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Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Highland Heights Takes a Close Look at Uses in Its Professional Office Zone

1800 Alexandria Pike, Highland Heights. 

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by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

In June, Earl Woeste, the owner of one of two professional buildings in the 1800 block of Alexandria Pike, approached the Highland Heights zoning commission to request a zone change from Professional Office (PO) to General Commercial (GC).

Highland Heights City Planner Dave Geohegan said adding several retail uses to the city's Professional Office zone will help support small businesses.

Neighbors attended a public hearing and brought concerns that a change could bring in fast food or other eateries or businesses that would bring smells, traffic and other issues to their quiet neighborhood. Yet, all were sympathetic to Woeste’s plight. He had much difficulty finding tenants for his office building who would fit the narrow uses listed in the PO zone.

In the end, the commission denied his request, but promised to look at uses in the Professional Office zone, which they agreed may be outdated in today’s market.

Since that time, Woeste has found a new tenant but the commissioners wanted to continue to explore the Professional Office issue, because it would certainly come up again, said City Planner Dave Geohegan.

Geohagen and Chief Engineer/Zoning Administrator Dave Whitacre, took a look at the zone and suggested several additions to the permitted and other uses that they said would fit the city’s comprehensive plan. They presented a report at the city’s August planning meeting. 

City staff recommends text changes

Geohagen said he looked at other cities and the county and selected retail uses he felt would fit into the zone. These would include several businesses that fall under the category of small business retail. 

His list included specialty clothing stores; art, craft and hobby supplies; gift shops; boutiques; toy stores; florists (excluding greenhouses); sporting goods (interior display only with no motorized vehicles); books, magazines, greeting cards and electronic media; pet shops including fish and aquariums.

Yet, he said, the size of these businesses should be restricted. "I was a little concerned if you just allowed a toy store, could it be 45,000 square feet, which is what the old Toys R Us was? So I went through a quick analysis of some of the square footages of existing businesses in Highland Heights and some of the bigger retail type uses."

He concluded that in the Professional Office zone he would recommend allowing the types of businesses he has listed but restrict them to less than 10,000 square feet.

Also recommended was to add some single family residential uses such as those that would let a business owner to live near the business. He suggested the zone use the same lot and set back restrictions as covered in the Residential 1 F zone, such as a 6,000 square foot minimum lot size. R1F is a zone that occurs in the city in older residential areas, he said.

Other recommendations involved moving some uses from accessory uses to permitted uses including dental and medical labs, as well as news and confectionary stands. 

More options for small businesses

The changes would affect about five Professional Office zones in the city.

Although, it may seem adding retail uses to the professional office zone is a departure, Geohagen said it fits the current situation. "It’s been a really tough climate for small businesses around the entire nation. And, if we want to have our business districts vital, in good shape, I think it’s a good thing for the city to accommodate small businesses as best we can."

The commissioners voted to approve the staff’s recommendations for a text amendment. The changes will go to the city council for consideration at its next meeting.

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