Bexley City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing at its June 26 meeting and vote whether to grant a variance that would allow a residential property at 81 N. Drexel Ave. to be converted to an assisted-living facility.

According to the legislation council is considering, Ordinance 15-18, the prospective buyers of the property, Benjamin Babeaux and Holly Fahey, have applied for a variance to use the North Drexel Avenue house as a senior assisted-living facility for a maximum of 16 residents.

"We see this estate serving as an ideal boutique senior residence with a preference for those who live or have lived in Bexley ... to live their golden years close to family in a residential setting in small groups rather than a distant commercial complex where it is hard for family to come visit," Babeaux said during Bexley City Council's second reading of the ordinance May 22.

Babeaux said he and Fahey plan to preserve the house's historic features and make minimal changes to the property other than installing an elevator. He said traffic to and from the property would not significantly increase if council allows plans for the assisted-living facility to move forward because most residents would not have a car.

Babeaux also offered to establish an advisory board on which neighbors would serve "to ensure quiet and mutual beneficial use for this property."

Catherine Cunningham, an attorney with the Columbus firm Kegler Brown Hill and Ritter, whom the city has hired to consult on zoning issues, said the June 26 hearing will be open to the public, but only parties with "standing" will be allowed to testify.

Individuals with standing include owners of properties located within 200 feet of 81 N. Drexel Ave. as well as anyone who can prove they would be "adversely affected by the decision of council," Cunningham said.

Bexley resident Tom Hadley of North Columbia Avenue said he would be adversely affected by the facility and is concerned his property values would decline if the development goes forward. He said he believes traffic would increase at the property because of employees and visiting family members coming and going.

"That coming and going -- it's not what the house was intended for," Hadley said.

Hadley said it would be difficult to reconvert the property to a single-family residence in the future because it would be expensive to remove the elevator and other renovations that Babeaux and Fahey said they plan to make.

If council approves the variance, "this is a precedent. I mean, it can happen on any block," Hadley said. "We've thrown the zoning rules right out the window."

Chris Pedon, the real estate agent listed for the 81 N. Drexel Ave. property, said the assisted-living facility could benefit the community by providing a place for aging residents to remain in Bexley. Pedon said he would have welcomed such an option when his father was recently placed in a facility outside of Bexley.

According to the Franklin County Auditor's Office, the property owner is Cherie Hinson.

"Having recently gone through watching a parent deteriorate, gosh, knowing if they were up the street, what that would have meant to me, knowing that he was right around the corner," Pedon said.

Council members voted May 8 to refer the variance to the Bexley Board of Zoning and Planning for review and to provide council with an opinion. However, council members voted unanimously at their May 22 meeting not to refer the variance to BZAP because the matter falls solely within council's jurisdiction.

"I think I better understand what the applicant is asking for" after reviewing the variance request with Cunningham, said Council President Lori Ann Feibel. "This is a matter we have been elected to decide."

The complete application is on file and available for public inspection between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays at Bexley City Hall, 2242 E. Main St., and is on the city website, bexley.org.

Council's hearing is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. June 26 at Bexley City Hall.

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