COLUMBIANA - The construction of an auto parts store next to McDonald's doesn't make sense and will only add to the "nightmare" of heavy traffic at the state Route 14 intersection, City Council members and residents said this week.
A public hearing was held during council for the requested zone change necessary for the planned store on North Main Street.
PASI Inc. of Dayton selected the residential property at 630 N. Main St. on the basis that it was the best site for traffic, company employee Barry Weaver said.
The property is currently zoned high density residential and owned by Don Snyder, who intends to sell it for the new Advance Auto Parts store.
The requested change would put the property in C-3, central business zoning.
"These kinds of tenants want to be where the action is," Weaver said of Advance Auto Parts. "It's always a double-edged sword. In exchange for getting where the action is, the people are, where the commerce is, you've already got traffic, activity and shoppers Nobody wants to go out on the edge of town. Wal-Mart will go out anyplace they want and people will come to them; they are a destination. An auto parts store is not a destination. The intersection of Main Street and state Route 14 is the best place in town."
But some on council disagreed, including Council President Lowell Schloneger, who has a home on Firestone Avenue not far from Snyder's.
He said traffic there is already "horrendous" and asked Weaver if the company considered the property near the Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership farther out on state Route 14.
"The land is available. Sewer, water, everything is in next to the Chrysler dealership," he said.
Weaver said he heard that property was available but maintained the one near McDonald's is the prime spot for attracting customers.
"Rite Aid went on that corner for a reason they went to a spot where the road system is delivering people and customers to their front door," he said.
He added when the company originally looked at the city's zoning map, the North Main Street property was marked as commercially zoned.
When the company learned of the error it also learned the property, while residential, is surrounded on three sides by commercial zoning. The only side not zoned commercial is to the south, he said.
"That area has not been a quiet, tree-lined street for a very long time. It's a commercial artery. We are not asking to do something heinous and ugly and mean and dangerous. We are asking to put a new business in town that seeks to take advantage of the traffic and that is where the traffic is," he said.
Police Chief Tim Gladis confirmed the intersection has the most traffic in the downtown area.
"I don't think there is any question there. I can tell you that is the most congested area," he said, adding the no right turn in the northbound lane only makes matters worse.
"It seems to me you went to the worst place you could have picked," Schloneger said to Weaver.
Councilwoman Mary Harold Calinger agreed.
At least two nearby residents, and Councilman James King were concerned a zone change would open the door for more residential properties in that area to be targeted for businesses in the future.
The change would only apply to Snyder's property, but King is worried it won't stop there.
"What's going to be happening two years from now? Are they going to be moving a Wendy's next to Advance Auto?" he said.
The councilman lives at the corner of Seventh and North Main streets.
Joyce Stewart, who lives on North Main Street, told council they "better be prepared" for more zoning change requests in the future should this one be allowed to go through.
"You're going to end up, like he said, clear to the corner people coming in and asking for it rezoned," she said.
She and Seventh Street resident Mary Burkey don't want to see a business on that property.
"You would almost be in my backyard," Burkey said. "That's very intrusive in my living area and I'm the third house down. The traffic coming in and out of there is unbelievable. On a Friday you can't get down Main Street."
She then asked Weaver if PASI considered the property on the other side of McDonald's along state Route 14.
"All those homes are for sale," she said, to which Stewart said she knew those property owners refused to sell to the company.
Councilman Bryan Blakeman and South Main Street resident Don Oberholtzer said the city has a responsibility to its residents that their properties won't be negatively affected by neighboring ones.
Blakeman said when he purchased his home near the Links at Firestone he wasn't aware a banquet center was planned for that area.
He said he approached the zoning board when he learned of the plans, requesting they reconsider, but they didn't and the center was constructed.
Councilman Tom Ferguson said the banquet center was always a part of the original plans and Blakeman should have known that, but Blakeman insisted he was unaware.
"We need to let everyone in this city know that if you make an investment in a home in a certain zoned area you have some semblance that zoning isn't going to change next to your home," Blakeman said.
"If this is a situation beside me I would be furious too," he said.
Residents and King also wondered what would happen should the store not maintain adequate business and close its doors.
Weaver said, and Planning Commission member Ron LaLonded confirmed, C-3 and not C-4 zoning was agreed to specifically so the property wouldn't be used for "less desirable" things in the event the store could not maintain business.
Weaver said the likelihood of the store closing is "pretty slim," however.
Council then voted down a first reading of the zoning change legislation, with King casting a vote despite Municipal Attorney Dan Blasdell's advice to abstain due to living in that area.
"I don't think anybody, whether they are sitting up on council, would want that building right in their back yard," he said.
Schloneger abstained from the vote.
Those who favored the change were Richard McBane and Ferguson.
The legislation will still be presented for a second reading and could go through if enough votes are cast in favor.