David Vottero is trying to cobble together a group solution for a potential problem faced by a lot of individuals.
The Clintonville Area Commission's District 1 representative said he planned by late last week to get letters delivered -- in the mail or by hand -- to 33 property owners along Indianola Avenue between Olentangy Street and Parkview Drive, inviting them to join in collectively correcting a zoning snafu that has tripped up several neighbors in recent months.
For reasons evidently lost to the mists of time, that stretch of what has always been a residential street is zoned commercial, including condos that help swell the number of people Vottero hopes to approach.
"It's just an absurdity," Vottero said at the CAC's May 3 session, attended by yet another property owner forced to seek a council variance due to the commercial zoning of property that always has been used as a residence.
It marked at least the fourth such variance request from homeowners along that stretch since last spring. Requests have ranged from mortgage refinances to permission to build room additions.
"Perhaps back in the '30s and '40s when it was being zoned, the forefathers saw that Indianola was a state route and a feeder area coming out of Clintonville," said Anthony J. Celebrezze III, assistant director of the city's Department of Building and Zoning Services. "That's about the only thing I can think of -- that we can think of."
"It's been that way for as long as the city has had zoning," Vottero said.
"There were these unique little sites that had commercial uses. At the time that the zoning was developed, District 1 was maybe half built out in terms of the number of lots that were still open. Maybe there was hope that something different would happen than eventually did."
The zoning glitch had long gone unnoticed.
"It's an issue that's brought about by more meticulous work by financial institutions in review nonconforming uses," Vottero said.
Vottero pointed out Indianola Avenue property owners who have sought council variances to date each have paid a $320 application fee -- and perhaps more if they sought the help of an attorney in filling out the form.
"For the average homeowner, I can see where it's an intimidating process," Vottero said. "It might be a real head-scratcher."
Individuals may seek a council variance, which allows for a property to be used in a manner not permitted by zoning, for $320 for up to four units, Celebrezze said.
Vottero hopes that by bringing together the remaining residential property owners with commercial zoning, he can save them money with a blanket application.
Celebrezze said the council zoning variance fee for an entire acre is $1,600, and $160 for each additional acre.
"I think working collectively, it might only be $100 for each respective property owner," Vottero said.
City officials can't just make the old zoning, however little sense it might make, go away, Celebrezze said.
"The process for us to go through to change zoning from the city's perspective is very cumbersome and very difficult, which it should be because it's people's private property rights we are dealing with," he said.
"I think there are probably other neighborhoods that have this issue," Vottero said.
"We've probably done a dozen of these or more last year, where people had to get a variance because they were trying to refinance or get an equity loan for their home or, conversely, their business," Celebrezze said.
"I think everybody at the city understands it's kind of a regrettable situation," Vottero said. "This seems like the easiest way out of it."
"I wouldn't imagine council wouldn't support this," Celebrezze said. "We just have to go through the process."