A co-owner of the Jerry Spears Funeral Home said he is not abandoning plans to open a funeral home at a former church building at 5505 Hyde Park Drive in Hilliard.

"We are reviewing our options," Bob Spears Jr. said Feb. 15, a day after the Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-0 to reject a rezoning proposal necessary for the funeral home to operate at the former 4,320-square-foot Parkside Community Church.

The decision was rendered Feb. 14 after city staff members recommended the commission support the proposal and after Spears made concessions following the tabling of the rezoning application Jan. 10.

"It just seems out of place to me to put a funeral home in the middle of that many (residences)," commission chairman Scott Movshin said before the four members present rejected the proposal.

The rezoning application was to change the property from rural residential to a planned-unit development, Spears said.

The rejection both shocked and surprised him, he said.

"Moving forward, I hope we can educate people better about the services we provide," said Spears, who lives in Brookfield Village, a subdivision adjacent to the proposed site.

Residents from the Brookfield Village, Hyde Park and Westbriar subdivisions filled City Council chambers Feb. 14 to oppose the rezoning proposal.

Karen Krimmer of Hyde Park Drive addressed the commission for nearly 20 minutes, describing how "a symbol of death" adjacent to the neighborhood would diminish property values and predicting the subdivision's streets would be used for overflow parking and a "constant barrage" of mourners unfamiliar with the area often would turn around in driveways.

Keith Mayer of Bennison Court asked for the commission to require new pedestrian lights at crosswalks for safety.

Jeff Johnson of the Brookfield Village Homeowners Association asked commission members whether they had considered that several people would be required to move from their residences because of "religious and cultural beliefs" that prohibit them from living in certain proximity to a funeral home.

Spears said he was not prepared for such reaction after discussing his amended plans with city staff members and knowing it had their support.

At the Jan. 10 commission meeting and in response to fewer residents who raised concerns about the proposal, Spears agreed for the application to be tabled to meet with staff members.

Mayor Don Schonhardt was the commission member who suggested on Jan. 10 that it be postponed until Feb. 14. He was one of the three members absent Feb. 14.

Changes made to the proposal included construction of a new entrance to the property from Frazell Road and a change of address from Hyde Park Drive to Frazell Road, Spears said.

Additional landscaping and fences were to be added on the west side of the property adjacent to the Westbriar subdivision, said Spears, who owns the property.

He said the Feb. 14 decision was reaction "to emotion" and perhaps not a reason to deny the rezoning request.

Spears said he is uncertain whether he would ask the planning and zoning commission to reconsider or proceed to Hilliard City Council, whose members could overturn the negative but nonbinding recommendation of the commission.

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