Neighbors, jeweler clash over parking lot proposal

James Free Jewelers says it needs to expand its parking lot to remain viable, but residents have argued the parking lot will reduce their property values and change the aesthetics of the neighborhood.

“This is a residential neighborhood, and now all of a sudden they’re creeping in to people’s property here,” said Jeff Moore, who lives next door to the 100 Cushing Ave. property being considered for rezoning. “We’re not very thrilled about the idea.”

The Kettering Planning Commission voted 4-1 in December to recommend city council reclassify the property to a business district. James Free owns the home on the property and would demolish it to make room for 10 additional parking spaces. The store currently has about 40 parking spaces.

“Everybody likes to have convenience, and we’d like to do that for our customers,” said Michael Karman, who owns James Free. “If a customer comes and there’s no parking, with this weather outside, where is he going to park? He’s going to go somewhere else.”

Thirty-five people showed up to a Kettering City Council meeting Tuesday night, asking the city to deny the request and airing fears that the reclassification will lead to future intrusions by businesses into residential areas.

“We’re not just talking about a parking lot. We’re talking about the crucial boundary between businesses and residential properties,” said David Dominic, who grew up at the home just east of the Cushing Avenue property. “This may seem like a small change, but then the owner will be able to expand from there.”

City zoning administrator Ron Hundt said it’s possible that granting the request will lead to further expansion, but that the city made its recommended to grant the request based on the criteria set out in the zoning code.

“James Free has said publicly they’re not interested in going further east. That raises the issue of whether they might go south, and of course north is the street,” Hundt said. “But from the city’s standpoint, we have to look at what the code says and whether the request meets the necessary requirements. If they do, it’s incumbent to us to make a recommendation that’s favorable.”

James Free has had to use parking at a church across the street during its busiest times, according to Robert Curry, an attorney representing the store. He said the store wants to work with the neighborhood but could lose customers if it doesn’t provide enough parking.

“This has not been without some concern and controversy, and we’ve been sensitive to that and tried to address it in a number of ways,” he said.

The public hearing on the issue is closed. A vote is expected in March.

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