New zoning proposed for downtown Warren

So you’re interested in buying the Tybout House on Market Street in Warren to use as a residence?

Sorry. You can’t. At least not right now.

The problem is that the area in which the Tybout House, and 18 other structures in a similar situation, sits is zoned Commercial 1. And while residences on the second floor on up in buildings is permissible, traditional residential living is not permitted in those structures.

During Monday’s city council meeting, Councilman John Lewis proposed a new zoning designation the commercial/single zoning district which “combines commercial and single housing criteria. There are people who would look at these things (structures)” as residences.

He argued that people are moving back into the city to be closer to services and this issue “from a city point of view, we should probably look at.”

“That issue came up with the planning commission at the last meeting,” City Planner David Hildebrand said, indicating that he identified 18 “structures in that capacity.”

“From the standpoint of zoning, (this is) something the planning commission is going to look at further,” he said. “Under the C1 zoning district, (use of these structures as residences is) not permitted the way that is written.”

Hildebrand outlined two potential alternatives to permit such use that do not require creation of a different zoning district, explaining that residential use could be written in as a special exception that goes before the zoning hearing board or as a permitted use in commercial districts without the zoning hearing board.

He also provided history regarding the decision to not allow residential use of structures such as the Tybout House in commercial districts, indicating that when the zoning ordinance was update in 1981 the goal was to not allow single-family residences downtown as a means to “encourage commercial development.”

As for how to resolve the issue, both city council and the planning commission have the authority to initiate zoning ordinance changes.

The planning commission meets on the third Wednesday of each month at 7:30 a.m. in the first-floor conference room at the municipal building.