City Approves Variance for Gas Station at Tokyo House Site

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A proposed gas station and convenience store at the site of the former Tokyo House restaurant moved a step closer to reality with approval Tuesday of a variance sought by the project’s architect. 

The Youngstown Board of Zoning Appeals approved the request by AM Architecture Inc., Hudson, to eliminate a 10-foot-wide landscape buffer along the side property line, 1907 South Ave. Countrywide Petroleum, owned by Poland real estate agent Sarah Singh, purchased the site in June. 

Because of a “significant grade change” at the site, the owner is installing a six-foot-high retaining wall along the rear property line, so the 10-foot setback won’t be available, AM Architecture’s Arthur Morris said. 

“The retaining wall has to be there,” he said. A fence will be installed above the retaining wall.

The project will include a 5,000-square-foot building with drive-thru window and a detached fueling canopy, according to documents submitted to the city. 

“At this point, we’re really just getting prepared to go for building permits to start construction,” Morris said. He expects to have the necessary permits secured within a month and construction should take about six months. 

Among the other commercial project requests the panel considered were a zone change for a proposed restaurant and variances for two day care centers. 

The planning commission voted 5-1 to recommend changing the zoning of 1601 Oak St. from 1 & 2 Family Residential to Mixed-Use community. The recommendation now goes to City Council for consideration. 

Claudio Correa of Youngstown, who has operated the Cooking With Love food truck for about four years, said he plans to open a carryout restaurant of the same name at the Oak Street location. 

Once Council approves the zone change, Correa hopes to be able to get to work renovating the building, he said. He has already lined up plumbers and other trades to complete the work, he said.  

“Once we get the zone changed we’re going to go quickly to the county building department and submit everything,” said Jomar Malave, contractor with JA & JM Handyman Services, Youngstown.

The work, which will involve completely renovating the first floor of the building, also will take about half a year, he said.     

John Swierz, a former city councilman who cast the dissenting vote on the zone change, said he “just wasn’t comfortable” voting in favor of it.

“I just thought that they weren’t really prepared,” Swierz said. 

The zoning appeals board approved variances to reduce the east and west side yard setbacks to four feet from 20 feet at 610 N. Lakeview Ave. Shannon Cambridge of Shepherd of All God’s Children plans to establish a day care center in the lower level of the building. Hope Academy for Autism occupies the upper level of the building, the former Holy Name school. 

The board voted against all five variances sought by Kyara Austin, including reducing required off-street parking from 15 spaces to zero, at 207 Steel St. Austin wants to establish a day care center in the building, the former Open Hearth Grill and, more recently, Fyrst Lounge Bar & Restaurant.  

Austin, who also requested reductions in the front, rear and both side yard setbacks, proposed using the existing parking area at the side and rear of the building for a play area for the kids, and said she had parking across the street she could use. 

Charles Shasho, deputy director of public works and the panel’s chariman, balked at that idea. 

“People speed on Steel Street,” he said. “That kind of concerns me.”  

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.