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City closer to allowing 90 N. Main businesses

Bob and Peggy Roth stand inside the refurnished 90 N. Main. Photo by Trevor Keiser (click for larger version)
December 01, 2010 - It's been two years since Bob Roth and Ed Adler of Leh-Ray Holdings, LLC stood before the Clarkston City Council "to determine the future development of the township hall property on 90 North Main."

Now, things are slowly moving forward.

"We went to the city council first and then they sent us to the planning commission to set up a subcommittee to talk about what options could be used for this property," Roth said. "At that time they did not want to set up a subcommittee to discuss those issues."

The building, erected in 1910, housed Independence Township municipal offices from 1951 until 2008, when it was traded in the township's bid for a new facility, now open on Waldon Center Drive.

Roth said maintenance is $13,000-$16,000, and taxes are $32,000 to $34,000.

According to R1 residential zoning government buildings are an "allowed use," but commercial is not.

"This has never been a residence, if you come in here and look it doesn't look anything like a residence (and) it's not going to be a residence," Roth said. "There could be some sort of possible residential component here, but with all this property. I don't see many houses with the biggest parking lot for 70 cars."

The building, erected in 1910.

Roth said he and Adler see possible uses of the building as architect or engineer offices, or studios of some sort.

"It will be much less use than the township hall was as far as the traffic coming in," he said. "If this was an architect's office that came in here and came to work, they are going to come in at eight in the morning and leave at six at night."

However both Leh-Ray Holdings and the City are trying to reach an agreement that would accommodate such uses of the building, but also accommodate the zoning issue. City Planner Dick Carlisle is drafting up plans for a possible "overlay district" that would suit both use and zoning issues.

"I'm sure we'll come to an agreement with the City," Roth said. "The city is working with us and trying to resolve a situation that is truly a non-residential property."

Resident Michael Sabol, who recently ran for city council last month, has been very vocal on the issue at council meetings. Sabol said he only had two issues. He felt "the process" according to law was not being followed and he doesn't like the city making an "accommodation" for one business to be located at the site. He says this is a clear violation of the law.

"There is no process for providing an accommodation, or at least there is no such word in the zoning ordinance that says you can do this to provide an accommodation," Sabol said.

City Manager Dennis Ritter originally told Savage Photography currently located at 90 N. Main, they would have to leave, but the city did allow an accommodation due to the owners' concern of vandalism. However, no other businesses would be allowed in until both parties reached an agreement.

Sabol is positive about what he heard at the last meeting and believes they are making a "favorable turn in the right direction."

"As long as they follow through with and they don't violate any of the process and they stick with what zoning ordinance and everything says," he said. "I'm perfectly fine with it."

Ritter said the only promise they made was "the process goes on in an orderly fashion without anybody dragging their feet, so to speak."

Some residents have voiced concerns of work that has been done on the inside. Roth said the only work they've done is tearing up the old carpet and taking on the drop ceiling on the second floor and refinishing the maple floors and ceiling.

"Bob and Ed have done a tremendous job restoring this building with the floors and ceiling," said Roth's wife and Councilwoman Peggy Roth. "Actually what I think they've done is give the city a tremendous gift by redoing this. This is a piece of Clarkston's history."

"The property owners are not second class citizens. They have right like anyone else that owns property in any community to seek the best use of the property as they wish it to be," Ritter said. "We're moving forward. Our planner is reviewing it and once we receive his report, we'll know what the next step is and that will be shared with everyone."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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