STOW: After 18 months of debate and negotiations, Stow City Council on Thursday cleared the way for Marhofer Chevrolet to expand into an adjacent residential neighborhood.
Marhofer had asked the city for a zoning change for planned renovations of his offices and showroom at Darrow and Kent roads to meet General Motors standards.
The project is estimated to cost $5 million and will take away 70 existing parking spaces.
The dealership asked the City Council to change the residential zoning on 1.3 acres on Thorndale Avenue to commercial to replace the lost parking spots.
Some residents on Thorndale Avenue objected, saying the parking lot, which will require destruction of several trees, will take away from the residential nature of the street and lower property values.
Council voted 5-1 to allow the change.
Matt Riehl, whose ward includes the neighborhood, cast the lone “no” vote.
“I had to balance the residents’ desire to protect their largest investment, their homes, with the needs of a business,” Riehl said. “I felt the residents made a compelling argument.”
The 40 or so residents who packed city council chambers became more upset with each “yes” vote.
One woman bust into tears as Council President Jim Costello announced passage of the legislation.
Before the vote, Terry May, who lives on nearby Margaret Avenue, asked the council to turn down Marhofer’s request.
“Who do we turn to for protection of our property rights?” she said. “That lies with you. Your job is to have the backs of the people of this city, the people who elected you. For the benefit of one business, you are setting a precedent that will affect all neighborhoods.”
She urged them to remember the Golden Rule.
“If you would not want to live next door to the landscaping of a car dealership, do not impose that devastation on my neighborhood,” May said.
After the meeting, Marhofer promised to continue working with his neighbors to ensure the project has as little impact as possible on the street.