Lakewood Approves Zoning Changes Despite Disagreement

LAKEWOOD- A heated discussion broke out during the Lakewood Village Board’s recent public hearing for the zoning code as trustees and residents argued about the future plan for the village.

For the last year and a half, a Lakewood committee consisting of nine members worked diligently to update Lakewood’s zoning code. The changes addressed four main concerns brought up by moratorium issues: adult stores, storage sheds, signage and car lots. The board did clarify a few zoning changes for the public.

Only one accessory unit – with the exception of a garage – can be built on a residential parcel without applying for a variance. This means property owners can choose one additional building structure, from a shed to a playhouse to an additional garage, to be built on their property. Storage sheds also must be built on residential property and not on a separate lot.

New car lots and adult establishments can now only be built on the south side of Fairmount Avenue from Fairdale to Lakecrest avenues – a three-block area.

The village now will go forward with monument signs for businesses, and LED lights will no longer be permitted.

“The idea is, we need businesses,” said Mayor David Wordelmann. “Quite frankly, the manufacturing jobs in this area 50 years ago are gone. We have very few choices in this area as for how incomes are made, and we all live off that tourist dollar coming in. It’s a fine line. We have to have rules in place, but it’s a fine line when we become so onerous with our rules that we chase away businesses.”

However, contention arose when John Jablonski, Lakewood trustee, suggested three amendments to the signage section of the zoning code. He suggested there should be an intent of purpose in the sign code, a landscaping plan required in private free-standing signs, and internally illuminated signs should be permitted only from Fairmount Avenue to Shadyside Avenue continuing east to the village border on Mall Boulevard.

“I think the village should prohibit internally illuminated signs in an effort to preserve our village’s unique character,” he said.

Wordelmann said these suggestions were brought before the committee, but the committee said what was laid out was sufficient. He continued by saying the committee said landscaping doesn’t fall under signage, and should be placed in another section.

“As a developer, I want to know what you expect for signage, landscaping,” said David DiSalvo, Lakewood trustee. “These are guidelines which would be approved by the board. These are not hard and fast rules, but just guidelines for anybody who comes in. … It speaks to the issue of what we want our village to look like.”

Sue Drago, Lakewood trustee, rebutted that these were not guidelines but the law. Joe Troche, a former Lakewood trustee, added the board reserves the right to vote yes or no to any plan which comes before them.

“I would remind you, in my mind, two places that have done so well by their guidelines are Westfield (and West Ellicott),” said Nancy Bargar. “(Westfield) buried the powerlines, and when McDonald’s wanted to come in, McDonald’s was told ‘this is what we would like you to use’ and they had no problem. It speaks to Dave DiSalvo’s comment that they look to cooperate, but if you have nothing, there is nothing to cooperate with.”

Jablonski said people choose vacation locations because they don’t look like commercial strips anywhere else in the United States. Wordelmann rebutted the public hearing was to discuss the village laws, not to discuss the comprehensive plan or the vision of the village.

The board ended up approving the zoning code as currently written with Jablonski and DiSalvo voting against it.