A group of residents opposed to a towing company's relocation on Lake Street are reaching out to the property owner to try and find a compromise.
Steele Street resident Kirk Noden, the spokesperson for residents who oppose Baker's Towing & Auto Repair's proposed relocation to 634 Lake St., sent a letter to the property's owner, Tim Crock, this week offering help in finding a tenant for the space.
Baker's Towing is being forced to move from 667 Lake St., as it operates out of a building slated for demolition as part of the Gougler Industries complex razing. Crock, who ran Crock's Car Care for years before it was demolished for the new Sheetz gas station on Fairchild Avenue, bought the Lake Street property in April from Lesa Lillibridge for $156,000, according to the Portage County Auditor's Office.
In the letter, which is signed by Noden and other residents, he reiterated the nearby neighbors' opposition to the towing and auto repair proposal.
"Given that you purchased the building only three weeks ago, we suggest that we begin a fair and open process between you as the new owner of 634 Lake St. and the surrounding residents," Noden wrote. "Let us take the time together to look at the possible uses, to solicit community input and to work to find a win-win solution."
To start such a process, the neighbors asked for a good-faith effort from Crock of withdrawing his application for a "substitution of a non-conforming use" request with the Kent Board of Zoning Appeals. The property is zoned R-3 for residential use but obtained a non-conforming use permit several years ago to allow a storage and catering firm to operate there. The zoning board would have to grant the substitution request in order for Baker's Towing to move there.
The neighbors said that, in exchange for Crock's withdrawal of the zoning request, they would suspend their petition campaign against the relocation of Baker's Towing to his property. The residents also said they would create a committee to help Crock find a tenant for the property and survey the community to learn what people feel is most appropriate for the site.
"We are essentially offering to work with him to make his investment successful," Noden said in an email.
Crock, however, said it's not his place to withdraw the application. He said Aubrey Baker, the owner of Baker's Towing, submitted the application to the zoning board and is in the process of buying the property from Crock.
In a previous interview, Baker told Kent Patch that he was unable to find a suitable new location for his auto repair other than the property behind the Nodens' house. Buying land and building a new garage would force him to raise prices exorbitantly, Baker said.
Baker's request is preliminarily scheduled for the zoning board's June 18 meeting.
Crock said he doesn't believe Baker will withdraw the application to the zoning board before then.
"He’s looked. There’s nothing in the city of Kent," Crock said. "I can see the Nodens' concern. In my view, I think there should be restrictions placed on him to make sure he doesn’t go over his bounds."
Like the neighbors, Crock said he doesn't believe the new location should be used for impounding towed cars or storing dump trucks. Baker has said previously he wants to expand his auto repair service and do less impound towing.
But Crock pointed to other nearby car repair and body shops on Lake Street and said residents have lived for years without complaint with those businesses within a few blocks. He added that when the residents bought their houses they should have understood the commercial and industrial nature of much of Lake Street.
"If Baker does like he’s supposed to, I don’t see where there’s any big injustice here," Crock said. "I don’t see anything but him improving that property. Hopefully it all works out and everybody becomes happy at the end."