By Linda Dillman
The Gender Road corridor and Winchester Boulevard could get busier with the potential for another business following a request to rezone property along the south side of the boulevard from general commercial to limited manufacturing.
A city of Canal Winchester public hearing for the proposed rezoning for the 10.7-acre site owned by Phele Investment Properties was held on April 5.
According to Canal Winchester Development Director Lucas Haire, there is significant other industrial use in the area. The purpose of the rezoning is to accommodate a speculative 145,000-square-foot building similar to a development across the street.
“The property was annexed into Canal Winchester in 1964 and remained vacant for a number of years without access to utilities,” Haire said. “It was zoned for manufacturing from 1972 to 2002. Then it was rezoned in 2002 in conjunction with a much larger project taking place in the area when the Winchester Square shopping area was being built up.”
Haire said a traffic study in conjunction with the proposed project is still under review and that the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the rezoning with conditions related to traffic improvement requirements.
When constructed, the building is expected to attract a user with higher-end clientele and attract up to 200 jobs with an average salary of $55,000.
Resident Carla Dolan expressed concern about increases in semi-truck traffic and the number of semi-truck docks the proposed building would house.
“Semis are going to be coming in and out the area where we live,” said Dolan. “We already have problems going in and out of the grocery store and people have problems getting out on U.S. 33 to get to Columbus. We already have warehouses with semi-trucks and there is a potentially more right here.”
Ashley Ward was also concerned about the potential for increased traffic along an already busy corridor.
“Trying to get on Gender Road from U.S. 33 is very congested and you can’t honestly tell us that more warehouses aren’t going to bring more truck traffic,” Ward said. “That adds time to my commute every morning and every afternoon. That means less time at home with my family.”
Phillip Kumar said there are plenty of empty warehouses throughout the local area and felt there was no real commitment for the site once the zoning is changed.
Brandon Hord is worried about the loss of old growth trees. He said that clear-cutting of the trees within the development area was not simply about taking out a handful of trees, but the bulldozing of a small forest.
“We were doing it to build another warehouse or a flex building in the heart of our commercial district. Unfortunately, those trees are gone forever,” said Hord, who said the city made several arguments for removal of the trees with which he does not agree.
“In 1953, there were three tree areas of woods in the Gender Road area,” said Hord. “What do those look like today? One patch is where the Sunoco station is on Waterloo and that patch largely stands. Another patch stands where the X Church stands.”
Councilman Pat Lynch said he struggles with the idea and, while he wants to attract the income, he also wants to maintain the aesthetics of the buildings on the same side of the road as the proposed rezoning.
“If they made this building to architecturally match what’s been done along there (southside of the road), I might consider it,” said Lynch. “But the way it is being proposed, No. It does not continue the look that our previous councils and previous planning and zonings in 2002 intended to achieve. Take this building and put it somewhere else, I’ll vote for it. We’ve got Canal Pointe. Build it over there. Lots of room. Great spot for it.”
Councilman Chuck Milliken said, while the applicant’s request is for a change to industrial zoning which allows manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, the site’s present commercial zoning designation would also result in an increase in traffic as well.
“That’s what Gender Road is—commercial,” Milliken said. “People have places they need to get to buy things.”
While voting to send the rezoning ordinance on to Canal Winchester City Council for consideration, Councilwoman Jill Amos still feels there are too many issues in order to approve the request and wanted to take a look at the traffic survey before making a decision.