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Teen center doesn't sit well with city
Teen center doesn't sit well with city
By MIKE KLIMKO
The plan to open the T.S. Macklin Event Centre on Enterprise Parkway in Solon to area teens may not get very far with city officials, according to planning commission chairman William Mazur.
Sharon and Terry Macklin have proposed the use of their center as a teen gathering place and for dances. They are planning to go to the May ballot with a request to add a teen center as a permitted use under the commercial zoning there.
But Solon officials indicated that they aren't exactly sure how the city's zoning code applies to such a use.
The C-5 district regulating the Enterprise Parkway area was created for retail and service uses to support the surrounding industrial area, according to the code, "and to provide residents with entertainment possibilities and associated parking facilities."
Unspecified uses not compatible with the uses permitted in the district and gasoline service stations were listed as prohibited in 2005, as part of the rewriting of the entire zoning code by Solon Planning Director Robert S. Frankland.
Principal permitted uses include conference centers, hotels, restaurants, banks, child care, business offices, medical offices, office supply, travel agencies and movie theaters. A teen center is not listed as a permitted use. Nor does the code differentiate between teenagers and other age groups in such permitted uses as restaurants, movie theaters or conference centers that host parties and other gatherings.
Discussion of the matter was on this week's agenda for the planning commission, to which it was referred after a brief discussion by City Council in September. The commission was to receive an assessment by Police Chief Wayne E. Godzich of safety issues, including the potential for trouble when large groups of teens gather.
"Basically, the permitted uses are what they are in the code," Mr. Mazur said of the Macklin center. "This is a party center. Everything they're doing now is permitted by code," he said.
"They have meetings. They have luncheons, such as the chamber of commerce. They have a drive-through. If there is a change in the zoning, then anybody could put in a teen center. That would open the barn door, so to speak," Mr. Mazur said.
"And what the chief has said, this is not the best location. There is a difference between a teen center and other entertainment. The businesses don't throw parties for teenagers," he said.
"I'm sure the city will not be looking at permitting teenager dances. The use is based on the code. I don't know I would be in favor of a teen center based on what the chief had to say about safety."
According to Councilman Lon D. Stolarsky, unruly behavior by teens about two years at the Swamp Club on Miles Road led Chief Godzich to advise against the proposed teen center.
"I'm not that familiar with constitutional law," Mr. Stolarsky said. "I don't know if teens are an age-protected class. I don't see this as age discrimination. What we're trying to do, if this happens, is to address safety concerns," he said.
"I gather the problem is what is foreseen by the chief in throwing open this kind of activity that can get out of control and wild. We have fire ordinances. We always have the right to assure the health and safety of residents," Mr. Stolarsky said.
Commission member Roger Newberry declined to comment on the constitutionality of treating teens differently than adults who gather legally in public places. But he said, "Teenagers are known to misbehave. And, compared to adults, they misbehave in entirely different ways. I'm sure the chief will be talking about the experiences on Miles Road," he said.
"I don't know about zoning in other communities. There's nothing in our code about a movie theater or a bowling alley being used as a teen center. There's nothing specific. You can make an argument that the Solon Community Center is a teen center," Mr. Newberry said.
"For the Macklin center, the difference is in the perception. I think a teen center would be rowdier, more dangerous."
The T.S. Macklin Event Centre is permitted to host luncheons and parties, Mr. Stolarsky said. The annual state-of-the-city address by the mayor is held there, he said. The event center cannot advertise events open to the public and charge admission, he said.
"We have some use in the code for entertainment. I doubt there's a separate use for teen centers. What they want at the event center is more of a nightclub," Mr. Stolarsky said.
"I would guess it would not be proper to invite all singles, invite all seniors and similar parties vs. scheduled events that are open to the public. The chief is going to address the problems at the Swamp Club."
How a teen center on Enterprise Parkway differs from present uses in the industrial retail is not easily defined, Mr. Newberry said. A teen center would be rowdier than the present uses at the event center, he said.
"The city's concern is safety and preserving the peace. Teens can go there for events. The concern is specifically teen events and centers around public safety," Mr. Newberry said.
Mr. Mazur agreed. "It's different from other uses because of the audience it would attract," he said. "Families going to a restaurant for dinner is nothing like 300 teens partying."
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