The owners of Jerry Spears Funeral Home, 5505 Hyde Park Drive, will proceed with its opening after waiting out a mandatory 60-day period for the rezoning to become effective.

"I'm glad it's behind us," co-owner Bob Spears Jr. said Sept. 10.

Spears is is one of three family members who own Jerry Spears Funeral Home on Columbus' Hilltop at 2693 W. Broad St. The Hilltop funeral home opened in 1928.

He said they had no choice but to wait to ensure residents did not file a referendum that would have resulted in a ballot issue asking the electorate to uphold or overturn the July 8 decision of Hilliard City Council to approve the rezoning necessary for the funeral home to open in the former Parkside Community Church.

The deadline to file a referendum petition was 5 p.m. Sept. 9, according to David Ball, director of communications for Hilliard.

"To the city's knowledge, no petition was filed," said council clerk Lynne Fasone immediately before the 7 p.m. start of the Sept. 9 council meeting.

"I'm surprised a referendum wasn't filed," Spears said, after dozens of residents from the Brookfield, Hyde Park and Westbriar subdivisions spoke in opposition to it during previous public meetings.

The funeral home will not open until at least January and only then if there are no construction issues, Spears said.

"Now we can start on surveying and engineering, and our architect will create a final development plan," he said.

The final development plan requires approval by the Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission.

The plan should be considered at the commission's Dec. 12 meeting, Spears said.

Now that the rezoning is effective, Spears said, he is pleased to be able to move forward.

He said he will "focus on being the good neighbor that was promised from the start," seven months after the funeral home was proposed.

The rezoning request initially was rejected by city officials but then was reconsidered and approved, an action that drew criticism from residents.

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

On March 14, Uttley, at the direction of Movshin, asked for reconsideration and said that 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.

Ball 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 told ThisWeek in June.

"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.

Nixon has not responded to ThisWeek's requests for comment on the procedural error.

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.

The new recommendation was forwarded to council for its final consideration, and after postponing a decision several times, council on July 8 voted 4-2 to uphold the rezoning.

President Kelly McGivern, Vice President Pete Marsh, Les Carrier and Andy Teater voted for the rezoning, and Tom Baker and Omar Tarazi voted against it. Nathan Painter was absent.

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