Third District Councilman Mike Craig has had a change of heart and will oppose a request for a special use permit for a proposed convenience store at 2346 Seaman Street in East Toledo.
Craig, whose district encompasses East Toledo, told The Press earlier this month that he was not opposed to a convenience store at the site, located at the intersection of Seaman and Van Buren Avenue. He said he had met with the owner, Said Saleh, who is requesting the special use permit so he can install coolers and sell prepackaged sandwiches for the WIC program.
The site, which consists of three parcels, is occupied by a two-story building that was built in 1912.
Saleh currently sells general merchandise in the building, called General Retail and More. The installation of the coolers and subsequent food sales alters the use of the building from a general retail store to a convenience store.
At a press conference near the store Monday morning, Craig appeared next to Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who offered support to opponents of the special use request.
“I am here with Mr. Craig basically to draw the line,” said Finkbeiner.
“The owner of this blighted property has applied for a special use permit to open a convenience store,” said Finkbeiner. “Mr. Saleh, the owner of this building, is seeking to open this business, despite making no attempts to meet with residents or address any of their concerns. The neighbors are here today to make those concerns well known once again.”
The property, added Finkbeiner, is located within a residential area.
“There are no other commercial properties in this area for a half a mile. A convenience store at this location would undoubtedly be disruptive to the residents in this neighborhood,” said Finkbeiner.
Neighbors who are opposed to a convenience store at the site say it would increase traffic, attract rowdy youths, and reduce property values.
Adjacent to, and immediately west of the proposed store, is Ravine Park Village, a public housing project.
“The men and women of this neighborhood have spoken,” said Finkbeiner. “They do not want a convenience store here.”
Craig said after the press conference that he changed his mind because Said, who purchased the building a couple years ago, has not maintained the property.
“I went out there on Monday, and there was litter around the store, the walk hadn’t been shoveled, there was graffiti on the building, and it’s in need of some repairs,” said Craig. “The neighbors came down and voiced their opposition again.”
Craig said Saleh has had ample time to clean up the site since he bought the store.
“The property hasn’t been maintained to a minimum standard as it is. Regardless of whether you’re making money out of a property or not, that should make no difference. You should maintain the property,” said Craig. “You don’t have to put a lot of money into it. There is a railing that’s loose, there’s trash all around. That costs nothing to improve. You go down the street a house or two, and there’s no trash because people pick that up when they see it.”
He doubts Saleh, of 6500 Barrie Street, Dearborn, Michigan, would maintain the site even if he did get the special use permit based on the property’s current appearance.
“After going by the building and seeing the condition the property is in, it doesn’t give me a lot of confidence that there won’t be litter and some negative secondary effects if he gets a special use permit for a convenience store,” said Craig.
The Toledo Lucas County Plan Commission has already approved Saleh’s request. The commission did not approve a similar request for a special use permit for a convenience store on Aug. 13, 2003.
It now goes before the city’s zoning and planning committee on March 18 at 4 p.m. The seven-member committee will decide whether or not to recommend approval of Saleh’s request to council. Craig, who is chairman of the committee, said the meeting was supposed to be held on Feb. 11, but was rescheduled after Saleh asked for time to clean up the site.
“They probably didn’t have a good feeling about whether it would pass or not. At this point, I really don’t think they have the support of the committee,” said Craig. “I’m going to vote against it. I just don’t see it being in the best interest of the neighborhood.”
Saleh, who purchased the building in 2007 for $8,000, sold food there at one time, but stopped after the health department learned he didn’t have a vendor’s license, according to Craig. He then sold general merchandise from the building.
Saleh, who submitted a petition of signatures in support of the convenience store to the city, could not be reached for comment.
But in a letter to the Plan Commission, he said the signatures on the petition are by “people who live in the area, who have asked me for jobs, which I am willing to give.”
“They also keep asking me to get my food license so they can purchase food.
states the letter. “It would be convenient for them since there is no store for two miles from where they stay. A large number of residents in the area do not have transportation. My business at this location has recently declined due to the lack of food products in the store.”