Parcel for path connector questioned; also referendum petition update

By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

The purchase of a 2.5 acre parcel on Franklin Street in Canal Winchester intended as a future connector for pedestrians and cyclists to McGill Park raised concerns from resident Ann Bennett during the Feb. 22 Canal Winchester City Council meeting.

“Creating direct access for walkers and cyclists to McGill Park from downtown is a super idea, but trying to use the Franklin Street parcel to achieve that access is not the way to do it,” Bennett said,

Council approved the $99,900 agreement on Feb. 7 by a 4-3 margin.

Council members Bob Clark, Chuck Milliken, Patrick Shea and Mike Walker voted for the ordinance with Jill Amos, Laurie Amick and Ashley Ward voting against it.

“There’s little, if any, room to park,” said Bennett. “Franklin Street is narrow and residents are already challenged with cars cutting through there to the traffic light on Washington Street. Not only are this parcel and (a nearby) field regularly under water, there is a larger than 1,000 foot span of land abutting the creek that is in a floodway, not to be confused with a floodplain.”

Bennett alleged more than the nearly $100,000 cost for the land would be needed to fund the project. She said there is no information on acquisition or easement costs pertaining to adjoining land, and no feasibility or engineering studies pertinent to construction of a bridge over the creek or abutments flanking the floodplain.

She noted the path would go from low lying bottom land up a significant hill to the top at Franklin Street.

“I genuinely applaud council’s goal of trying to give pedestrians and cyclists a shortcut to McGill Park, but trying to use the Franklin Street parcel to do that is simply wrong,” said Bennett.

Canal Winchester Development Director Lucas Haire said the project was part of the Old Town plan and the opportunity to purchase the tract became available by owners Timothy Fiske and Lee Oster.

“Trying to acquire this in the future when someone else acquires it and builds a house on it makes it much more difficult to accomplish the goals of the Old Town Plan,” Haire said. “This is in the same general vicinity of McGill Park and the hope is to grow McGill Park at some point in the future so it encompasses both sides of Walnut Creek. This would then be directly adjacent to that parcel. Again, we’re not actively out trying to purchase additional land, but we are hoping to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.”

Haire said the area floods significantly, so a substantial number of improvements could not take place on the 2.5 acre parcel.

“We wouldn’t see a lot of active recreation, fencing, things like that being installed, because you get so much debris and damage in a flood event. Things like soccer goals, those are pretty easy to put in floodplains,” said Haire.

Referendum petition update
Councilwoman Jill Amos asked Haire what happens next regarding a citizen-lead referendum petition drive, which seeks to stop a pair of warehouses from being developed by Northpoint at Bixby and Rager roads. If certified, the referendum would appear on the November ballot.

“I don’t know how it’s going to play out,” said Haire. “It’s up to them (applicant) to make the next step. We’re going through the (referendum) process as set out by the Ohio Revised Code.”

Haire said, according to the agreement with the city, the applicant has the ability to file for a detachment with the city for the annexation and return the acreage to Madison Township for consideration by other entities—such as Columbus—for annexation and development.

If the council turned down a detachment request, the city would be in breach of the contract and open to litigation.

“They’re (applicant) gone,” Shea said. “I mean like gone. Five million dollars over 10 years—gone.”

The city received the citizen referendum petition on Feb. 17.

Members of the Canal Winchester for Smart Growth organization spearheaded the referendum.

During a Jan. 18 council meeting, an ordinance was passed by council to rezone land owned by members of the Schacht family from rural to limited manufacturing. Northpoint wants to construct a pair of warehouses to compliment two already located in their Canal Crossing development.

Canal Winchester Finance Director Amanda Jackson said the city has not reviewed the referendum petitions and does not approve or reject them.

“The city must keep the petitions on hand for at least 10 days from the date of receipt before forwarding them to the Franklin County Board of Elections,” said Jackson. “According to the Franklin County Board of Elections, 430 (valid) signatures were required. The city does not take part in the verification of the signatures so I cannot comment on how many were obtained.”

According to Franklin County Board of Elections Public Information Officer Aaron Sellers, “(As of Feb. 25) We’ve not received it (the petition) yet. If the city has it they have to forward it to us to check signatures after 10 days, and we have 10 days to get it back to them. It will appear at the next general election (if approved).”

Sellers said there were 4,292 votes cast for governor at the 2018 general election in Canal Winchester. He said 10 percent of that is 430 signatures, which is the number of valid signatures required for the referendum petition. The board of elections must examine the signatures and return the petition to the city within 10 days of receipt with a statement attesting to the number of voters who signed the petition. If the number of valid signatures is sufficient and the petition is otherwise valid, the city must certify the sufficiency and validity of the petition back to the board of elections.

Managing Editor Rick Palsgrove contributed to this story.

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