Sunbury’s zoning commission again approved a rezoning plan for the Northgate commerce district, but not without some fireworks at the Feb. 15 meeting.
Village consulting engineer Wes Hall of CT Consultants walked audience members through adjustments to the rezoning application, saying that many of the changes were language adjustments and not substantial.
Residents of the Estates at Cheshire in Berkshire Township have expressed concerns about landscape buffering, building setback and an 85-foot building height contained in the application. Current code calls for a 50-foot setback and limits building height to 35 feet.
Chris Rinehart of Rinehart Legal Services, speaking for the Estates at Cheshire residents, grew aggressive while questioning Hall about the application’s divergences from existing village code, prompting village Solicitor David Brehm to remind Rinehart that he could ask questions as long as he remained civil and on point.
“This is not a deposition,” a visibly angry Brehm told Rinehart. “You asked for additional time; we’re trying to give you that, but let’s keep your remarks relevant. This (application) is not for Wes (Hall) to defend. I’m not going to continue to allow you to badger our engineer.”
When one Estates at Cheshire resident asked what personal interest those sitting at the dais had in seeing the Northgate commerce district moving forward, Mayor Tommy Hatfield said he was offended by her remark.
“I grew up here,” Hatfield said. “We’ve tried to do everything for this village that we can and we do it in the open. We don’t violate sunshine laws.”
Members of the commission voted unanimously to approve the zoning change request as amended and sent it back to Village Council. Council members agreed Feb. 17 that the zoning change request would remain tabled until a public hearing is held immediately preceding the April 6 council meeting.
During a Jan. 20 Village Council meeting, the Northgate commerce district rezoning application was remanded back to the Village Planning and Zoning Commission. Members of the zoning commission had approved the Northgate request to rezone 250 acres east of Interstate 71 and south of the Simon-Tanger outlet-store shopping mall to a planned commercial district at their Nov. 23, 2015, meeting.
Council held one public hearing and two readings of the ordinance that would approve the zoning change before tabling the ordinance and sending the request back to the zoning commission for additional review in response to concerns of Estates at Cheshire residents living near the proposed commercial development.
Representing Northgate at the Feb. 15 meeting were developer Pat Shively, attorney Glenn Dugger and Greg Chillog of the landscape development firm EDGE.
Members of the public present were from the Estates at Cheshire, located immediately south of the 250 acres where the Northgate commerce district and a proposed southern I-71 interchange will be built.
The Ohio Department of Transportation has determined that I-71 interchange improvements west of Sunbury would be south of the existing Routes 36/37 interchange. An intersection modification feasibility study is underway; a southern I-71 interchange would be in the vicinity of the abandoned ODOT weigh station south of the existing interchange.
Hall’s presentation included clarifications on parking space and aisle size, and the number of spaces required for retail building size; multi-family allowances (above retail only, no free-standing); and lot setbacks.
Shively had previously agreed to a 15-foot tree preservation zone and a 35-foot buffer with mounding containing additional tree screening; and a 50-foot pavement setback and 100-foot building setback with a graduated building height starting at 35 feet, 100 feet from the property line and increasing one foot in height for each five linear feet off the setback to a maximum 85-foot building height at approximately 350 feet from the setback.
Chillog, noting that Hall pointed out changes to the application’s details, said the Northgate commerce district’s big picture view was relatively unchanged.
“The bones of this development are the same that you saw two months ago,” Chillog said. “This needs to be responsible development. We need smart growth in Sunbury. This text was thorough three months ago; it’s more thorough tonight. These are architectural standards you’re going to find in New Albany and Dublin. We’re setting high standards here.”
Near the close of the public hearing, Shively said the Northgate New Community Authority would use tax dollars generated by the Northgate commerce district businesses to support local schools and services.
“Call Angie Pollock, call the Olentangy superintendent, call BST&G,” Shively said. “Our NCA will take care of schools and services as we go along.”
After the public hearing ended, zoning commission Len Weatherby and Brehm both thanked Hall for the time and effort he spent fine-tuning the Northgate documents.
Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.
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