NORTH CANTON, Ohio — David Boettler and his family have owned the North Canton Repair Shop for more than 75 years, 33 of those years on North Main Street, but now the family believes the city is trying to run them out of business.
Boettler told News 5 that the City of North Canton has now hit the small business with 19 zoning violations involving firewood sales, its greenhouses and more, operations Boettler said have been conducted the same way for over three decades. Boettler believes he knows why the city suddenly found him out of compliance.
”They want this area for their entertainment district; I call it the bar district; it’s where they can serve liquor; they have the bulls-eye for their entertainment district; if you see their pamphlet, it’s right in the center of my property,” Boettler said. “They say I’m running an illegal and deceitful business because somehow I have been hiding this firewood business underneath their noses for 33 years.”
More than four dozen longtime North Canton Repair customers gathered in support of the small business on Nov. 17 and told News 5 they believe the shop and other small businesses on North Main Street are being victimized by a proposed city plan to expand liquor permits and venues that sell alcohol.
David Crowder who is a 30-year customer, and has purchased equipment, Christmas trees, flowers and more from North Canton Repair, said he believes the city is unfairly targeting the small business.
“If you’re a small business in the City of North Canton, you should be worried,” Crowder said. “If it’s been an issue for 30 years, and he’s been here on N. Main Street, and you haven’t said a word until now, there’s a hidden agenda.”
Customer Jolene Gonzales claims other North Main Street businesses have also been pressured off the busy business district.
“It’s not just zoning for business, it’s fear of zoning for residential,” Gonzales said. “Unfortunately, North Canton Repair is not the first business to be treated the way they’re being treated, they’re just the first business that has garnered the attention of the community.”
But the City of North Canton quickly issued a lengthy statement to News 5, making it clear it’s not trying to move North Canton Repair off of North Main Street.
The city said it doesn’t believe the alleged zoning violations it issued, which are now under appeal, would generate a significant loss of business that would cause North Canton Repair to close or move out.
The city emphatically stated that the entertainment district proposal is in no way connected to the zoning action, and told News 5 the city has never offered to purchase the property.
In its written statement, the City of North Canton said it’s trying to clear up what it calls a few “misconceptions” being circulated on social media about the ongoing case against North Canton Repair.
Misconception: The City is seeking to purchase the property. The City of North Canton and the North Canton Community Improvement Corporation have never offered to purchase the North Canton Repair Shop property. The City is aware that several private entities have approached the business in the past about selling to them, but those are private transactions and negotiations in which the City were not, and are not, involved. Additionally, the City has not pursued, and does not have any intention of pursuing any eminent domain action. As required by state law such action would require an authorizing resolution from City Council. No such resolution has been enacted.
Misconception: The City is seeking to push out North Canton Repair for the establishment of a Community Entertainment District as described in the 2023 North Canton Master Plan. A Community Entertainment District (CED), if created, would simply increase the number of D5 liquor permits available in the area. There is no requirement or need for North Canton Repair Shop or any other business that would potentially be located in a CED to relocate in order for this to occur. Additionally, at present, the City of North Canton may not legally create a CED under state law. The City would first need to grow to a population of over 20,000 (currently 17,842) and secure an investment of $50 million (ORC 4301.80(B)). The goal of creating a CED as included in the Master Plan is aspirational but is highly unlikely to occur for many years, if ever. With versions spanning multiple years, the City of North Canton’s Master Plan is not designed to be a definitive list of initiatives that the City is certain to pursue. Rather, it is an evolving compilation of city leaders’ best ideas for the progress and prosperity of North Canton – a set of recommendations adapted to best meet the unique community opportunities and challenges of the time.
Misconception: The City similarly pushed out Randy’s Automotive. The North Canton Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) purchased the property where Randy’s Automotive operated for future development as part of the City’s land bank initiative and through negotiations with Randy’s Automotive and its counsel. The City purchased the property through private sale, as Randy’s was looking for a larger space, and found that space in Jackson Township on Whipple Ave. The City wishes Randy’s Automotive all the best with its future business operations. We are also excited about the possibility of new investment, and about preventing a long- term vacancy of a former auto shop like Randy’s Automotive, similar to what has occurred with the former Spitzer property.
Misconception: The City’s Zoning changes, as mentioned in the Master Plan, have become more restrictive and have turned North Canton Repair Shop into a non-conforming use. The City’s recent zoning amendments have liberalized the restrictions from the previous 2003 zoning code, including broadening permitted uses, expanding the number and types of permitted signage, reducing required parking spaces, and liberalizing setback requirements. Additionally, at the time the amended zoning code was being considered, all property owners along Main Street were invited to two drafting sessions to give feedback on the City’s proposed code and were also invited to public hearings before the City Council. Some property owners did take this opportunity to provide feedback, and their suggestions were ultimately included in the zoning code version adopted by City Council. None of the City’s recent zoning changes relate to manufacturing or processing of firewood and/or the deconstruction and rebuilding of temporary structures at issue in the North Canton Repair Shop Code Enforcement case.
As stated previously, the City has brought forth no zoning issues with the small engine repair or garden center business functions of North Canton Repair Shop. These functions, and the structures they are in, were properly permitted and may continue to exist and operate unless abandoned for a period of 12 months or more. However, according to City records, the manufacturing and/or processing of logs into firewood has never been a permitted use on the property in question, and no certificates of occupancy were ever issued authorizing such use on the property.
A zoning appeal hearing, in this case, is set for Nov. 28. News 5 is committed to following through on this developing story.
Meanwhile, Boettler had one final message to North Canton city leaders.
“One of the things that is really upsetting is that I’ve been here this length of time, so to be called an illegal business is insulting,” Boettler said. “Please leave me alone. I’ve only got a couple more years and then I’ll retire anyway, and then they can have their property.”
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