Toledo City Council last Tuesday voted 6-3 against issuing a special use permit for a proposed convenience store at 2346 Seaman Road.
Third District Councilman Mike Craig, whose district encompasses East Toledo, voted in favor of the special use permit. Craig, who had appeared at a press conference with Mayor Carty Finkbeiner on February 16 to express opposition to the store, had changed his mind and voted for the special use permit. He did not return a message to The Press for comment.
Council members who voted against the permit were Wilma Brown (District 1), D. Michael Collins (District 2), George Sarantou, Joe McNamara (At-Large), Frank Szollosi, (At-Large), and Michael Ashford (District 4).
Council members who voted in favor of the permit, besides Craig, were Tom Waniewski (District 5), and Council President Mark Sobczak (At-Large). Council members Lindsay Webb (District 6), Phillip Coleman (At-Large) and Betty Shultz (At-Large) were not present.
The site, at Seaman Road and Van Buren Avenue, consists of three parcels and is occupied by a two-story building constructed in 1912. Said Saleh, who bought the property two years ago, sells general merchandise in the building, called General Retail and More. Saleh, of Dearborn, Michigan, needed the special use permit to 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.
Opponents believed a convenience store would increase traffic, attract rowdy youths, and reduce property values.
Linda Verkennes, an opponent who lives on Van Buren Avenue, was at the meeting. The votes against the special use permit, she said, “were music to my ears.”
She was disappointed Craig had voted for the special use permit.
“We were really hoping he would go back to his original position, where he supported the Van Buren Street homeowners. He didn’t do that. He gave no explanation as to why he didn’t do that. So we still don’t know the reasons for his decision.”
Said could not be reached for comment.
Sobczak told The Press that he had voted for the special use permit because a convenience store at that location would benefit the neighborhood.
“I think it’s a shame that it was defeated,” said Sobczak. “It’s not economic development on a large scale. But we’re working very hard to bring in jobs to the community. On a very small micro-scale, this is in fact economic development.”
In addition, Said Saleh’s son, Nabil, said he was going to live above the store to maintain a presence in the community, said Sobczak.
“In the old days, most street corners had a storefront. You had someone who was willing to live and work in the neighborhood and provide a service to people,” said Sobczak. “That’s exactly what was going to go on here.”
Saleh had also signed a deed restriction that prohibits the sale of alcohol at the site, said Sobczak.
“Future owners cannot change the deed restriction,” he said.
The holder of the deed restriction is the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority, which oversees Ravine Park Village, a public housing complex near the store, said Sobczak.
“LMHA never would have given up that deed restriction to allow alcohol to be sold on that piece of property, he said.
Nabil, who was charged with receiving stolen property at a convenience store he works at in the north end, was not a threat to the community, said Sobczak.
“If I thought this guy was going to be some kind of scourge to the neighborhood, I wouldn’t have supported the store opening up,” said Sobczak.
Saleh could reapply for a special use permit in a year, said Sobczak.
Councilman Collins told The Press he voted against the special use permit due to “a combination of issues.”
“When I looked at photographs taken inside the place, it caused me concern. I’m not saying there was anything illegal going on. But it looked rather odd to me, certain items that were for sale, such as guitars that were hanging off walls,” said Collins.
He was also concerned about the charges against Nabil for receiving stolen property at the convenience store where he worked.
“The issues of unlawful activity concerned me,” he said. “There were a number of cases of receiving stolen property,” he said.
At a Planning and Zoning Committee hearing on March 18, Collins said Nabil had explained away the charges as “being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Collins, who is a member of the committee, told Nabil that it was a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time “approximately nine times.”
“I guess I have to reflect back on my 28 years experience as a police officer. For me, it just didn’t pass the olfactory test,” said Collins.