Auto parts store pulls request for Middletown hearing tonight

The properties at 1811 and 1835 Central Avenue, Big Al’s Muffler shop and a former Nationwide Insurance office, have sales contingent on buyer getting all of the appropriate approvals from Middletown. The proposed O’Reily Auto Parts store has been met with opposition from downtown Middletown business leaders. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
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The properties at 1811 and 1835 Central Avenue, Big Al’s Muffler shop and a former Nationwide Insurance office, have sales contingent on buyer getting all of the appropriate approvals from Middletown. The proposed O’Reily Auto Parts store has been met with opposition from downtown Middletown business leaders. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

A developer representing O’Reily Auto Parts withdrew a request for a Middletown Board of Zoning Appeals hearing scheduled for tonight, and it is being rescheduled for May 3.

City Planner Ashley Combs said the developer is postponing the hearing so that it could revise its plans for the site in the 1800 block of Central Avenue.

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Dan Biswas of SimonCRE Carp XII, LLC, proposed to demolish two buildings in the 1800 block of Central Avenue to build a new O’Reilly Auto Parts Store between Grimes and Charles streets as well as erect signage and have parking in front and on the sides of the store. The approximate investment is nearly $2 million — about $1.2 million for construction and about $485,000 for land costs, according to city records.

The developer is seeking six variances to develop the new store, an investment of nearly $2 million, in the Urban Core Central zoning district from the BZA after being denied on March 1 by the city Historic Commission, which reviews zoning requests in the downtown area.

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Combs said the Historic Commission approved the demolition of both buildings and proposed wall signage. However, the commission denied the building materials for the proposed building because it was CMU block, which is man-made and not natural stone, and denied a proposed pole sign for the business, because they are not permitted in UCC Districts, she said. Combs said the commission also denied the site plan with the proposed parking in front and on the sides because it did not comply with required zero feet setback as required in UCC Districts.

A number of downtown property owners and stakeholders have raised objections to the request.

“… (T)he development needs to complement the City and be in keeping with the character envisioned for our downtown,” said Phillip Harrison, president of Downtown Middletown Inc. in a statement last week. “Our concern is not that O’Reily’s is planning to build in Downtown Middletown. Our concern is that we do not feel the specific facility, as proposed, is complementary to the rest of our historical downtown and the requested variances are not necessary for O’Reily to successfully develop the site. If approved as requested, the variances will set a bad precedent for future developments Downtown.”

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Mike Robinette, owner of the new Liberty Spirits distillery, said, “If they want to be downtown, they should do it in compliance with the zoning code… We welcome them but we want them to do it within the zoning code.”

If the city Board of Zoning Appeals approves variances that were requested and denied by the Historic Commission, O’Reilly will still need to get Historic Commission’s approval before being able to proceed with building the store,” Combs said.

Should the BZA deny the variances, the developer could take the matter to the Butler County Common Pleas Court for resolution.

Middletown City Council is currently reviewing an update to the city’s zoning code as well as a new master plan for downtown.