A request by land developers in West Jefferson to rezone village property left council members debating the stipulations of a Planned Commerce District and what it might bode for the future.
REX Project Management, a real estate developing company hired by the owners of the Timmons property located off of state Route 29, requested that council members rezone the 250 acres of annexed land from an agricultural plot to a Planned Commerce District (PCD).
According to Mayor Scott Hockenbery, a PCD permits manufacturing and warehouse facilities, as well as retail and commercial growth.
Properties owned by Duke and Centerpoint developers, located near the annexed property, are already zoned PCD, which allowed Restoration Hardware, built on the Duke property, to operate a distribution center and a call center.
In a memo to West Jefferson council members, Hockenbery asserts that developing the REX property in a way similar to that of Duke and Centerpoint would lead to the type of development necessary to attract commercial and retail business to West Jefferson.
“This would be a win-win for the businesses, residents and visitors, by enhancing the development of the downtown area,” he wrote.
While council members agree that marketing and diversely developing the Timmons property is necessary, several fear that rezoning the property to a PCD gives too much leeway for developers and interested businesses to decide what goes where.
Council Vice President Ron Garver worries that the entire site will house oversized warehouses. Garver suggested that part of the area house an office park.
“Ten years from now, all of those warehouses could be vacant. The economy changes,” he said. “I’m not in the business of going out and developing land, but I know what I see when I drive around. I know what kinds of jobs office buildings create: four stories and 500 to 700 jobs. You could have a million square foot (warehouse) and 100 employees."
In response, council President Darlene Steele asked, “Would anyone build a four-story building there? Would anyone come to it?”
Rick Snyder, West Jefferson’s Planning and Zoning Commis-sion chairman, countered Garver’s argument, stating that the area, as it stands, is less favorable for an office park set-up than other areas in the village.
“You can’t have a substantial office park without housing,” said Snyder. “I know you want office parks, but that location is not suitable for an office park. All of the property on (state) Route 40—that’s the perfect location for an office park.”
Currently, the village does not zone areas specifically for office park development, but expects to vote to add a zoning regulation for this category in the near future, Hockenbery said.
Snyder’s conclusions regarding the suitability of the plot for office park development ring true to a land-use forecast compiled by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission to predict necessary changes for the future.
“(All council members) are in agreement that we don’t want just one kind of development,” Hockenbery said.
“We’ve looked at different options. Different areas are more suitable for office parks. The Planning and Zoning Commission thinks that other areas are more suitable for office parks and that this area should be zoned PCD.”
Hockenbery noted that regulations are in place to prevent prospective developers from doing whatever they want. Developers must present a conceptual site plan, then a more concrete plan before building,” he said.
“There are certain things you can see in a site plan,” he added.
The number of employees a development amasses is a major factor in approval.
As of right now, there is no site plan for the Timmons property.
Council members will decide at the next meeting whether to rezone the property by an emergency vote. If voted down, the ordinance will be treated as a first reading and may later pass by a regular majority of council votes.
In other news, the village will install a new alarm and video surveillance system near the water treatment plant to increase security.
At $9,490, the surveillance system, composed of five low-light density cameras, will work in addition to the current cameras and operate via Internet connections, as opposed to phone lines. The cameras will connect directly to monitors in the police station, and a unit at the plant will record the footage.
“We could install something cheaper, but I want to catch the (trespassers),” said Public Service Director Harold Walker.
The water treatment plant cost nearly $3.2 million to build and requires security to prevent vandalism and to maintain operations without interruption.