The Jerry Spears Funeral Home is another step closer to opening in a former church building on Hyde Park Drive in Hilliard.

The Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission on April 11 voted 3-2 to recommend approval of the required planned-unit-development rezoning for the property at the former Parkside Community Church at 5505 Hyde Park Drive.

The decision was part of a reconsideration after the commission rejected it Feb. 14.

Mayor Don Schonhardt, who did not attend the Feb. 14 meeting when the proposal was rejected, voted for the rezoning, along with Brent Bergefurd and Jay Muether. Commission chairman Scott Movshin and Chris Lewie voted against it.

Bill Uttley did not attend the meeting, and Tracey Nixon recused herself from the vote.

Hilliard City Council will have final consideration of the matter and will confirm or overturn the advisory opinion, Movshin said. A date for that vote has not been set.

City Council has no minimum timeline to consider the recommendation, according to David Ball, Hilliard's director of communications.

Uttley asked for the reconsideration March 14. He said one member "did not vote properly," and in light of a "procedural error," the application for Jerry Spears Funeral Home should be reconsidered.

However, Uttley would not explain the procedural error, but he said Nixon's Feb. 14 vote to issue a negative recommendation was the one in question.

Uttley said he made the reconsideration motion at the behest of Movshin.

Movshin confirmed he asked Uttley to do so via a statement he sent to Uttley and the city's law department after he was made aware by the law department of the procedural error. The law department includes in-house counsel attorneys Kelly Clodfelder and Dawn Steele.

"Each commission member is required to look at specific things in considering a PUD rezoning," Movshin said. "When that is not done, and a member makes it known later," it is a procedural error.

Clodfelder communicated the procedural error to Movshin, Ball said.

Clodfelder previously said the law department did not issue any directive to the commission concerning the matter.

"We informed; we did not direct," Ball said. "When we were informed that there might have been a procedural error, the law department called Movshin to inform him (of it)."

But the specifics of the procedural error remain unclear even now.

A commission member Ball did not identify made the law department aware of the procedural error, Ball said.

"Communication from the commission member to legal counsel falls under attorney-client privilege, so we are not confirming the identity for that reason," Ball said. "Any conversations or communications with the law department and the commission members, if they existed, would fall under attorney-client privilege."

On Feb. 14, Lewie, Movshin, Nixon and Uttley voted 4-0 to issue a negative recommendation for the PUD rezoning required for the funeral home. In addition to Schonhardt, Bergefurd and Muether also did not attend that meeting when the vote was taken.

On March 14, the commission voted 4-0 in favor of a reconsideration, with Bergefurd, Lewie, Muether and Uttley voting in favor of it. Movshin, Nixon and Schonhardt did not attend that meeting.

Since then, Nixon has not replied to ThisWeek's questions about if or how her Feb. 14 vote constituted a procedural error.

Movshin said Nixon lives in a neighborhood bordering the proposed funeral home, but that does not constitute a procedural error or even require a member ask for recusal.

"There is no requirement for a member to ask for recusal if they live in the area," Movshin said. "We all live in Hilliard (and sometimes) near to cases we consider.

"If (a member) can decide on the merits of a case, objectively, then it's up to (the member) to use fair judgment."

The commission must ensure all interested parties are treated equitably and that cases receive fair consideration in accordance with city code, Ball said.

"When voting, commission members are required to follow (code)," he said. "If a vote does not align with that ordinance, it is considered a procedural error that can result in a case being reconsidered."

The part of the code being referenced is section 1117.02, which outlines the qualifying conditions for proposed PUDs, according to Ball.

In this instance, a commission member gave thought to the reason for a vote and informed the chairman the decision was not based on that code, Ball said.

"There was no discussion of which conditions that commission member felt had not been followed," Ball said.

"I think it is fair to say that the commission's goal in reconsidering this case is to ensure that all parties involved are treated fairly under the rules and expectations that comprise the planning-and-zoning process."

Several residents from the nearby Brookfield Village, Hyde Park and Westbriar subdivisions have been opposed to the funeral home.

For example, Karen Krimmer, who spoke for 20 minutes at the Feb. 14 meeting, described the funeral home as "a symbol of death" that would diminish property values and quality of life in the neighborhoods.

Movshin said the April 11 meeting was "standing-room only" and about a dozen residents spoke against and in support of the proposed rezoning.

Speaking only to his decision, Movshin said, "nothing had changed" since the initial presentation and he voted against the proposed rezoning Feb. 14 and April 11.

"(The proposal) did not meet enough of the standards of the PUD modification, in my opinion, to justify the change to the (PUD) zoning," Movshin said.

Bob Spears Jr., one of three family members who own Jerry Spears Funeral Home on Columbus' Hilltop at 2693 W. Broad St., said he was "shocked" after the Feb. 14 decision but pleased the commission reconsidered the rezoning.

Spears said April 15 he remained "confused" about the commission's initial decision and "concerned" about the few residents who remain "venomous" about the proposal.

He said he has offered to meet with residents, but that offer had not been accepted.

"But we are happy to realize that it will go to City Council,where we hope it will be approved," Spears said.

Alton Place

In other business April 11, the commission tabled until May 9 a PUD-rezoning request for Alton Place, a mixed-use development on the western borders of Hilliard.

The developer of Alton Place, Dwight McCabe of the McCabe Cos., asked for more time to allow city staff members to review a traffic study.

McCabe asked for a postponement until May 9, Movshin said.

McCabe still made a formal, 90-minute presentation to the commission April 11.

Prior to that, he submitted a 600-page traffic study that includes the review of 23 intersections in areas around the proposed site.

"We wanted to allow staff the time they needed (after the presentation)," McCabe said April 15.

He said he would continue discussions with staff members leading up to the May 9 meeting.

McCabe has described Alton Place, which would be on 343 acres north of Roberts Road and west of Alton Darby Creek Road, as a "cradle-to-grave development," with housing options for people in all stages of life.

Just how many residences McCabe is planning is unclear.

"I don't want to start (being) focused on density," but rather "on achieving a great plan," McCabe said in February.

The development would include professional offices, restaurants, retail uses and a "wharf front" of residences built along the shores of a lake, he said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

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