By Linda Dillman
A large crowd attended the Dec. 4 Canal Winchester City Council meeting to hear a discussion on a rezoning request and talk of extending Bigerton Bend to Gender Road.
On Nov. 20, city council held the first reading on a request to rezone a 4.73 tract of land owned by Crossroads Christian Life Center from multi-family residential to general commercial.
During the ordinance’s second reading on Dec. 4, church members filled council chambers, along with a handful of Cherry Landing residents who drew attention to the road extension in connection with the project to build a new church structure.
The tract is located at the southeast corner of Gender Road and the Canal Street intersection. When the Planning and Zoning Commission was reviewing plans for the proposed 27.8 acre church development in 2016, they encouraged the trend of continued commercial development along Gender Road to the railroad tracks.
Lead Pastor Tim Moore said, “We wanted to split off the front acreage. It’s more than what we need and it would be of a benefit to the city. If it gets rezoned commercial, there’s not a chance apartments would be built. It’s a value for us as well to know it will be commercial.”
Currently zoned AR-1 for multi-family residential, the general commercial designation would allow for retail operations, restaurants and offices and is consistent with present Gender Road zoning.
City staff recommended the applicant’s request and commission members concurred.
Cherry Landing residents are at odds with a long-standing city thoroughfare plan that connects Bigerton Bend with Gender Road.
Canal Winchester Development Director Lucas Haire said the site plan proposed by Crossroads includes the roadway, which has been on every thoroughfare plan the city has approved since 2001.
“It seems like we’re being held hostage to a decision made 17 years ago,” said resident Robert Sycks, who felt people will use the proposed connector as a bypass for traffic lights on Gender Road. “The amount of increased crime and vandalism will change the community.”
Canal Winchester Law Director Gene Hollins said that any development on the property—whether it is an apartment, church or more houses—must follow the city’s plan.
“No matter who the buyer is, they are required to build the road,” said Hollins. “It’s either a farm field with no infrastructure or a development with an infrastructure.”
Haire said the church’s site plan was approved, which includes the roadway and a bridge. The bridge plan is currently under review by FEMA. What is at question is rezoning the proposed commercial parcel.
Councilwoman Bobbie Mershon emphasized there are only four sets of criteria council can consider when deciding on the rezoning request.
“It is not something we can change (the Bigerton Bend roadway) with the rezoning,” said Mershon.
Council President Steve Donahue said, unless the rezoning ordinance is tabled, council will act on it during its third reading at council’s Dec.18 meeting.