Third District Toledo Councilman Mike Craig, who opposed a special use permit for a proposed convenience store at 2346 Seaman Street in East Toledo last month, did an about face as chairman of council’s Planning and Zoning Committee on March 18.
Councilman D. Michael Collins (District 2), a member of the committee, had made a motion to recommend to council that the special use permit be disapproved.
Councilmen George Sarantou (At-Large) and Lindsay Webb (District 6) voted with Collins.
Craig, who is chairman of the committee, and Councilmen Tom Waniewski (District 5) and Council President Mark Sobczak (At-Large), voted against Collins’ motion.
Craig, whose district encompasses East Toledo, then made a motion to send the matter to council without a recommendation. The committee voted 6-0 on the motion. It goes before council for a vote on March 31.
Opponents of the convenience store who were at the meeting were stunned that Craig did not support Collin’s motion. On Feb. 16, Craig appeared next to Mayor Carty Finkbeiner at a press conference in front of the store to express opposition to the special use permit.
“I am here with Mr. Craig basically to draw the line,” Finkbeiner had said at the press conference. The owner of this blighted property has applied for a special use permit to open a convenience store. 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, located at the intersection of Seaman and Van Buren Avenue, is located within a residential area.
“There are no other commercial properties in this area for half a mile. A convenience store at this location would undoubtedly be disruptive to the residents in this neighborhood,” said Finkbeiner. “The men and women of this neighborhood have spoken. They do not want a convenience store here.”
Opponents say a convenience store would increase traffic, attract rowdy youths, and reduce property values.
Had Craig voted in favor of Collins’ motion, the vote would have been 4-2 to recommend disapproval to council on the special use permit. Committee recommendations carry a lot of weight when council votes, according to Julie Gibbons, assistant clerk of Toledo City Council.
Sometimes committee recommendations are overturned by council, she added, but not very often. That’s because the public can comment at committee hearings. When council gets the recommendations, there are no public comments before the vote.
“His reversal is a slap in the face,” Linda Verkennes, an opponent who was at the committee meeting, said of Craig.
“He betrayed the neighborhood,” added Verkennes, who lives on Van Buren Avenue.
Duane J. Tillimon, an opponent who was also at the committee meeting, expressed disappointment with Craig’s vote, calling it “a truly bizarre position to adopt without offering any explanation.”
Craig, when asked by The Press last week why he voted against Collins’ motion to recommend disapproval of the special use permit, said: “I supported it going [to council] without recommendation. I just thought it didn’t deserve a recommendation either way.”
When pressed whether he now supported a special use permit for a convenience store at the site, Craig said he had no comment.
It is not the first time Craig has changed his mind on the matter.
Craig told The Press in early February that he was not opposed to a convenience store.
Opponents, then, were pleased to see that he had changed his mind later that month when he had appeared with Finkbeiner at the press conference.
Craig at the time said he had changed his mind because Said Saleh, who had purchased the site two years ago, had not maintained the property. He had 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 shabby appearance.
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. Saleh applied for the special use permit so he can install coolers and sell prepackaged sandwiches for the WIC program. The coolers and subsequent food sales alter the use of the building from a general retail store to a convenience store.
The Toledo Lucas County Plan Commission has already approved Saleh’s request for a special use permit. The commission did not approve a similar request at the site on Aug. 13, 2003.
The Planning and Zoning Committee had originally planned to meet on Feb. 11 to discuss the matter, but rescheduled it to March 18 to give Saleh time to clean up the site.