By Linda Dillman
A sign in Canal Winchester marks the Groveport Road location of what the Columbus Metropolitan Library hopes will be one of its newer branches, but opposition to variances requested by the library caused plans to be put on hold before a Feb. 20 appeal hearing.
The neighbor to the west of the site—John Allen—filed an appeal with the city of Canal Winchester on Jan. 16 against the Planning and Zoning Commission regarding a west setback variance cut more than half, from 150 feet to 70 feet, a conditional use request, and the project’s site development plan.
Allen alleges the commission’s Jan. 8 decision to grant the CML application “was not supported by competent, reliable and/or admissible evidence…failed to give proper weight to the evidence before it…the decision should be reversed…(and) members of P&Z misunderstood the effect and nature of the approval of the application.”
In the appeal submitted by attorney Bryan Hunt, it said Allen offered testimony during the Dec. 11 and Jan. 8 P&Z meetings “related to the unique harm (loss of privacy and enjoyment of his property) that he would suffer as a result of the applications.”
During the Dec. 11 commission meeting, Allen said his chief concern was the setback from all appearances was less than 30 feet from the western drive to his residence.
While the commission tabled the site development plan, conditional use application, and setback variance during their December meeting, all three were recommended for approval during the January meeting.
When asked how much of an impact the delay until the appeal hearing will make on the project, which is projected to break ground in July, Columbus Metropolitan Library CEO Patrick Losinski said, “We are waiting to see the result of the Feb. 20 appeal.”
Losinski said CML has made modifications to the plans throughout the approval process based on feedback from development staff.
“We have been forthright from the very beginning about our vision for our modern public library branches,” said Losinski. “We know we are most likely to hear from those who do not like the design, but there are also many residents who love it. Architectural design is subjective. We faced similar sentiment during the Dublin project. Eventually the building was approved as designed. That library branch has been embraced by the community and is considered one of our most successful.”
The proposed 30,000 square-foot, single-story Canal Winchester library branch, as designed, is a sleek modern building 33 feet high at its tallest point that showcases clear glazing and metal architectural panels across the façade, along with dark gray/black brick.
There are two 20 foot wide over-sized, one-way access drives on Groveport Road and 130 parking spaces to accommodate patrons and an expected staff of 24 to 30 fulltime employees. The entrance is at the rear of the glass-fronted building.
In its variance request statement, the applicant alleges “while altering the library footprint is possible, such modifications would impede operations and community engagement with the building” and “The conditional use of a library is allowed in a residential zone.”
During the December meeting, resident Jackie Marion told CML representatives “I could be wrong, but most of the people here would like to see something modified so that it fits in more with the community. If you go down Groveport Road and you look on the north side, you see a church and a retirement home—all brick. Even the swimming pool has brick on it.”
Pat Lynch felt the library will be a “wonderful” asset for the community and appreciated the overall design, calling it “very modern looking.” However, he said Canal Winchester is very traditional in its architecture and believes there is a way of combining the two styles together in creating a more eclectic design.
“This building is going to be here for the next 100 years,” stated Lynch in December. “Don’t we want something that’s going to better fit in with the Canal Winchester look? The Canal Winchester feel of this community?”