Baker's Towing & Auto Repair cannot operate at its existing location on Lake Street, according to the Kent Board of Zoning Appeals.
The zoning board voted unanimously Monday to deny a substitution of a non-conforming use certificate requested by the business owner, Aubrey Baker, in order to officially relocate to 634 Lake St. The business made the move without approval from the city earlier this summer and has been running for several months.
Baker has 30 days to appeal the zoning board's vote in Portage County Common Pleas Court.
When asked of his plans moving forward, Baker said after the meeting he was unsure if he would appeal the zoning board's decision.
"I don't have a clue," Baker said.
The city has already issued a civil infraction warning against Baker's Towing for operating at the site without permission.
Heather Phile, development planner for the city of Kent, said the city will stay enforcement of fines or citations against Baker during the 30-day appeal period — the same practice upheld while Baker applied for the non-conforming use certificate.
"If they appeal, then we have to wait until it's done in court" to take enforcement action, she said.
The zoning board's vote was two months in the making, as Monday's decision came as part of the reconvening of the board's June 18 meeting, which included hours of testimony from both supporters and opponents of Baker's plans.
A big crowd again packed the meeting room at city hall, but this time no public comment was allowed. Instead, Baker's attorney, Thomas Reitz, was allowed a closing statement before the zoning board discussed and voted on the request.
Members of the zoning board were careful to articulate their reasoning in rejecting the request for the substitution of a non-conforming use certificate. The property has a non-conforming use certificate that permitted a wholesale and distributing use despite the property being zoned R-3 for multi-family residential.
In making their decision, the zoning board members had two primary considerations. Would the new use be similar in character to the previous non-conforming use; and would the new use not be any more intrusive to the neighborhood than the previous non-conforming use.
"The requested change is going to be more intrusive to the neighborhood than what is currently there," zoning board member Paul Sellman said. "The proposed use is not similar in character to what’s already there, and I think it would be more intrusive to what’s already there."
Zoning board member Steve Balazs said Baker's proposal to do auto repair and towing out of the building was in no way similar to the previous use.
"That property to my knowledge has never been used in that manner," he said. "Moving in the direction of what’s proposed definitely in my opinion is of substantial detriment to the public."
The towing company was forced to move from its location at 667 Lake St. as part of the demolition of the former Gougler Plant.