While Sunbury’s neighbors in Berkshire Township continue to express concerns about a rezoning request for 250 acres for a planned commercial development east of Interstate 71, the Ohio Department of Transportation has come one step closer to confirming that an interchange modification would be south of the existing, 40-year-old I-71 U.S. 36/State Route 37 interchange.
A map released by ODOT late Tuesday afternoon shows what has become known as the southern I-71 interchange with three alternatives, each alternative immediately north of the closed ODOT weigh station on the east side of the northbound lanes.
ODOT will hold a public meeting at Northgate Church, 7097 E. SR 37, from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 28, to share the three proposed combined interchange modification options and accept public comment.
Also on the public meeting agenda will be a discussion about how the interchange and road would connect to local roads, a project timeline, cost estimates and the next steps that will be taken in the selection of one of the three alternatives.
Pat Shively, principal of the Northgate Center Development, has been encouraging Sunbury Village Council to approve rezoning the 250 acres east of I-71 — immediately south of the Simon-Tanger outlet-store shopping mall, slated to open in June, and immediately north of the residential Estates at Cheshire — to planned commercial development zoning.
With that rezoning approved, Shively and his partners could move forward with their plans to develop Sunbury Parkway, a roadway leading into Sunbury’s core and contained wholly within properties recently annexed into the village. Northgate Commerce District’s phase 1 would be east of the interstate and west of North Galena Road.
Phil Craig, of the Craig Group that represents Northgate, said any one of the three ODOT alternatives would be a viable solution to an eastern Delaware County infrastructure problem that will only grow worse when the outlet mall opens.
“There should be a couple of additional public hearings later this year,” Craig said Wednesday. “We’re hopeful that ODOT’s timeline will result in a reasonable conclusion, and allow the southern interchange to be well under construction, if not operational, by the second quarter of 2018.”
Asked about a southern interchange cost and funding sources, Craig said the cost would be impossible to estimate until an option were selected and design work complete; and funding would come from multiple sources, including federal, state, county and local private/public partnerships.
Sunbury Mayor Tommy Hatfield said he’s pleased to finally see a solution to the interchange modification problem come to fruition and that there has been a groundswell of less vocal, but positive support for the entire Northgate package.
“I have been told by a lot of Sunbury residents, and residents of our nearby townships, that the existing I-71 interchange is tired,” Hatfield said. “If one of the three alternative southern interchange alternatives is approved by ODOT, that doesn’t mean the construction timeline would be when everyone would want it. But even before the Simon-Tanger outlet mall was proposed, Sunbury advocated a full thoroughfare plan that works for the entire eastern side of the county.”
Hatfield, asked about critics of Northgate and Sunbury Parkway, said the village has been cautious about all of the annexation, zoning and New Community Authority decisions that members of Village Council and the village’s zoning commission have made over the past several years.
“As a part of the greater Big Walnut community, Sunbury wants to respect what other people want,” Hatfield added, “but we need to work with nearby residents and officials of other political subdivisions to make this work while we protect our schools and local services.”
An ODOT press release states that all comments on the three southern interchange options must be received by May 13. Comments may be submitted at the meeting or sent to Steve Fellenger, P.E. Project Manager, Ohio Department of Transportation, 400 E. William St., Delaware, OH 43015. Fellenger will also accept comments via email at Steven.Fellenger@dot.ohio.gov.
For more information, log on to the ODOT website at dor.state.oh.us. Follow links to District 6, and click I-71 and U.S. 36/SR 37 on the left rail.
Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.