A battle is brewing between corporate food giant Burger King and the village of Canal Winchester as the fast food restaurant chain makes a move to occupy a site on the east side of Gender Road.
A public hearing was held July 30 to discuss Burger King’s appeal of a denial by the Planning and Zoning Commission on June 11 of a conditional use permit request for a drive-thru, following a recommendation by Development Director Chris Strayer. Planning and Zoning staff previously recommended approval of the drive-thru in a June 6 report.
"The proposed use is a conditional use of the zoning district and is compatible with adjacent land use and zoning," it was stated in the Planning and Zoning staff report as presented to the commission on June 11. "The proposed use is appropriate for the area as the majority of area businesses have drive-up window service. The proposed use will not cause and (sic) adverse impact to access, traffic flow, natural or historic features, or the public health. Staff recommends the applicant’s request for conditional use be approved."
There are 17 businesses with drive-thru facilities in the general vicinity of the proposed Burger King location, nine of which are involved in the food service industry.
Opposing the drive thru
Strayer said, in a June 11 memorandum to the commission, that (development) staff recommends denial of the conditional use for a drive thru to the Burger King at 6374 Gender Road because the proposed traffic system to service the restaurant has proven to fail on Prentiss School. Because of this situation, Strayer observed, the village should not be approving "additional failing systems on the east side of Gender."
"The plan for the area proposed by Casto and approved by the village council specifically did not have fast food restaurants, but full service restaurants. Therefore, it is inconsistent with the approved used for the area," continued Strayer, who also said the proposed use is inconsistent with the land use plan and would have an adverse affect on Gender Road and Waterloo Street traffic patterns.
The planning commission agreed with Strayer and turned down the conditional use permit request.
When asked on what factual information Strayer based his traffic estimates, he told a legal representative for the company a (traffic) study had not been done on this particular development. Regarding the arrangement with Casto, the development director said Mayor Jeff Miller had notes from a 2004 meeting regarding the agreement, but he didn’t think there was specific language.
"As development director, I welcome Burger King into this community," said Strayer. "It’s just this location."
Challenging the denial
However, according to exhibits referred to by attorneys Bruce Ingram and Joe Miller on behalf of Burger King, the company presented a records request seeking confirmation of the agreement specifying full service restaurants on the east side of Gender Road. The team of lawyers said, in response to the request, Canal Winchester did not produced such an agreement and indicated it did not have one in writing.
In addition, Ingram and Miller presented an agreement signed in February 1997 by then Mayor Marsha Hall and landowner Robert Wood that showed Wood agreed to execute a petition for street improvements and pay an assessment of $330,000 over the course of 20 years for the improvements.
The village and Wood agreed the improvements were contemplated to adequately manage the traffic impact of the development for 25 years from the date of the agreement and Canal Winchester would not deny zoning or building permits for the same time period based on adverse traffic impact stemming from the development.
In a traffic study conducted by CESO Engineers and Surveyors and commissioned by the Burger King Corporation, historical data and counts from the Ohio Department of Transportation indicated north/south traffic patterns for Gender Road peaked in 2003 and since then have declined and stabilized. It was estimated the restaurant would attract only 40 additional vehicles to the center during a peak Saturday hour, resulting in a traffic volume that was not considered influential.
"To me there are a lot of missing pieces here," observed Councilman Steve Donahue. "How many cars go through Starbucks on a daily basis? How many go through Walgreen? How many go through the banks?"
Following the meeting, the Canal Winchester Village Council recessed to discuss the appeal in executive session and then voted to remand the request back to the Planning and Zoning Commission for further consideration.