A request for a new special use permit for a proposed convenience store at Seaman Street and Van Buren Avenue in East Toledo has run into some opposition by neighbors who fear it will become a hangout for rowdy youths.
Adjacent to, and immediately west of the proposed store, is Ravine Park Village, a public housing project.
“Immediately to the south is the Van Buren Street neighborhood, a middle income neighborhood of well kept homes,” said Duane J. Tillimon, who owns a house next door to the site at 2346 Seaman Street. If the owner seeks a liquor license, neighbors are concerned the store will become “a hangout,” said Tillimon.
“If the proposed convenience store becomes a hangout for hoodlums, the housing values on Van Buren Street will not only plummet, but the houses will likely become not saleable at any price,” said Tillimon.
The request will go before the Zoning and Planning Committee for a public hearing in Toledo City Council Chambers on the first floor of One Government Center, Jackson and Erie streets, on Feb. 11 at 4 p.m.
The Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commission approved the request at a hearing on Jan. 8.
Tillimon said he never received notice from the Plan Commission about the hearing, and doubts his neighbors did, either. “The Plan Commission approved it without the neighbors even knowing there was an application,” said Tillimon. “Nobody showed up.”
The applicant, Said Saleh, owns the property, as well as lots at 2340 and 2344 Seaman Street. The site, zoned Neighborhood Commercial, is occupied by a two story building, part of which is leased for apartments. Saleh purchased the property in 2007 for $8,000, according to records with the Lucas County Auditor. The building, built in 1912, was a neighborhood candy store decades ago, said Tillimon.
A similar request for a special use permit at the same site was rejected by the Plan Commission a couple years ago after neighbors submitted a petition in opposition, said Tillimon.
Another reason for Tillimon’s opposition is the lack of sufficient parking at the site, which would pose a traffic hazard.
“The proposed convenience store is located on a postage stamp sized lot. There is only room for three parking spaces with one reserved for handicapped parking,” he said. “This seems insufficient for a convenience store, let alone apartments located in the building.”
An area between the rear of the convenience store and the side of his house, which the Plan Commission refers to as a “buffer,” is actually an unpaved gravel parking area used for the apartments, he said.
“It is inadequate parking for the apartments at the present time. The curb cut is being left in place, so this area will be used as overflow parking for the convenience store and not any type of buffer,” he said.
“There has always been parking problems along Van Buren Avenue due to the narrowness of the street and the fact that the houses are on narrow lots,” Tillimon continued. “Street parking is always at a premium. TARTA used to have a bus route along Van Buren Avenue, but if the parked cars didn’t park close to the curb, the buses were blocked from going down the street. Parking for a convenience store will exacerbate the parking problems in the neighborhood.”
Tillimon said he doubts a convenience store would be patronized by many in the area.
“There is no need for a convenience store in this neighborhood,” he said. “There is shopping along Starr Avenue a few blocks to the south of Ravine Park Village. The applicant’s claim that he wants to provide perishable items for the WIC program is a red herring since shopping is readily available along Starr Avenue. The House of Meats on Starr Avenue is extremely popular with residents of Ravine Park Village, and provides food items at a more competitive price than a convenience store would.”
In addition, Saleh, of 6500 Barrie Street, Dearborn, Michigan, would be an “absentee landlord,” who would be unavailable to neighbors should problems arise, said Tillimon.
“This always leads to problems with these small, and inappropriately located, convenient stores. There is never anyone to complain to at the store who has any authority to do anything about loitering and other likely problems associated with this type of convenient store,” said Tillimon.
Toledo City Councilman Mike Craig, whose district encompasses East Toledo, said he’s received about four complaints about the convenience store.
Saleh, said Craig, sold food at the building at one time, but discontinued after the health department found out he didn’t have a vendors license. He then sold general merchandise from the building.
“I was there on Sunday, went up and looked in the door and saw sweatshirts and other items like that,” said Craig.
Saleh recently came to Craig’s office to discuss his plans.
“He said he only wants to open three days a week, and won’t apply for a liquor permit,” said Craig. “We can’t hold him to that. We have no way of backing that up. It’s within his right to be open more hours if we give him the special use permit, and it’s also within his right to apply for a liquor permit.”
Craig said he is not opposed to a store at that site.
“I don’t have any objection to him having a food store there,” said Craig.
“There could be some objections to the amount of traffic it would generate, but a store that small, I don’t see it generating a lot of traffic,” he said.
He also thinks neighbors would use the store because the nearest carryout is at Dearborn and Seaman, over a mile away.
“If you’re on foot, that’s a tough walk,” he said.
Lisa Cottrell, principal planner with the City of Toledo, said there is also support for the store. A four page petition with 80 signatures from area residents in favor of the store was submitted to her.
Saleh could not be reached for comment.