City Zoning Board Approves Variances for VA Clinic

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Board of Zoning Appeals and City Planning Commission voted Tuesday to approve four requested variances sought by the developer of a new clinic to serve local veterans.

In July, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs approved the agreement with Michael Downing Realty Ltd. to build the new 35,344-square-foot outpatient clinic on Belmont Avenue. The department will lease the building from Downing Realty for 20 years for $24.7 million.

The building Downing Realty plans to develop will be 40,561 square feet, with additional space to be leased to tenants with uses that are compatible with the clinic.

The clinic is the third Veterans Affairs project that Downing Realty and its architect, Joseph Myers Architects, have collaborated on. The other two are a veterans clinic in Lake County and an outpatient surgery center in Cleveland, near the main VA hospital there.

Developer Michael Downing and architect Joseph Myers appeared before the zoning board to request reducing the front yard setback to 15 feet and eight inches from 75 feet, the rear yard setback to 25 feet from 75 feet and the side yard setback to 64 feet and four inches from 75 feet. They also sought to eliminate the required island landscaping.

In a typical mixed-use district, a building such as the clinic would only require 25-foot rear yard setback and a 10-foot front yard setback, Myers said. However, the clinic most closely fits a hospital use for zoning purposes, triggering the 75-foot setback.

“It is considered a hospital but it’s one story,” Myers said. “It’s not the volume of a building you might expect a hospital to be.”

The board also approved the island landscaping variance, with the provision that Downing provide paved wheelchair access from the Western Reserve Transit Authority bus shelter to the parking lot, after concerns were expressed by city officials, including Mayor Jamael Tito Brown.

The clinic is scheduled for completion by fall 2020, and Downing said construction would begin as soon as he receives the necessary permits from the Mahoning County building department.

The zoning panel also approved reducing east and west setbacks for the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley to nine feet and 18 feet, respectively, from 20 feet to accommodate its 1,904-square-foot addition to its Watt Street building.

In addition, it approved a variance request by Cicogna Electric & Sign Co. to increase the maximum size allowable of a freestanding sign to 135 square feet from 120 square feet for the Save-A-Lot store, 2725 South Ave.

The new signage is part of a national rebranding campaign by the Save-A-Lot chain, store owner Henry Nemenz said. “All the stores my family owns will change to this design and go to this logo,” he said.

Nemenz began renovating the South Avenue store in 2017. “It’s a totally different look. It does not look like the same store,” he said.

Pictured: Joseph Myers and Michael Downing look to have the VA clinic on Belmont Avenue completed by fall 2020.

Related coverage

July 29: VA Picks Belmont Site for New Outpatient Clinic

Aug. 7: New VA Clinic Takes First Steps with Rezoning Recommendation

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