COLUMBIANA - Tom Mackall and the companies overseeing a new major development along state Routes 14 and 7 have been given the go-ahead for the initial phase of the project from the city's planning commission.
Mackall owns Firestone Homestead LLC, which purchased the mostly undeveloped property near the Firestone Farms housing development at a sheriff's sale in April 2012, is heading up the project that will turn that area into what he is calling Columbiana's version of the Easton Mall in Columbus.
Buckeye Civil Design LLC and Baker Bednar Snyder and Associates Inc are handling the design and engineering of the project, and those plans are also being looked over by the city's engineering firm, Howells and Baird Inc.
Andy Bednar of Baker Bednar and Snyder, and Joe Gonda of Buckeye Civil approached the commission with Mackall last week to go over details and request permission to begin installing the necessary infrastructure, including roads, storm and sanitary sewer, water mains and other general utilities.
The Town Center portion of the development will cover just over 24 acres, with two buildings taking up approximately 84,000 square feet in the C-4 intensive and automobile oriented commercial zoning district.
"Two years ago we bought the property at auction and in the process corrected a big problem Columbiana had with real estate taxes," Mackall said, referring to the taxes owed after the original developer of that property defaulted on a loan in 2009. "We actually have 50 lots for sale right now."
He added that support of the liquor options on the May primary election ballot for that area showed residents are in favor of the development.
"The idea is to honor Harvey Firestone and make Columbiana like it was in the 1930s," he said.
Those plans include a 40-foot-tall clock tower with a reflecting pool surrounding it in the center of a traffic circle similar to the one featured downtown, with shops, offices and restaurants with outdoor seating around the circle.
The tower falls five feet under the maximum height requirement in that area, city building inspector Bob Belding said.
An elevated outdoor stage will also be featured, for Friday night concerts or festivals, Mackall added.
Bednar pointed out the stage will face away from the residential area of Firestone Farms, and landscaping will also provide a visual barrier.
"We are very aware of the fact that this is going to be viewed from all points of view. We want to make it attractive from every point of view. We also want to make it inviting from every point of view," he said.
Parking spaces will be available in a lot around the perimeter of the plaza, with pedestrian traffic focused along the interior.
While approval was given for both the center and marketplace, the Town Center was mostly the focus of the plans provided, with more detailed plans forthcoming, they said.
Plans for the center consist of 543 parking spaces, already more than the requirement of one for every 150 square feet, Bednar added.
One handicap parking space is provided for every 25 non-handicap spaces and handicap-accessible exterior restrooms are also planned, meeting American Disability Act requirements, he said.
"All roadways are properly sized to meet all city requirements," he said, adding the roundabout is already sized for fire truck access.
A pedestrian walkway from the residential area to the plaza is also sized for firetruck access.
Gonda said lighting inside the plaza will be "quaint" and should not interfere with traffic along the state routes, or neighboring residential area.
"We are not looking at neon, we are not looking at anything to sparkle," he said.
As for utilities, Belding said Water Superintendent Matt Polen has advised him the existing water plant will be able to handle the additional capacity.
The city is in the process of laying out the financial groundwork for a new multi-million dollar plant that falls more in line with Environmental Protection Agency standards, but it won't be completed for another few years.
Gonda said an existing water line on state Route 7 will be connected to the one on state Route 14, and fire hydrants will be installed at the proper areas to service the development.
"We do have a 12-inch water line servicing that area, so we are going to have plenty of water, plenty of pressure," Belding said.
He also said the existing pump station was designed to handle additional capacity from commercial and residential users in that area. "We are not anticipating any pressure loss in any other areas," he added.
Storm sewer will be collected in the town center and drain into a detention pond on the south side, with storm sewer pipes and four-foot-wide catch basins located throughout parking lots and roadways. Boring will be done beneath state Route 14 to convey the storm water to the detention pond, he said.
Sanitary sewer will run along the perimeter of the town center, with laterals extended to collect sewage from the two-story buildings.
Mackall said the second stories will be decorative facades only.
All roads will be privately owned, meaning the city will not be responsible for upkeep, meanwhile Mackall is getting on board with helping the city get funding for traffic signal upgrades at the 7&14 intersection.
"That is a major issue we are working our way through," he said. "I did an additional traffic study, including impact we may have on that intersection. With that, Columbiana has reapplied for a grant."
Columbiana began requesting Ohio Department of Transportation funding for the upgrades upon Police Chief Tim Gladis' suggestion last year.
Dallis Dawson and Associates of East Liverpool already completed a voluntary study of the intersection, and those results were submitted with the city's grant application.
Gladis said the high-traffic area is the site of many crashes over the years.
The proposed site plan for the new development passed the commission by four votes, with Mayor Bryan Blakeman abstaining due to living in the Firestone Farms housing development, and Chairwoman Donna Bekar was absent. Members Dick Simpson, Crystal Siembida-Boggs, Ron LaLonde and Dick McBane approved.
Blakeman said he was not allowed by state law to vote on the matter, although he publicly supports the development.
Now that approval has been given Mackall said they will begin putting roads in, with building construction targeted for March of 2015 and an opening date planned for May of 2016.