Hilliard City Council could decide June 24 whether to approve the rezoning necessary for the Jerry Spears Funeral Home to operate in a former church building on Hyde Park Drive.

“I’m pleased to see the community came out to express their concern and support,” council President Kelly McGivern said at the conclusion of a 3 1/2-hour meeting June 10, during which 32 people spoke in support or opposition to the planned-unit-development rezoning application.

Council members questioned several of the speakers but did not offer their views at the conclusion of the public hearing held in conjunction with the second reading of the authorizing legislation.

A third and final reading is possible June 24.

“I don’t know if it will be postponed or not; (it) depends on if there are proposed changes to the plan,” McGivern said.

Bob Spears Jr., one of three family owners of Jerry Spears Funeral Home at 2693 W. Broad St., told council members he desires to make changes to the application that include increasing the number of parking spots from 70 to 80, relocating the parking-lot entrance about 25 feet to the east and adding more landscape screening on the western end of the 2.7-acre parcel where it borders the Westbriar subdivision.

“Having happy neighbors is more important than money,” Spears said.

He said he would invest an additional $30,000 to make the changes.

Overall, Spears said, he is investing about $100,000 in exterior of the parcel and about $70,000 to remodel the former Parkside Community Church, 5505 Hyde Park Drive, into a funeral home.

Residents, not all of whom lived in the neighboring subdivisions to the proposed funeral home, commented at the meeting. A Hilliard police officer also was stationed in the standing-room-only council chambers.

“We are asking to keep our residential area residential. ... It’s just not the right location,” said Jeff Johnson, president of the Brookfield Village Homeowners Association.

Jason Sparks, president of the Hyde Park Homeowners Association, said most of his neighborhood’s residents are opposed.

Karen Stamborski of Bennison Court said she was concerned about her property value.

“I shouldn’t have to suffer for the business of one man,” Stamborski said.

Several residents expressed safety concerns, citing that the funeral home would bring large numbers of people into a residential area.

Residents occasionally challenged each other, once concerning whether exposure to a funeral home caused chronic stress or threatened the mental health of developing adolescents.

Other residents spoke in support of the funeral home.

Shawn Sech of Olde Creek Lane said it would be “nice to have (funeral services) available in the community in which we live.”

Daniel Shafer of Hyde Park Drive said the funeral home would leave green space intact and would not raise taxes or harm the school district.

City Council’s decision will either uphold or overturn the positive recommendation of the Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission, a decision that Benison Court resident Phil Kaplan called a “fiasco.”

Kaplan was referring to the planning commission’s reversal of its initial decision to reject the rezoning proposal.

“Council needs to be transparent (and) give (voters) our voice,” he said.

On Feb. 14, commission chairman Scott Movshin and members Chris Lewie, Tracey Nixon and Bill Uttley issued a 4-0 negative recommendation for the rezoning. Mayor Don Schonhardt, Brent Bergefurd and Jay Muether were absent.

On March 14, Uttley asked for reconsideration and said one member, whom he identified as Nixon, “did not vote properly,” and in light of a “procedural error,” the application should be reconsidered. That measure was approved 4-0 with Bergefurd, Lewie, Muether and Uttley voting in favor of it. Movshin, Nixon and Schonhardt were absent.

David Ball, director of communications for Hilliard, has explained the “procedural error” as a commission member casting a vote based on a reason other than conditions included in the city code.

“When we were informed that there might have been a procedural error, the law department called Movshin to inform him (of it),” Ball said. “When voting, commission members are required to follow (city code). If a vote does not align with that (code), it is considered a procedural error that can result in a case being reconsidered.”

The part of the code being referenced is section 1107.02, 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, he said.

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

On April 11, the commission voted 3-2 in favor of the rezoning application. Schonhardt, Bergefurd and Muether voted for it; Movshin and Lewie voted against it. Uttley was absent and Nixon abstained.

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