Zone change rejected

COLUMBIANA – A developer with plans to build an auto parts store at 630 N. Main St. behind McDonald’s was denied the needed zoning change at a Columbiana City Council meeting Tuesday.

Barry Weaver of PASI, Inc., brought to council a firm specializing in traffic studies, Herbert, Rowling and Grubic. The company did a traffic study at the three intersections where state Route 46, 164 and 14 all meet in a triangle with North Main Street.

The spokesman from the firm noted that on a grading scale, traffic counts show that even during the busiest time periods, the area in question has a grade of A or B. The only C grade is at the Seventh Street intersection.

Additionally, it was said the auto parts store would only add 12 peak hour trips in the morning and 28 in the evening.

“When I come down (state Route) 14, I have to wait two or three times at the light,” said Councilman Lowell Schloneger. “You always have to wait at the light to turn left.”

Both Schloneger and Councilman Tom Ferguson talked about the need for a turning lane on state Route 14. Ferguson pointed out with HRG’s study the state would be statistically against widening the lanes for that to happen.

The spokesman for HRG said they also looked at the possible need for some of the signals to be placed back into sync, which should alleviate some of the congestion concerns. Ferguson said he was in favor of looking both at signaling synchronization and a left turn lane in the future.

Weaver also spoke before council voted, noting how many other businesses are in the same area, all with commercial zoning. His list included a 24-hour car wash, McDonald’s, a gas station and a tanning salon. Weaver said the property he planned to purchase and develop was a peninsula of residential. He pointed out the residential zoning the property currently is on could be used for swimming pools, recreation areas, hospitals and clinics or multi-family housing, all without going before the council for a zoning change.

“We feel we have distilled the traffic issue down to facts,” Weaver said. “The fact is the proposed development will not add a substantial amount of traffic.”

Weaver urged council to consider the good of the community as a whole and not just the concerns of one or two people. He said a new store would address competitive pricing and give the community more options.

Don Snyder, the owner of the property in question, said he fixed up the house, but always bought it with an investment in mind. After living there for awhile, Snyder said he can always hear the orders from the McDonald’s drive through and learned to live with the neon lights and parking situation at the neighboring church. Snyder said Weaver’s plans to shield the neighbors from the business were nicer than what he has been living with.

However, at least one councilman bristled at the suggestion he was unable to vote ethically on the issue. Councilman James King said he received a letter from Weaver’s attorney suggesting that because he is a neighbor he should abstain from voting on the matter.

“I want to make it perfectly clear,” King said. “My decision has nothing to do with property values, but the impact it will have on the city itself. I resent the fact I received this and no one else did. I resent the fact that (you would suggest) the way I vote would have anything to do with what positively or negatively impacts me.”

Weaver responded that council members who have property very near to the property causes a question of a possible issue of conflict of interest.

But King said he has spoken to Municipal Attorney Dan Blasdell who said it was up to King to decide if he could fairly vote on the issue.

When the time came to vote, King voted no, as did Bryan Blakeman and Mary Calinger. Ferguson and Richard McBane voted yes. Schloneger abstained noting “I don’t want to get a letter.” His abstention goes with the majority, which made the vote 4-2 against the zoning change.