Written by ALEX ASPACHER Sentinel Staff Writer
Friday, 22 November 2013 10:41
PERRYSBURG — Traffic concerns surround a proposal to bring a Costco store to the city, which received conditional approval of its preliminary site plan Thursday.
|The proposed Costco site is southeast of the intersection of Ohio 25 and Eckel Junction Road, just north of Interstate 475. (Image provide by City of Perrysburg)
Residents said there are already too many vehicles in the proposed location near the intersection of Ohio 25 and Eckel Junction Road, just north of Interstate 475.
Planning Commission members Greg Bade and Byron Choka were among those not satisfied with the plan. Preliminary approval passed 5-2 after statements from Brody Walters, planning and zoning administrator, and Tom Yurysta of Proudfoot Associates, a consultant of the city who reviewed traffic studies submitted by Costco; a presentation by Ted Johnson of TJ Design Strategies, Costco’s engineering firm; and many questions and claims from residents.
The commission also recommended a special approval use for the building which, at about 150,000 square-feet, is significantly larger than the city’s 60,000 square-foot limit on retail space. City council must approve the use and will hold a public meeting at 6 p.m. Dec. 17.
The focus of Thursday’s discussions varied, touching repeatedly on traffic and opinions of some who would welcome the store, but at another location in the city. Other areas of focus included sidewalk placement, entrance and exits, impact on residential property value, and aspects of the building such as signage and design elements.
Responding to several requests from commission members, Johnson explained how those changes wouldn’t fit their plan or could threaten its viability. The commission eventually approved the plan after the 2½-hour meeting with a list of caveats, including sidewalk placement, building appearance, landscaping and signage compliance, unless there is a successful appeal to the Board of Zoning Appeals allowing signs larger than 75 square feet.
Bade said he did not believe the location is right for Costco and thinks traffic will become too backed up. The city plans to build $2.2 million in improvements to widen the intersection at Ohio 25 and Eckel Junction next year, but that doesn’t alleviate problems at the I-475 exits, which presently back-up onto the highway during peak hours.
“I just have concerns based upon the traffic level as it is now, and the amount of input I’ve received,” Bade said.
Mayor Nelson Evans, who serves on the planning commission, said he’s pursued upgrades to the highway exits for years without much interest from state and federal agencies. Unfortunately, he said, it takes something like traffic backups or crashes to get attention to prioritize such improvements.
“Hopefully that is speeding up the process. There’s more talk now about that interstate than ever,” Evans said.
Yurysta said the highway improvements would total around $9 million, and with the Ohio Department of Transportation still several million short of the required funding, the project is likely still several years away.
Johnson said traffic studies show 80 percent of Costco’s members-to-be will approach the store from the south, from I-475 exits or Ohio 25. He estimated membership at between 30,000 and 40,000.
After questions from commission members, the public had its chance to weigh in.
Larry Small spoke on behalf of people at Callander Court, the neighborhood nearest to the proposed development in commercially-zoned space. Their biggest concern was traffic, he said, and being able to exit the area onto Eckel Junction, as a traffic light to exit Costco would be near the drive.
Brian Craig, an attorney for Craig Transportation, MBL Corporation and Craig Family Real Estate, said those companies tried to develop property directly across Ohio 25 for 16 years. He said many efforts were unsuccessful because the planning commission repeatedly denied a request for a right-in/right-out entrance, an element present in Costco’s plan.
Walt Churchill, owner of nearby Churchill’s Market, said he isn’t worried about competition from the store, but he has concerns that traffic backups could hinder access to his business.
Johnson said he hopes to gain final approval before beginning construction drawings about the second week of January, with eyes on opening the store next fall.