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Zoning Board Delays Vote on Baker's Towing Relocation Across Lake Street

Residents who opposed relocation filled city hall to capacity Monday

The owner of Baker's Towing & Auto Repair and the residents opposed to his relocation will have to wait another month to learn if his business has a future in their Lake Street neighborhood.

The Kent Board of Zoning Appeals opted to table their discussion and vote on a request from the company's owner, Aubrey Baker, for a substitution of a non-conforming use certificate to allow his business to relocate to a piece of property zoned R-3 for residential use at 634 Lake St.

The zoning board chose to delay their vote until their July meeting after a four and-a-half hour session Monday night — and at the suggestion of Baker's attorney, Thomas Reitz.

"Frankly, we’re all exhausted," Reitz said to the board. "We would request that you consider your deliberations until the next meeting when you’re rested and you can give it your full attention."

His suggestion was met with a loud shout of "I object" from a member of the capacity crowd at Kent city hall. The shout drew a stern reprimand and several loud gavel bangs from Elizabeth Howard, the chair of the zoning board, who praised the audience for sitting civilly through the long meeting.

"This has been a wonderful meeting ... until this moment," Howard said. "And I won't have it."

The zoning board sat through two lengthy topics before even getting to the relocation issue, which included a presentation from Reitz, testimony from 29 residents — both for and against the issue — and then a rebuttal from Reitz before the meeting ended around 11:30 p.m.

The board members also were given dozens of pages of correspendence that included letters, a petition, photos, a slide presentation and other documentation on the issue, some of which was not presented until Monday night.

The crowd was largely cordial, and many of the residents who spoke in opposition of the relocation said they wished Baker well but didn't think his business fit in their residentially zoned neighborhood.

Ultimately, the zoning board voted unanimously to table their discussion in order to have time to review and digest the material presented and the comments made at Monday's meeting.

"I do think we really need some time to review this and digest the material," zoning board member Paul Sellman said.

Eric Fink, Kent's assistant law director, pointed out that the board's action was to continue Monday's meeting where it left off at the July meeting.

"We would not be going through the same comment period," he said. "There would not be opportunity for either the applicant or the response to be given further say. It would be for the public to hear the (board) discussion that would take place on this matter only."

The zoning board meets the third Monday of each month.

Scroll down for past coverage:

