Jerry Spears Funeral Home at 5471 Frazell Road in Hilliard could be operating as soon as the end of February if interior and outdoor modifications can be optimally completed, according to Bob Spears Jr., one of three family owners of the funeral home.
Interior work can begin immediately after the Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission on Dec. 12 voted 5-0 to approve a final development plan for funeral home, Spears said.
The final development plan, unlike the rezoning that preceded it, does not require the consideration of Hilliard City Council.
The Hilliard site would be the second location for the Spears family, which opened the original funeral home 90 years ago at 2693 W. Broad St. in Columbus’ Hilltop.
“We are hoping to open as soon as possible, but the issue is going to be the weather," Spears said.
The funeral home will be in the 4,320-square-foot former Parkside Community Church, which had an address of 5505 Hyde Park Drive.
The owners changed the address of the 2.4-acre parcel and will relocate a parking-lot driveway to Frazell Road from Hyde Park Drive.
The address change, meant to prevent GPS-based devices from directing people onto the residential Hyde Park Drive, was made to allay the concerns of neighbors from Brookfield Village, Hyde Park and the Westbriar subdivisions who opposed the proposal to open the funeral home since it was proposed in January 2019 to the planning and zoning commission.
The final development plan was able to advance after the owners waited out a mandatory 60-day period for the rezoning to become effective after council approved it July 8. The 2.4 acres were rezoned from rural residential to a planned-unit development.
Multiple residents opposed the proposal when it was introduced, but no one filed a referendum attempt for the rezoning after it was approved by council.
Robert Bryan of Wynneleaf Street, which is a short distance south of the site, said Dec. 16 he "was disappointed but not surprised in the final outcome."
Bryan said although he supported a business occupying the church building, the city disregarded the "overwhelming lack of residential support for the type of business" and compounded the issue by conducting a second vote "without a satisfactory explanation as to why."
For the 5-0 vote Dec. 12, commission chairman Scott Movshin was absent and commission member Tracy Nixon recused herself.
Nixon said she asked to be recused because she lives close to the funeral home; she left the meeting room during its consideration.
Nixon was the subject of a "procedural error" on the commission's original vote on the funeral home's rezoning application.
In February, the commission voted 4-0 to issue a negative recommendation for the rezoning.
Movshin, Nixon and commission members Chris Lewie and Bill Uttley voted no; Mayor Don Schonhardt, Brent Bergefurd and Jay Muether were absent.
But in March, Uttley, at the direction of Movshin, asked for it to be reconsidered because a member he identified as Nixon “did not vote properly” and in light of a “procedural error” that the application should be reconsidered.
David Ball, director of communications for Hilliard, said at the time that the procedural error entailed a member casting a vote based on a reason other than conditions included in the city code.
Nixon has not replied to requests for comment on the procedural error.
The vote to reconsider the measure was approved 4-0, with Bergefurd, Lewie, Muether and Uttley voting in favor of it; Movshin, Nixon and Schonhardt were absent for that vote.
In April, the commission voted 3-2 in favor of the rezoning. Schonhardt, Bergefurd and Muether voted in favor of it, Movshin and Lewie voted against it and Nixon abstained.
Council members postponed consideration in June before voting 4-2 on July 9 to uphold the commission’s recommendation to rezone the parcel.
President Kelly McGivern, Vice President Pete Marsh, Les Carrier and Andy Teater voted for it, and Tom Baker and Omar Tarazi voted against it. Nathan Painter was absent.
"We are extremely happy to have (this process) behind us (and) excited to be able to serve our Hilliard community for many years to come," said Steve Spears, who is Bob's brother and part of the family-owned business.