HUBER HEIGHTS —On Tuesday night, the Huber Heights Planning Commission voted 5-0 to recommend denial of the request of Concept I Academy LLC for approval of a major change to a previously approved development plan for a change of use from an elementary school to a private residential school utilizing the Ohio Dept. of Education K-12 Program on site for 16 to 18 year-olds.
This recommendation will be forwarded to the Public Works Committee of the Huber Heights City Council for further consideration on Tuesday, Aug. 18. City Council will then conduct a public hearing on Aug. 24. If Council’s desire was to overturn the recommendation of Planning Commission, they would have to have a super majority vote.
The applicant seeks to reuse the existing Lamendola Elementary School building for a private residential school. The proposal is to utilize the site as is. There are no proposed site improvements or exterior building improvements.
Assistant City Manager Scott Falkowski said concerns expressed was whether there was a realistic time frame for the applicant to get the work done or the modifications to the building complete that would need to go through the Montgomery County Building Dept., then perform the work, then get inspections followed by final approval. He said their goal was to be open in October.
Falkowski said that because this involves a change of use to include a residential component, it would involve a code review with the county which would determine how much work Concept I Academy would have to undergo in the facility.
He also said they were listening to the neighbors. A petition “to prevent the opening of Concept I Academy” had been signed by at least 87 neighbors which stated the safety of the surrounding neighbors and properties were major concerns. The petition also said it would be a nuisance in other forms to surrounding neighbors. Falkowski said the majority of signatures came from a three to four block radius.
“The addition of 32 young boys into a facility, where there is no assurance that the students or surrounding neighbors will be secure, into a neighborhood where crime is on the rise, is not acceptable,” it said. It also asked that lighting and traffic issues and a proposed new entrance, accessible from Chambersburg Rd. be addressed.
Planning Commission Chairman Terry Walton said members had received information about what they were allowed to consider when making a zoning decision. He said one issue involved if it could not be substantially completed in the period of time specified in a scheduled development submitted by the developer.
“They really didn’t have a good handle on from start to finish when they would be able to finish this project…,” said Walton, who indicated he didn’t think they had the major details worked out. “They don’t have their plans as far as what they’re going to do to the building and also that depends on what Montgomery County tells them above and beyond what they’ve submitted.”
“It shall not be detrimental to the economic welfare,” was another guideline Walton said he considered, citing the petition requesting denial of the zoning case and the citizens that spoke at the Planning Commission meeting concerning their “emotionally driven concerns.”
“With the rezoning of the land, I just think the development would have adversely affected the public peace, morals and safety of the community,” he said.
This meeting was tarnished when Tari Darr, owner and Director of Administration, went outside for a smoking break during the meeting and was confronted by a man whom in a police statement, Darr said was yelling at her and getting in her face and flailing his arms. In the report, Darr said she was never struck, but was scared for her safety. The man, according to the police report, admitted he confronted Darr, but said he never yelled or raised his voice.
According to the police report, the suspect was originally misidentified on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, the man who was actually involved in the confrontation, went to the police division and identified himself as the suspect. According to the police report, the officer did not seek prosecution for disorderly conduct in this case, “due to Darr identifying the wrong suspect,” but the man was warned in reference to his conduct at the meeting and in the future.
“We are very concerned about the safety of anybody who comes up here to City Hall,” said Falkowski. “So, we definitely take this very seriously.”
The project use is proposed to have a maximum of 32 students who will be from 16 to 18 years old. The students will perform classwork on site utilizing the K-12 program. The students must go through a screening process to enroll. All of the students will reside at the site. The Academy does not accept student referrals from the criminal justice system, medically fragile students, students requiring psychiatric supervision or students requiring drug or alcohol rehabilitation services. The Academy does accept public, private and military dependent students.
This is the second time that Concept I Academy LLC has undergone the process. The first time, they met a hurdle at City Council when Scott Liberman of Altick & Corwin as special counsel for the city, gave his legal opinion that they did not meet the definition of a school and as a result, the applicant withdrew their original application for a change of use to use the former LaMendola Elementary School as a private residential school.
Reach Greg Smart at 937-236-4990, ext. 2542 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.com