Written by ALEX ASPACHER, Sentinel Staff Writer
Tuesday, 25 February 2014 11:01
PERRYSBURG - Several meetings over the next month will pave the way for decisions on whether a Costco retail store should be built near Eckel Junction Road and Ohio 25.
City officials gave an updated timeline at a Planning and Zoning Committee meeting Monday, during which members asked for more information on the proposal.
Two OKs are needed for the project to move forward - on the final site plan by Planning Commission, and a special-approval use by city council on whether to allow the 150,000-square-foot store.
The company's plans have been delayed due to negotiations with Columbia Gas Transmission over what can be placed on top of a 16-inch gas line. An updated site plan shows the line rerouted to the eastern portion of the property, rather than underneath the area where the parking lot would be located.
The gas line placement is nearly resolved, but Costco has still not submitted a final site plan to the city, said Brody Walters, planning and zoning administrator.
Planning Commission gave preliminary approval by a 5-2 vote in November dependent on several changes Walters recommended. The chair and vice chair, Greg Bade and Byron Choka, voted against the project, with Bade citing traffic concerns at the already-congested intersection, matching those worries expressed by many residents.
Plans have been expected by other dates in the past and were not submitted, and Walters said an ultimate deadline for March 27 consideration by the Planning Commission has been set for Monday.
Before that meeting on the site plan, city council has scheduled a special meeting to vote on the special-approval use, tentatively scheduled for 6:30 p.m. March 25. Planning and Zoning Committee members John Kevern, Tim McCarthy and Tom Mackin will weigh approval next at a committee meeting at 5:30 p.m. March 20.
Monday's discussion centered around the special-approval use, which is required because while retail outlets are allowed on the property, zoned C-4 Highway Commercial, it exceeds the limit of 60,000 square-feet.
Mathew Beredo, the city's law director, outlined what is to be considered when deciding whether to allow the Costco store. Factors at play include whether Costco would create concerns for public safety; "substantially diminish" property values more than other permitted uses like hotels or grocery stores; impede development of surrounding properties; or otherwise not conform with city regulations. Approval would also suggest that adequate utilities, roads and drainage will be included, and that "adequate measures have been or will be taken ... to minimize traffic congestion in the public streets."
"The issue for tonight and for city council is whether the proposed use, a (greater than) 60,000-square-foot retail establishment, presents a burden beyond the normal commercial use," Beredo said. "There's no question that commercial use is going to have some burden in terms of impact on the community, but the question is whether ... this particular use is one that has an undue impact on the community."
The biggest complaints by residents have been related to traffic, which is already congested at the intersection and exit ramps from nearby Interstate 475; however, the city is making improvements they say will more than make up for the traffic Costco would bring, including additional turn lanes, one of which is being paid for entirely by the company. A state project to restructure traffic on the bridge over I-475 into a new divergent diamond pattern is still several years out, as the Ohio Department of Transportation is still arranging for funding.
Beredo explained that requiring special-approval use for larger facilities like the Costco store stems from worries about being able to repurpose the building if it were to go out of business. There were also concerns in the past about Walmart building a store in the city, he said.
"It's difficult to find new tenants to fill a 100,000-square-foot structure. So the idea is that the special-approval-use review is in large measure there to provide a heightened level of scrutiny to prevent poor development that may create future challenges to redevelop it."
That's less of a problem with Costco, which has annual revenues of $97 billion and has never closed a store, said City Administrator Bridgette Kabat. Costco has one location in the Toledo area on West Central Avenue, and three in the Detroit/Ann Arbor area, among more than 600 locations worldwide.
"In the case of Costco, given their success and the fact that they keep stores open, that is a somewhat less pressing concern," Beredo said.
A handful of residents of Callander Court were present Monday to renew their own concerns that traffic brought by the store will block their neighborhood. The street to access their homes will be 70 yards from a traffic signal parsing vehicles in and out of the store, and they're worried it will back up and block that access.
One of them, Larry Small, praised Walters for working with residents, mentioning a plan to add pavement striping and signs asking drivers not to block Callander Court, which stems from Eckel Junction east of Ohio 25 near an entrance to the proposed site.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 February 2014 11:03