The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! June 20, 2012 at 05:17 PM
So Baker's gets to keep on operating illegally for another month? Why doesn't Baker's go the way of the Kent BMV and take up residence in Brimfield? They're frothing for businesses out there. I'm sure there has to be a garage or suitable building somewhere within a reasonable distance that Baker's can utilize seeing that their "new space" was once used for catering and storage. There they can back up their behemoth beeping trucks at 4am without disturbing the plethora of neighbors within a stones throw of the business. "Aubrey Baker, the owner of Baker's Towing, told Kent Patch in a previous interview 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." Also, he didn't buy the land and build the facility that was just torn down on Lake St., did he? And he didn't buy the land and build the new facility on the other side of Lake St. either, right? Why wouldn't he rent another building, one possibly zoned for his type of operation? I'm not even sure why he'd say that. I'm serious. Brimfield. Look into it. They're darn near begging for businesses there and will rezone anything. Just look at 43 now zoned commercial.
Lisa Regula Meyer June 21, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Finding inappropriate lots for unpopular projects appears to be the cool thing to do in Kent.
Dan the Butcher June 22, 2012 at 11:18 AM
First, Baker's is not operating illegally, as has been discussed in other posts, and any implication could be considered slander. Be accurate in what you say. Secondly, the TWO dump trucks that the company owns have bee relocated to 1500 Fairchild Ave. They no longer reside in the vicinity of Steele Street. Lake Street is a very busy road, with an enormous amount of heavy truck traffic, has anyone considered that the noise is not Baker's dump trucks. In regards to the comment that Baker's move to Brimfield: a company cannot tow for KPD without a presence in the city. So are you going to send Baker's the lost revenue in the form of money order or cash. Or how about the neighbors buy the land that they seem to relish so much, a piece of property left nearly derelict for years (where was the sanctimony then); and spend the money to raze it and reclaim it as a park? Finally, the implication that Mr. Baker moved into your neighborhood without trying to find other space is not true. Go ask him. I have. A short version: Baker tried to but the property he rented off of FRD. In the end FRD did not want to sell the property due to their future plans for the land (if you want more information talk to Furakawa). Baker's had to move at the request of FRD. In the amount of time given he could find no other suitable space. Faced with the option "move here or go out of business" he moved, and began the process of coming into compliance with City of Kent rules. Go talk to Baker.
Dan the Butcher June 22, 2012 at 11:28 AM
Thank god we live in America, where popularity is NOT the final arbiter of what is right.
Laura Bartolo June 22, 2012 at 12:52 PM
The City and the University are working together to help make Kent a pleasant community to live in. We should work equally hard to keep Kent neighborhoods appealing and desirable. The neighborhood around Lake Street has a great town & gown tradition that we need to protect by helping this company relocate from Lake Street.
Alyssa June 22, 2012 at 01:16 PM
U should really be sued for slander. Get your facts straight! If you are so opposed to the move than why dont you step up and by the building off of Mr. Baker and than you can put whatever your little heart desires in the building.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! June 22, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Do you know what slander is?
Diane Stresing June 22, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Folks, this is a messy situation and (to mix metaphors) it's sitting on a very slippery slope. Most adults will agree what is legally permitted is not necessarily right and as Dan noted above, the final decision on this will not be decided by popular opinion. I sincerely hope a meeting of creative, solutions-oriented minds can help everyone find a good resolution. In my opinion, that means helping Baker's find a high-visibility, business-friendly location in a spot that's properly zoned. However it turns out, there will be disagreement. That said, I believe everyone who attended Monday night's hearing will agree on this: our Zoning Board of Appeals members handled a long and difficult meeting in a completely professional manner. I sincerely appreciate their time, dedication, and efforts to do the most appropriate, legally permissible thing in this (and every) situation. A virtual tip of the hat to Ms. Elizabeth Howard, chair, and each of the ZBA committee members.
Alyssa June 22, 2012 at 06:19 PM
slan·der   /ˈslændər/ Show Spelled[slan-der] Show IPA noun 1. defamation; calumny: rumors full of slander. 2. a malicious, false, and defamatory statement or report: a slander against his good name. 3. Law . defamation by oral utterance rather than by writing, pictures, etc. Now maybe you do....
Alyssa June 22, 2012 at 06:22 PM
To what you all seem to find hard to believe is Mr. Baker is buying this location. Not renting so no matter what he will be there to stay. You all might wanna learn to talk to the man and work things out or he can put something else in there that will run all night and meet the current zoning......
Jennifer Cline July 01, 2012 at 12:36 AM
So I've noticed.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! July 01, 2012 at 12:51 AM
Somehow, that feels like a threat. You better... Or he'll...
Casey Myers July 01, 2012 at 01:09 AM
@Dan, in a democracy it tends to be. Popular vote, in one way or another, decides quite a few things.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! July 01, 2012 at 02:53 AM
Better yet, he indeed can put something else in there that will run all night an meet the current zoning. Like a bakery or pastry shop. We'll welcome that aroma versus the typical emissions from an auto repair shop.
Teresa K. July 01, 2012 at 12:16 PM
@Mary: I agree. A pastry or bakery would be more welcome than an automovite repair site in the neighborhood. Whatever business goes in there should follow codes and no special variances or certificates should be needed. @ Alyssa: our fear isn't what Mr. Baker MIGHT put in there in place of an auto repair shop. Baker's as a business basically FORCED themselves onto a neighborhood, said "here me is" and set up business. The permission to operate there apparently comes AFTER THE FACT of moving in. He doesn't own the place. It is not in his name.
Marilyn Carlson July 02, 2012 at 04:31 AM
@Ms. Alyssa: "meet the current zoning" YOU just said it! meet the current zoning! anything that meets the CURRENT ZONING is welcome not mater what and the neighbors have nothing to say. I'm glad that you finally understood. Now go back to Mr. Baker and his lawyer and try to make them understand although I think THEY KNOW... they are just playing dirty.

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