Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 19, 2019

OH Appeals Court Reverses Denial of Conditional Use Permit for an Historic Building to be Used as a Bed and Breakfast

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.

Deborah Okey and Steven Okey were the owners and occupants of a 7,000 square-foot residence, located in an “R-1” (single family residential) zone in the City of Alliance, bordering the Alliance Country Club. The residence was commonly known as the “Purcell Mansion,” which was constructed in 1929, and listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Appellees had been restoring the property over the past twenty-four years. In 2017, appellees submitted an application for review by the Alliance Planning Commission (“APC”) for a conditional use of the Purcell Mansion as a bed and breakfast facility, with the planned utilization of three guest units. After this application was denied, appellees filed an administrative notice of appeal with the Stark County Court of Common Pleas. The trial court reversed the 2017 administrative decision, and found in favor of appellees as to their request for a conditional use permit.


The record reflected that the trial court considered the record of the APC hearing; specifically, the testimony at the hearing established that the Purcell mansion was the primary residence of appellants, who would be in residence when the three-bedroom inn had guests present. Additionally, the trial court expressed its concern that the APC’s decision to deny the conditional use had been made “not because of non-compliance with other ordinances, and not because of any actual evidence regarding the other factors, but because of a concern that some future violations might occur or some broader usage might be permitted by the BZA.” While the sole trial court witness for appellees was Deborah Okey herself, several area residents expressed their concerns regarding such factors as lighting on the lane, road width, vehicle turnaround possibilities, and capacity for delivery trucks. Accordingly, the court held the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the APC decision denying the conditional use for appellees’ bed and breakfast inn was unsupported by a preponderance of reliable, probative and substantial evidence.


Appellant APC next argued the trial court abused its discretion in reversing the commission’s denial of appellees’ application and applied an incorrect standard of review in reaching its decision. The court first notedthat an administrative board is a public body, and therefore its decision on a variance must be accorded a presumption of validity. Nonetheless, the court found that the trial court’s written decision in this matter did not lead to the conclusion that the court erroneously shifted the burden away from appellees, as appellant asserted. Therefore, the court did not find any merit in appellant’s final claim that the trial court failed to apply the correct standard of review in its administrative appeal decision. As such, the judgment of the Court of Common Pleas was affirmed.


Okey v City of Alliance Planning Commission, 2019 WL 2498907 (OH App. 6/14/2019)

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