Fueling station a no go for Hilltop leaders

By Josh Jordan
Staff Writer

After a 3-12 defeat in their vote with the Greater Hilltop Area Commission, the development group who wants to put a Thornton’s near the casino was dealt another blow.

The Columbus City Council urged the group to seek a compromise with Hilltop residents and the Hilltop Commission before presenting their plan for a vote.

“Bottom line is they need to have truck fueling for it to make sense for them and that’s the thing we’re against rezoning for,” said commission member Neal Bronder at the March 5 meeting.

As the area is zoned now, the land at the corner of West Broad Street and Georgesville Road cannot be developed into a gas station or a fast food restaurant. Both of those items were in the original proposal from the developer. The proposed plan includes splitting the lot into three areas which would include a Thornton’s gas station with semi-truck access and filling areas, a hotel and a restaurant.

“They came to us back in June asking if we wanted that and we told them right from the beginning that no, we don’t want this,” said Jay McCallister, Hilltop Commission chairman.
During a one and a half hour meeting, commissioners and other community leaders tried to find common ground with the representative from the development group, but to no avail.

Neither side was able to come up with a plan that could appease both sides.

“Our point has been that the long range plan calls for limited commercial development there,” said Bronder. “All the new planning things for the new West Broad corridor talked about the same type of thing and that (plan) didn’t fit into the character of what we’re trying to do in the Hilltop.”

The group discussed zoning only a portion of the land C-5, the higher level required for a gas station or restaurant, as a show of good faith to try to comply with the wishes of the community to not built a fast food restaurant and to include a hotel in the plan.

However, the plan being put forth to Columbus City Council requests the whole lot be changed to C-5, which is zoning for high traffic businesses. Other papers brought to the latest meeting by the developer also called their good-faith negotiations into question.

“The applicant admitted that they don’t build hotels,” said Betty Jaynes, president of the Westgate Neighborhood Association.

After doing her own research into the hotel portion of the development, she requested more information from the developer be brought to the meeting.

“On the Hilltop Business Association website, they have some information from the developer that referred to a $50,000 franchise fee that was evidence to the community that the hotel would be built. On a hunch, I asked them to bring it and they did,” said Jaynes.

“It was dated 2017, which was the same timing that the underlying property owner bought the property and announced that they were going to build a hotel. The community feels that that was, at best, disingenuous.”

Due to the revelations at the meeting and the responses from the developer, all members in attendance agreed they were at an impasse.

From here the developer has three options: leave the proposal indefinitely on the docket to be scheduled, meeting the demands of the community and amending the proposal or force a vote from council on the current proposal.

If the proposal is left indefinitely on the docket, it will never come to fruition. Jaynes also believes that there are not enough votes for the proposal on city council to pass the legislation leaving the only option for the plan to move forward as meeting the demands of the community.

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