Four new projects, including two for Kenyon specifically, were approved at the Gambier Planning and Zoning Commission’s meeting on Feb. 21.
Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman and Construction Project Manager Seth Millam obtained approval from the Commission for permits to work on solar panel installation that will fulfill 80 percent of the energy needs of the current apartments above the Village Inn (VI). They were also granted permission to construct the new apartments and retail space that will replace the Farr Hall and the current Village Market. The Commission also approved two renovations to private homes.
Kohlman and Millam presented the solar panel project with help from Jerry Kelly, a representative from Third Sun Solar, a company that installs solar panels. Kelly helped install the Kenyon Farm’s solar panels in 2015. These panels will provide at least 80 percent of power used by the apartments above the VI, according to Kelly. This was approved by all voting members; College Historian and Keeper of Kenyoniana Tom Stamp ’73 and Assistant Director of Student Engagement Sam Filkins recused themselves from the discussion because they are College employees.
The second request, to rebuild the Farr Hall area, was more contentious. Kohlman and Milliam sought approval to construct the restaurants, retail space, radio station, student lounge and student housing that will replace Farr Hall. Commission members expressed concern that relocating the loading areas for the VI, Deli and proposed restaurant so that semitruck traffic would be redirected onto streets that may not be prepared to handle the vehicles of that size without detriments to the traffic and the structure of the streets. Gambier Mayor Kachen Kimmell, who chairs the committee, and Commission member Betsy Heer told Kohlman and Millam that the Village was going to conduct a study of these effects separate from the one the College had done.
Heer was also concerned about the legality of student housing above the buildings. There will be four apartments, each housing five to six students. The area of the new residences is zoned in a mixed-use region, which, according to the zoning code, is intended to be an ‘focal point’ of the community and integrate different types of buildings like offices and stores. Heer and Kimmell disagreed over whether the zoning code allows for student housing. Heer said ‘residential buildings’ applies only to single family housing, while Kimmell said the Code allows for institutional use, which includes ‘second floor residential’ usage. Member Richard Tuck mentioned that the dwellings could also be counted as institutional support buildings, which are allowed under the code.
The issue of whether student housing is permitted on Village grounds has come up at a previous meeting that this reporter attended. The commission member had a similar debate, centering on the definition of institutional support facilities, over whether or not the apartments above the new market were permitted.
Ultimately, the vote passed, with Heer voting against and Stamp and Filkins abstaining.
This project will require a separate petition to close Gaskin Avenue for some time while construction is occurring.