Nexus Academy of Toledo granted permitWritten by Caitlin McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo City Council reversed its decision to deny the Nexus Academy of Toledo a special use permit to locate Downtown.
Council voted 10-2 in favor of the school during a special meeting Aug. 7.
The college preparatory program, which will blend classroom and online work, will be on the fourth floor of One Lake Erie Center at 600 Jefferson St.
Last week, Council members Lindsay Webb, Phil Copeland, Steve Steel and Adam Martinez voted against issuing the permit, with Steel citing concerns about the proximity of the school to convenience stores.
But County Plan Commission Director Tom Lemon told Council members that typical spacing requirements regarding schools and convenience stores do not apply in the Downtown entertainment district, where Nexus Academy of Toledo seeks to locate.
Council reconsidered last week’s vote because Councilman Tyrone Riley abstained, which violated a Council rule that prohibits abstentions unless the Council member has a conflict of interest. Riley originally told Toledo Free Press he thought he had a conflict of interest because he had prior business arrangements with a client in an adjacent building.
He later called back to say he had made a mistake and that he had not understood the Council rule. He said he thought at the time of the vote that both sides had compelling arguments.
After this realization, he wanted the chance to vote on the subject.
His vote in favor helped to turn the decision around, along with votes of approval from Paula Hicks-Hudson, Phil Copeland and Adam Martinez. Martinez said he approved the permit this time after meeting with school officials and learning that they decided to appoint supervisors in the student parking lot, as well as to and from the TARTA station. Originally, there was no supervision plan, Martinez said. Hicks-Hudson was not present during last week’s vote.
Steel again voted no and addressed comments that Councilman Tom Waniewski made last week about Council “vilifying” carryouts.
“This isn’t Steve Steel vilifying convenience stores and saying schools shouldn’t be by them,” Steel said. “This is municipal code saying that.”
Steel cited a portion of municipal code that states: “In reviewing and making decisions on proposed special uses, review and decision making bodies must consider at least the following factors: whether the proposed use is compatible with adjacent uses in terms of scale, site design and operating characteristics (hours of operation, traffic generation, lighting, noise, odor, dust and other impacts associated with the uses operation).”
“In considering that, it isn’t Steve Steel that says that there’s an incompatibility between convenience stores and schools… it’s Toledo Municipal Code and the spacing requirements that Council put into code that would indicate that there is incompatibility,” Steel said.
Typical spacing requirements prohibit convenience stores from locating within 1,000 feet of “schools, parks, libraries, licensed day cares or children oriented uses.” In 2009, Council made an exception for community entertainment districts, which includes the area where Nexus Academy of Toledo plans to open.
Addressing the exemption, Steel said the rule was intended to concentrate some of the “adult-oriented venues.”
Steel, a former Toledo Public Schools Board of Education president, also dismissed any assumptions that his decision had anything to do with opinions about charter schools. Councilman Rob Ludeman told Toledo Free Press last week that, “Some Council members used their vote to express their disdain for charter schools in general and to me that’s just wrong.”
Steel has voted in favor of special use permits for other charter schools.
The school, which is slated to open in the fall, will take between 250 and 300 students and employ a school leader, four full-time teachers, three full-time “success coaches,” a part-time special education teacher, a guidance counselor, a secretary and a personal trainer.