Heather Beyer

STOW: The city’s Planning Commission will meet tonight — a third session since auto dealer Ron Marhofer proposed redeveloping the area around his business in Stow.


Marhofer’s family business has been in operation on Darrow Road since 1919.


“We are upgrading our facility,” Marhofer said. “The goal is to build a new building that will give us a more professional appearance. I’d like to think it’s going to make our facility more attractive and a redevelopment that the city could be proud of.”


Among the key components of the proposal are eliminating Yukon Road, which bisects the dealership property, and improving the intersection at Thorndale Avenue and Darrow Road so it would be a normal 90 degrees.


The project also would involve demolishing existing homes — planners heard at the May 22 meeting that Marhofer has closed on the purchase of a property at 1955 Thorndale Ave. and is currently under option on 1941 and 1947 Thorndale Ave. — and the rezoning of those parcels.


The redevelopment plan also involves demolishing the existing Marhofer showroom and constructing a new building set farther back from Darrow Road.


“You will see the addition of significant green space facing Darrow Road, improving the appearance of the property,” said attorney James Simon, who is representing Marhofer. He said plans include fencing and green space that would provide an appropriate buffer between existing residential homes and Marhofer’s property.


Not all of the neighbors are convinced.


Mark Ryland and his wife purchased a home on Thorndale Avenue about 20 years ago. It is adjacent to the easternmost property Marhofer is requesting to rezone.


The Rylands worry that the value of their property would decrease if Marhofer’s development plan is approved and have hired an attorney to represent them.


“I’m holding out hope,” Ryland said. “I don’t think we are going to win this.”


Thorndale resident Chris Meneer said, “Our neighborhood means a lot to us. We feel so passionate about this issue, that practically every single owner on these four blocks attended the meeting and rallied behind Mark Ryland’s battle.”


Nobody wants Ron Marhofer to leave, said neighbor David Barnwell, “I just don’t feel that he has to take our neighborhood to stay.”


Jacquie Mazziotta, however, said she had some concerns about the future of the dealership in the city should the redevelopment proposal not proceed and receive council approval. She and her husband sold their property to Marhofer.


“My husband and I have given much thought to the proposed Marhofer redevelopment, and we truly believe this project is a benefit to the entire community as well as our neighborhood,” said Mazziotta, a spokeswoman for Stow schools.


“While the idea of relocating the dealership has not been addressed yet, we realize, as a business, it would be an option. … Our concern is that if the dealership would need to relocate to an area where they have the space needed, my family could end up with an empty lot. … A vacant property wouldn’t benefit anyone — the community, the people, my family or the neighborhood.”


Marhofer said he would work with area residents to see what could be done to lessen their concerns should council approve the proposal.


“We will try to have as little impact on the residents as we can,” Marhofer said. “I want to be a good neighbor. I’d like to reach out and have discussions and make it more palatable.”


Mayor Sara Drew said the numerous comments on the proposal — for and against — will be taken under advisement. She encouraged continued public participation at planning, zoning and council meetings.


“I am also sure that Marhofer Chevrolet desires to be a good neighbor and enhance the surrounding area, not detract from the homes nearby,” Drew said.


“Marhofer Chevrolet has been a part of the city of Stow for generations and has been an active, engaged corporate citizen,” she said.


City planners will meet at 6 p.m. in council chambers. The Marhofer proposal is not on the current agenda, but neighbors expect it to come up for discussion.


Heather Beyer can be emailed at hmbeyer@aol.com.