone seemed to agree last week that if the house remains zoned for residential, the city needs to pursue a way to vacate that driveway and return it to the owner of the house.

Previous efforts to do that failed when a High Street property owner objected to the city extending its public parking lot onto his property.

Planning commission member Chris Hermann asked if opponents to the rezoning would back the use of eminent domain to take the parking lot.

"Council wouldn't broach it without the support of the community," he said.

Jim Ventresca, president of the Old Worthington Association, said he would. Jan Staats, director of the Olde Worthington Business Association, said she would listen to a proposal.

Ventresca said he doubted that council will approve the rezoning request.

Earlier this month, it voted down a request to make "neighborhood commercial" a conditional use in the AR 4.5 district.

"If you send this back to council, it will be killed because they are very sensitive to the people," he said.

Hunter, Hermann, and James Sauer voted in favor of the rezoning; Coulter and Kathy Holcombe voted "no."