Columbus Street residents in Canal Winchester want more time to preserve their tree lined street from proposed renovations that could result in less leafy canopies, but time is running out.
A pair of homeowners asked Canal Winchester Village Council at its Jan. 22 meeting to delay the West Columbus Street reconstruction project, which would involve widening the street, removing trees, and creating bump-outs into parking areas to accommodate larger, more established vegetation.
Resident Mike Vasko acknowledged administrators and engineers took two years to come up with a plan, but felt the ultimate decision was railroaded through, much to the chagrin of the community. He said when fellow homeowners were finally able to go over the plans with a fine-tooth comb, they came up with a number of problems and objections, but wheels were already set in motion.
"We have a street that is 32 feet wide and there will be nine additional feet of asphalt on Columbus Street," said Vasko, "That’s not Canal Winchester, that’s New York City with a walkup Brownstone. My suggestion is why don’t we build lanes at the preferred width of 10 feet?"
Vasko said the change in plans would result in a smaller loss of trees and retain the character of the neighborhood.
"There was a lot of discussion about traffic," said Vasko, "but I feel it is significantly less. You don’t need all of that street width. This is a plan that is building too much unneeded street. Give citizens time to fully thrash this project out. I ask you to be brave and withdraw all of the contract bids at this time."
Fellow Columbus Street resident Paul Bender handed out reproductions of a magazine cover that featured the section of street at the heart of the debate and Bender’s home. He told council under the current project, the bucolic setting featured in the photo is doomed.
"(It will be) pretty much concrete up to my front step with only about two feet of grass to mow. This
doesn’t only affect West Columbus Street, but the village as a whole," said Bender. "I’m concerned what this will mean for the value of my house. You are putting cars closer to my house. We sit out on our front porch and have never seen a traffic problem. Canal Winchester prides itself in being a Tree City and here we are with a plan that decimates a lot of trees. After our trees are gone, what’s it going to look like? A sun-soaked, bleached street. I’m angered and disappointed with this."
Both residents complained about a lack of communication, citing short notification of a December public meeting that lasted an hour. However, Public Works Director Matt Peoples said the project requires a public hearing, which was done on-site, and residents were asked to fill out a form stating their concerns. In addition, Finance Director Nanisa Osborn said residents were also notified through direct mailing.
"The largest point of contention was the safety factor," continued Peoples in detailing aspects of the reconstruction project, "then we looked at trees and parking. Our typical project is to cut down trees and start over. It is our engineer’s opinion we need the street width that we do. We’re also designing for the future with a 20-year build out. It (Columbus Street) is a connector street connecting two major north-south corridors. There are a lot of cars that use that street. East Columbus Street is at least 36 feet (wide) and the proposed lane width on West Columbus Street is two 10.5 foot lanes not including parking spaces."
Construction Services Administrator Bill Sims said trees were a huge concern and the village addressed the problem by creating the bump-outs. While he admitted it is true a lot of trees will be lost due to construction, most were small and will be moved and two larger trees were already tagged to be removed.
"If the desire was to keep the same tree lawn, you’d have to eliminate parking on one side of the street," stated Sims. "The impact of changing the design during the project is substantial."
According to Law Director Gene Hollins, the village has the option to scuttle the project; go back, redesign, then re-bid; or proceed as planned. However, if the village asks for an extension to re-evaluate the situation, it runs the risk of negatively impacting future projects.
"You are not going to please everybody," said Councilman John Bender, "but we’ve got some great people working on these streets and the work they’ve done in the past has been excellent."
Mayor Mike Ebert said changes to the original plans for Columbus Street call for a 5 foot sidewalk with 30 inches of green space curb to walk. After listening to the concerns of residents, the village decided to narrow the sidewalks to four feet and set back an additional six inches from the curb, thus allowing for three feet or more of greenspace/tree space. However, the width of the street was not changed.
CW development news
Council held a public hearing on a proposed zoning change, from general commercial and light manufacturing to planned commercial district, for property owned by Shirley Meuser and Marcia Moorefield at the corner of West Waterloo Street and Cemetery Road. The 40,000 square foot Shoppes at Winchester Farm development would include office, retail, and commercial property at a value of more than $5 million.
First phase construction consists of the retail complex, at least one office building, and is expected to start in May. Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Bill Christensen told council the proposed endeavor is a good fit between the general retail and big box commercial development to the west and the village commercial area to the east.