SWAC wants part of Coop talks

Members of the Southwest Area Commission (SWAC) have begun drafting an official letter to Columbus City Council, county commissioners, developers, and Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman, concerning the fate of Cooper Stadium.

"The Commission is here because we are supposed to represent the citizens, so I thought our input was sought after," said Commissioner Roy Bertossi at the June 18 SWAC meeting.

The Columbus Clippers, AAA farm team to the National League’s Washington Nationals, are moving to their new stadium in the Arena District next spring, but Cooper Stadium will remain.

Instead of a vacant lot or demolition, Franklin County has considered selling the property to several companies, with Arshot Investment Corporation being the company currently interested in buying it.

If the purchase were approved, Arshot Investment Corp. would transform Cooper Stadium into a motorsports complex complete with restaurants, a speedway, a drag strip and a go-kart track.

When companies want to build in a commission’s boundary, commissioners expect that company to discuss their plans with the commission and seek their approval, or at least provide them with information about the project, although this is not required.

"We were told that we would be kept in the loop about the stadium, but obviously that didn’t happen," said Chairman Ralph Horn.

Bonita Lee, city of Columbus community liaison, said that because SWAC has only been in existence for five years, it is possible the developers have been speaking with the Franklinton Area Commission because they did not know about the Southwest Area Commission.

"I believe you might have been overlooked," she said to the commission.

Bertossi recommended that the commission send an official letter to all parties involved with the development.

"We need people to know that we are the area commission in that area," he said. "We don’t want to be ignored; we want them to know that we are here."

Bertossi said he does not know if the board would approve the recommendation because it makes little sense to have it in the area.

"They are spending millions of dollars on the Whittier Peninsula redevelopment two miles down the road from Cooper Stadium and those two don’t seem to be compatible," said Bertossi.

The Whittier Peninsula redevelopment is a project from the Columbus Metro Parks to develop an urban nature center, recreational parks and wetland, as well as a mixed-use neighborhood over the 84-acre peninsula.

He also mentioned it might disturb the tranquility of Green Lawn Cemetery.

"I like auto racing, but I’m not sure if putting up a racetrack in that area is appropriate," he said.

Ultimately, the city does not need the commission’s approval to go forward with the development plan, but the commissioners would like to be a part of the discussion.

"The city is going to do what it wants to do," said Bertossi.

Rezoning request

SWAC has approved a request from CASTO, a central Ohio based real estate and development company to rezone the Central Point Shopping Center to a strictly commercial zone.

Currently, the shopping center is zoned for commercial use, heavy manufacturing and light manufacturing.

"What that means is, if any part of the shopping center in the M2 (manufacturing) portion was damaged by a fire or any other disaster, it cannot be rebuilt as a shopping center," said CASTO attorney Eric Liebowitz.

With the zoning change to commercial, it would protect the shopping center and surrounding area from chemical plants, bus terminals and warehouses.

"Basically it protects the area from the wrong type of businesses coming in," said Horn.

Liebowitz added that there are no plans in the immediate future to open any new stores in the shopping center.

National Night Out

In 2007, over 34 million people nationwide came out to experience National Night Out, a crime and drug prevention event that is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch.

For the past several years, a popular place to celebrate National Night Out on the Westside is at Finland Elementary School, located at 1835 Finland Ave., and it will serve again as a gathering place this year.

SWAC Commissioner Juanita Kaufman is heading up the program, and is seeking assistance from merchants or sponsors who wish to donate anything from gift certificates for raffles to dining wear and food. She is also asking anyone who wants to volunteer for the Aug. 5 event to be there early in the morning (around 9 a.m.) to help set up.

National Night runs from 6-9 p.m.

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