Rezoning requested for former Temple Beth Israel

STEUBENVILLE – The city’s planning and zoning commission agreed Monday night to expedite a rezoning request to convert the former Temple Beth Israel on Lovers Lane into a senior citizen center.

Tri-State Health Services Inc., a co-sponsor of Trinity Health System, has purchased the synagogue and filed a request to rezone the property from R-1, a low-density residential district, to B-2, a community-commercial district.

The Urban Projects office had originally scheduled a July 1 public hearing on the rezoning, but changed the hearing date to June 10 at the request of commission member Eric Exley.

“We are ready to open now. But we wanted to wait until everything is completed. The June 10 public hearing date is fine with us,” said attorney Frank Bruzzese, who represented Tri-State Health Services.

The planning commission also agreed to accept the rezoning application and request legislation approving the rezoning from city council.

Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi said council would vote a third and final time on the rezoning at the June 18 meeting.

According to Judy Owings, interim director of Prime Time, which provides services to area senior citizens, “surveys have shown a need for a central senior citizens center in Jefferson County. Approximately 18 percent of our county’s population is 65 or older and between 25 to 50 percent of our local population is 50 years of age or older.”

“The temple was exactly what we were looking for. We plan to have a variety of social services there including exercise classes, arts and crafts, social activities, a small cafe, movies, educational programs, painting, photography and cooking classes, financial services for seniors, gardening, dances, support groups, walking, hiking and biking as well as travel and volunteer opportunities,” said Owings.

“The zoning changes will better reflect the services we will offer at the center,” she added.

Bruzzese said Owings personally talked to neighborhood residents, “and one person expressed a concern about the future of the building if we sold the property. He didn’t want to see a gas station in their neighborhood and we agreed. Our request is asking for a rezoning to permit some uses for the building but prohibit other uses. We are asking for a conditional use permit.”

Bill Demjan, a member of the PrimeTime Advisory Council, said a number of military veterans are also senior citizens.

“Those veterans will also be interested in using the senior citizen center. I think it would be very appropriate for the planning commission to show their gratitude to the veterans by providing a positive recommendation to the city council,” declared Demjan.

In other business Monday night, the planning commission held a second public hearing on the Fiscal Year 2013 Consilidated Plan.

“We have not been officially informed of our 2013 Community Development Block Grant funding, but we have been told to expect the same amount as we received on 2012. So we are planning for $566,474 this year. That is a 46.6 percent cut from our peak year of 2002,” stated Petrossi.

Petrossi also told the planning commission members the city’s certified professional environmental consultant has completed plans for the asbestos abatement at the Grand Theater.

“We will now request legislation from city council advertising for bids for that abatement work. This project is funded by the Clean Ohio fund,” said Petrossi.

Petrossi also reviewed a lengthy list of building demolitions that have been completed.

“We also need legislation from council to add 243 N. Eighth St. to the demolition list. We didn’t think we had enough CDBG funding left for that project, but we now have the money to take the building down. That will complete our current list of demolition of dilapidated properties until we receive our 2013 CDBG funds,” said Petrossi.