Despite concerns over traffic, the Canal Winchester Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-2 to grant a conditional use permit for a Firestone Complete Auto Care Center at the former Sky Bank site, 6574 Winchester Blvd.

Despite concerns over traffic, the Canal Winchester Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-2 to grant a conditional use permit for a Firestone Complete Auto Care Center at the former Sky Bank site, 6574 Winchester Blvd.

Commissioner Mike Vasko and commission president Bill Christensen voted against the permit.

Commissioner Dan Konold was absent from Oct. 12 meeting.

Firestone's next step is to submit a site development plan, village zoning administrator Allan Neimayer said.

Tom Paul, real estate development manager for Bridgestone --which owns and operates Firestone -- tried to allay commission members' concerns that an auto care facility would add too much traffic to the congested Gender Road corridor.

"Our average customer (car) count is 26 per day," Paul said. "A fast food restaurant or bank could double that."

Since services at Firestone cost more than fast-food meals, an auto service center would need less traffic in order to turn a profit, Paul said. Thus, Firestone would have a relatively low impact on traffic volume on Gender Road and Winchester Boulevard.

"We don't need the volume" of a bank or restaurant, he said.

Commission member Jeff Graber, who was joined by Jennifer Solomon, Jim Knowlton and Jim Wynkoop in approving the permit, said an auto care facility might not be perfect but it would add minimal traffic to the area.

"We've all had our concerns about the fit, use and traffic" of a Firestone facility at the Sky Bank site, Graber said.

"But almost any other use is going to bring more traffic than this is."

Vasko, who voted against the conditional use permit, said during the planning commission's September meeting that a Firestone facility would add too much traffic to local roads.

"I don't think it is compatible with the adjacent land uses," he said. "I don't know what's the right use here."

Paul said Bridgestone is undertaking a nationwide expansion during the down economy and the proposed Canal Winchester facility is part of that growth.

"People aren't buying as many new cars," he said. "They're keeping their existing cars. We happen to be the benefactors of that.

"Right now, we're in the midst of a substantial expansion program. We're looking to open 100 stores per year nationwide, and projected to do that over the next five years."

Bridgestone operates more than 2,500 stores nationwide, employing about 33,000 workers, Paul said.

The proposed Canal Winchester Firestone facility would employ nine to 10 full-time workers as well as several part-time employees, he said.