By Linda Dillman
A potential tug-of-war between Canal Winchester and Columbus regarding a warehouse development ended with Canal Winchester City Council’s approval of a zoning change by a 5-2 vote with council members Jill Amos and Ashley Ward opposing it.
At the heart of the months-long debate and citizen opposition was a request to rezone land owned by members of the Schacht family located on Bixby and Rager roads from rural to limited manufacturing.
Northpoint wants to construct a pair of buildings to complement two more in the Canal Crossing development that, according to company owner Brent Miles, who attended the Jan. 18 council meeting, would create $14 million in payroll and 300 jobs.
Attorney Richard Ricketts, who represents Dale and Teresa Schacht, said the property will be developed and it was up to the council to decide whether Columbus controls the situation or Canal Winchester.
“We do not know what would happen if it is developed in Columbus,” said Ricketts, who pointed out Columbus is not required to provide the same level of improvements as Canal Winchester. “Canal Winchester needs to control this property.”
According to Miles, Northpoint amended their design to include a $1 million investment to widen 3,000 feet of Bixby Road; a half-million dollar investment to improve Bixby Road and Winchester Pike intersection with an additional right turn lane; another $500,000 pledge for improvements at Winchester Pike and Gender Road; and construction of an eight-foot landscaped berm to block part of the view of trucks docks along Bixby Road west of the site.
“I don’t live here. I don’t vote here, but I want to invest my money here,” said Miles. “We do what we say we’re going to do. We have a great track record with the city. We revised the plan, decreased building sizes and added setbacks. I think the plan is better. I think the infrastructure is better. I don’t want to build these two buildings in Columbus. I want to build in Canal Winchester.”
Councilwoman Jill Amos said she wished Northpoint had come to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission with the changes, which she felt would have addressed a lot of the commission’s concerns about the project.
When it came time for voting on the ordinance, Amos was the lone dissenting vote because she felt the commission should still weigh in on the decision-making process.
Resident Angie Halstead said, “This is our town. This is not what we want. Just because you are protecting the downtown, you’re not protecting everyone else. When is enough enough? Put a line in the sand. Do the right thing.”
Councilman Bob Clark said his decision to vote for the rezoning was the most important one he’s made in his six years on council because it blocks Columbus’ ability to annex land so close to Canal Winchester.
“Columbus is very aggressive,” said Clark. “They will annex this in a New York minute.”
While the Northpoint development was given the greenlight, council put the brakes on pre-annexation and development agreements for property located along Basil-Western Road.
“I think it would be prudent to take a step back,” said Councilman Patrick Shea, “with the breakneck pace of development, I think we can slow down.”
That 57.9 acre tract is owned by L & D Family Farms and is located in Fairfield County.