Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Portage
Appeal from the Portage County Court of Common Pleas, Case
No. 2017 CV 0297.
P. Pizzino, Warner Mendenhall and Logan Trombley, The Law
Offices of Warner Mendenhall, (For Appellant).
R. Fink, (For Appellee).
TIMOTHY P. CANNON, J.
Appellant, Hallmark Campus Communities d.b.a. East Main
Street Lofts ("EMSL"), appeals from the May 7, 2019
judgment entry of the Portage County Court of Common Pleas,
affirming a decision of the City of Kent Planning Commission
("Commission") to deny a conditional zoning permit
to construct the East Main Street Lofts. For the following
reasons, the trial court's judgment is affirmed.
The factual circumstances leading to the present appeal were
articulated in the previous appeal, East Main Street
Lofts v. City of Kent Planning Comm., 11th Dist. Portage
No. 2018-P-0004, 2018-Ohio-5342, and are restated in relevant
part as follows:
On August 19, 2015, Hallmark Campus Communities
("Developer"), a real estate development company in
Columbus, Ohio, applied for a site plan review and
conditional zoning permit to construct the EMSL, a
multi-family residential complex, in the city of Kent, Ohio.
The development's parking lot was to be constructed in
neighboring Franklin Township. After Franklin Township denied
the parking plan, the Developer submitted a revised
application on August 26, 2016. The new plan placed the
entire proposed development, which consists of two 4-story
residential buildings, a parking lot, and a green area, in
Kent. The size was reduced from 98 units of one- and
two-bedroom apartments with a total of 362 beds to 94 units
of one-and two-bedroom apartments with a total of 184 beds.
The proposed development is primarily located in Kent's
"Commercial High Density Multifamily Residential"
("C-R") district. Under Kent City Codified
Ordinances ("KCO") Section 1145.02(b)(3),
multifamily dwellings are conditionally permitted in the C-R
district subject to the requirements set out in KCO Section
1171.01(a)(5), (9), (11), (22), (37), and (38).
The following zoning districts border the proposed
development: Kent's C-R district to the north and
northwest; Kent's "Multifamily Residential"
("R-4") district to the south and southwest; and
Franklin Township's "General Commercial"
("C-1") district to the east.
Holly Drive extends into the development from Horning Road.
This access point is located in Kent's R-4 district.
Horning Road continues East into Franklin Township's
"Single Family Residential" ("R-1")
district. Franklin Township's C-1 district sits between
the development and the R-1 district. Several single-family
homes are located along Horning Road.
At the request of the Commission, the Developer hired
"EMH & T" to generate a Traffic Impact Study.
The Developer presented its proposal to the Commission on
October 4, 2016. In February 2017, Kent's city staff
found the proposed development either met the requirements
for a conditionally permitted use under KCO Section 1171.01
or was granted a variance by the Board of Zoning Appeals.
The Developer again presented its case to the Commission on
February 21, 2017. Prior to any discussion, an oath was
administered to those members of the audience who wished to
be heard. Thereafter, Ryan Pearson, a representative of the
Developer, reviewed the site plan and proposal for EMSL. He
answered questions from the commissioners about changes that
were made to the plan pursuant to the Traffic Impact Study.
He explained the city's traffic engineer and the
Developer's traffic engineer were both involved in making
Doug Bender, Senior Traffic Engineer with EMH & T,
discussed the Traffic Impact Study on behalf of the
Developer. Mr. Bender explained the Traffic Impact Study
considered five intersections in the area and that changes
were made to the site plan based on the recommendations of
the study. The Traffic Impact Study states: "All study
area intersections are predicted to operate acceptably with
existing conditions for vehicular traffic in the 2018 Build
condition. Consequently, no off-site improvements are
recommended at this time. A site-related improvement at the
site entrance of Holly Drive is recommended to consist of:
• Install pedestrian crosswalks on all three approaches
to the Horning Road/Holly Drive intersection and a stop bar
on the Holly Drive approach.
• Construct pedestrian landings at each crosswalk
• Improve the sidewalk along the west side of Holly
Drive to provide an eight-foot wide path
• Improve the site connection for pedestrians/bikes to
the adjacent Holly Park apartments
No other site-related improvements are warranted or
Following Mr. Bender's discussion, several residents of
Horning Road and owners of property on Horning Road, from
both Kent and Franklin Township, provided comment. They
expressed concerns regarding how the development would affect
their neighborhood. One resident indicated the development
would be "significantly overbearing to the existing R-1
neighborhood." The residents explained that increased
population density resulting from the development would
change the character of the neighborhood and contribute to
traffic congestion, increased crime rates, blight, invasion
of privacy, and pollution. In support, several neighbors
referred to a "Comprehensive Community Housing Study and
Needs Analysis" ("Housing Study") published in
2016, which, in part, analyzed housing supply and demand in
the city of Kent.
The residents also expressed doubt over the findings of the
Traffic Impact Study. One resident indicated he thought the
study was biased, and several residents contested the
study's findings. In response to the concerns, Mr. Bender
explained he had worked with the city staff to set up the
parameters for the study. He further explained the procedures
used in conducting the study and stated that pedestrian
volumes were included in the study. Mr. Pearson also
addressed the concerns, explaining the Developer was not
trying to address all the community's issues with traffic
but would make improvements to address certain pedestrian and
After the public comment, Jennifer Barone, development
engineer from the city of Kent, addressed the Commission and
reviewed the proposed plan. She explained that the Traffic
Impact Study was reviewed by the city's traffic engineer
and the city engineer, who found the information in the study
was acceptable. She further explained the city had plans to
address traffic issues in the area. She stated the city staff
found the Developer met the requirements of "the zoning
code * * * with the changes and the variances that were
The commissioners engaged in discussion and directed
questions to Mr. Pearson. Following the discussion, they
unanimously voted to deny the Developer's conditional