West Chester Township residents packed a zoning commission meeting Monday night to discuss what should be done about a cornfield on the corner of Tylersville Road and Princeton-Glendale Road (Ohio 747).At the conclusion of the meeting, much to the delight of a West Chester neighborhood, the zoning commission ruled that the space shouldn’t be developed into a shopping center – for now.
In April, the West Chester Township Board of Trustees will likely hold another packed public hearing where the three trustees could make a final decision on a proposed shopping center. In order to overrule the zoning commission’s recommendation, the trustees must unanimously vote for the development.
Despite the zoning commission not having the final say, the trustees tend to side with the committee.
“In my 10 years as a trustee, I can’t remember ever overruling a decision by the zoning commission,” Trustee George Lang said.
On one side, Blue Ash-based developer Silverman and Company presented its case to build a shopping center, Crossings of Beckett, which would be anchored by a 133,000-square-foot Kroger Marketplace with fuel center. The shopping center also includes six out lots that could feature retail stores or up to three restaurants, as well as two out lots that could feature office buildings.
On the other side, a neighborhood, located just north of the field, with the help of attorney Timothy Mara, claimed that the proposed development could create numerous safety issues. If built, Mara says residents will have to deal with noise, blowing litter, smells from restaurants, traffic from customers and trucks.
To build the shopping destination, the developer had to request to have land’s zoning changed from Community Mixed Use/Residential Transition to Commercial Planned Unit Development.“Their (neighborhood) opposition is based on the careful consideration of the negative impacts this shopping center will have on their homes, their families and the community at large,” said Mara, who represented home owners in previous fights that stopped a Walmart Supercenter in Harrison and a retail complex in Colerain Township. “This request should be rejected.”
Jim Hahn and Art Hupp, who are members on the zoning commission, liked the idea of the Kroger Marketplace, but didn’t like the idea of the entire shopping center.
After hearing that the shopping center would not be approved, a Silverman representative asked for the project to be tabled. That request was eventually denied. Members of the zoning commission voted against the shopping center by the vote of 4-to-1, however, it doesn’t stop the developer from coming back to the township with a changed plan.
Roughly 100 people showed up to the meeting, along with multiple local news stations. Due to fire code, residents were forced to sit and stand out in the lobby of West Chester Township Hall.
Not everyone in attendance was against the development, as 21 employees of the Kroger on 747 that is located 1.5 miles from the proposed Marketplace came out to support the idea of a new store.
“The real reason this Kroger is being built is because the other one is busting at the seams,” said Timothy Burgoyne Sr., an executive with Silverman and Company.
“Great communities need community services and good shopping is one of those services … this center will serve their needs for decades to come.”
If the trustees overrule the zoning commission, Silverman would like to break ground on the new Kroger this summer and open by 2014.
Burgoyne said the current plan is to build the Kroger Marketplace with fuel center and three additional outparcels in phase 1 and then build additional retail space not to exceed 65,000 square feet in phase 2.
Similar fights by residents have failed in Greater Cincinnati.
In 2005, Sycamore Township residents fought the city of Blue Ash over a proposed shopping center that would be anchored by a 137,000-square-foot Target.
“Residents did what they could to stop it, but Blue Ash ultimately made their decision,” said Greg Bickford, planning and zoning director of Sycamore Township. “If the residents are not happy with the traffic, we have not heard.”
Those residents of a community called Dillonvale, a housing development with roughly 2,000 homes, couldn’t stop the Target, but helped to stop the original plan of a large shopping center.
“The original proposal was a substantial deal. They wanted to put a Target in, plus 200,000 square feet of retail,” Sycamore Township Board of Trustees President Tom Weidman said. “The city of Blue Ash has been good at working with our residents that back up to the Target to make sure that if there are any issues that they try to resolve them.”