(by Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer - December 22, 2010)
The proposed redevelopment of Cooper Stadium took a big step forward on Dec. 15 when the Southwest Area Commission unanimously voted in favor of Arshot Investment Corp.’s rezoning application request.
The commission stated their decision was made because the developers have adequately addressed their concerns regarding the project that would turn the former baseball stadium into a multi-purpose complex with hotels, restaurants and an automotive research and technology center with a paved half-mile track.
Previously, the commission told Arshot they would like to see written documentation on the site’s hours of operation, how they would work with the neighboring Green Lawn Cemetery and what would happen if plans for the Center for Automotive Research and Technology fell through before they would give approval on any zoning request.
During the meeting, Arshot attorney George McCue gave the commission an overview of the changes they have made to the rezoning application. These changes will be presented to the Columbus Development Commission and Columbus City Council when they request final approval next year.
According to McCue, there will be a 50-foot right-of-way on Mound Street, no event will take place until the sound walls and the research and technology center are built, there will be no motor sports operations between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. and the racing levels will not exceed the existing city code. There will be a 50 percent variance parking on site and the out parcels will be within walking distance. Additionally, Arshot will incorporate native plants into the landscape development for bird habitation and conduct a traffic impact study.
“We have spent two years researching this project and talking to people and businesses who support and oppose it and now we feel we have all the information to make an effective recommendation,” said Stefanie Coe.
Commissioner Ralph Horn said even though he is weary of the enforcement side, he voted in favor of the rezoning application because he feels the area needs this project.
“I’m fearful we’ll miss the opportunity for redevelopment [if the proposal is turned down],” he said. “This is a town that’s going nowhere right now. I’m fearful that we’ll lose something that the area really needs.”
Dave Douglas, a real estate attorney who has been investing in properties along Harrisburg Pike and within the vicinity of Cooper Stadium agreed.
“In this economy, any job producing project needs to be given careful thought.”
Douglas said he has spoken to property tenants and most of them are in favor of the complex. He said the others were neutral on the issue.
Jeffrey McNealey, an attorney representing Green Lawn Cemetery, said they even though he believes his client would be pleased with some of the changes Arshot made to their zoning application it is not enough.
“The race track is the lynchpin,” he said. “If the proposal didn’t have the racetrack and just had the research center that would be fine, but the racetrack has the inherent potential for failure.”
He added the risk of failure to the sound barriers is too critical of an issue for the cemetery.