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Zoning battle forces Clark County business closure

Dealership temporarily shut while it fights to rezone Springfield Twp. property.

A local auto and recreational vehicle dealership has closed — temporarily at least — because of a residential zoning fight in Springfield Twp.

The business, located at the former Forest Hills Par 3 golf course, cannot sell vehicles on the property unless it is rezoned from a residential district to a business district.

Tom’s Toys, Boats, RVs and Trucks, 925 Upper Valley Pike, recently posted a sign that said: “Going out of Business Sale, Due to the Springfield Twp. Residential Zoning on this property we will be closing, Get your best deal now.”

The owners will appear before the CEDA zoning board on Jan. 9, asking to rezone the 14-acre property from a residential to general business district.

Officials say the rezoning case was previously turned down because the business is located in the floodplain.

If the rezoning is approved, the business plans to reopen Feb. 1. If the rezoning is not approved, property owner Pat Dinh said he could seek annexation into the city.

“We need to do whatever it takes to rezone and redevelop that property,” Dinh said. “It’s a great piece of property, and it’s a dynamic location.”

Both business owner Tom Owens and attorney Jim Peifer declined comment for the story.

The Springfield Township Zoning Commission will have a public hearing on Jan. 15 at 6 p.m., while the Springfield Township Board of Trustees will have another public hearing on Jan. 28 at 5:45 p.m.

The parcel was originally zoned residential in 1974 when the township began its own zoning. However, the golf course was already located on the parcel and was grandfathered in as part of the township’s zoning regulations, according to township administrator and zoning inspector Jeff Briner.

Briner said that, under the grandfathered zoning regulations, a parcel must keep in continuous use. If it falls dormant for a period of two years, the parcel loses its grandfathered status – meaning the parcel reverted back to its original residential zoning during the time the golf course was unoccupied.

“The only use without the rezoning would be to build a house there,” Briner said.

Dinh, a Springfield resident, bought the property last February for $90,000, according to county auditor’s records. Dinh said he was unaware the property was zoned residential at the time, and Owens started his business there in the spring.

“It has always been a business,” Dinh said.

Briner said he sent Owens a letter that said he couldn’t sell cars on the property because it was zoned residential.

The owners eventually decided to seek a rezoning, but it was denied by the CEDA zoning board, a cooperative economic development agreement board consisting of members from the township, county and city, as well as the Springfield Twp. Zoning Commission and Springfield Township trustees.

“At that point, as I told them all along, if the zoning goes down, you have to cease operations,” Briner said.

Briner said he does not have an issue with the sign because it’s a true statement.

The site plan attached to the zoning application shows business owners wish to expand in the future, including constructing a 9,600-square-foot building in Phase I, plus a 9,600-square-foot building and a 2,400-square-foot showroom in Phase II.

The main issue with the rezoning case, Briner said, is that 7.2 acres are located in a flood plain. Springfield Twp. zoning regulations say a property owner cannot build in a flood plain, meaning any construction would have to be built up out of the flood plain, Briner said.

Dinh said he’s pleased with the way Owens cleaned up the property last spring.

“It looks 100 percent better than when we bought it,” Dinh said.

Leslie McDermott, assistant to the city manager, said in order to proceed with the annexation, the property owner must file a petition with the county. The petition must be approved by county commissioners before it comes to Springfield commissioners for approval. The process could take up to five months to complete, McDermott said.

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