Concern over potential uses for a small plot of land near the new Lithopolis Road roundabout brought out residents for a Canal Winchester City Council public hearing on March 3.
A traffic roundabout will be replacing the traditional, signaled intersection at Gender and Lithopolis roads later this year. The project is being funded through a combination of Ohio Public Works Commission grants worth $1.6 million and $2.1 million in local funds, split between Canal Winchester and Lithopolis.
Strawser Paving Co. was awarded the Gender Road Phase 3 project, which is associated with the roundabout construction, with a bid of $1,393,659.65.
The current intersection meets at a severe angle, which Canal Winchester Public Works Director Matt Peoples said has made it dangerous, particularly in regard to school buses serving the nearby Canal Winchester Middle School.
"Traffic congestion at this intersection has been an issue for years and the severe angle of the right turn can be tricky to maneuver," Peoples said.
The city is in the process of acquiring all of the necessary right of way agreements in order to begin construction of the roundabout, including a 1.3-acre parcel at 7900 Lithopolis Road currently owned by Groveport resident William Edwards.
Edwards owns a total of 3.2 acres at the intersection, and in exchange for the right of way, he has asked that the remaining 1.9 acres be rezoned from Exception Use to General Commercial, which would potentially allow a new, small business to be located on the site.
Neighbors Mark and Cynthia Breiteneicher said they are concerned about creating a new traffic hazard by adding a business to the mix of the new intersection.
"I'd say we already have 10 to 15 people a day turning around in my driveway," Cynthia Breiteneicher said. "I don't understand how adding another source of traffic here is going to correct the situation."
Caitlin Carrel, the Breiteneichers' daughter, said she is concerned that allowing a small business such as a convenience store or gas station to be built in the area would invite further break-ins at her parents' property.
"With my parents living directly next to it, I'm worried we'll see a lot more of their vehicles or garage being broken into. When they first got married and built this house, they never thought they'd need to plan for something like this," Carrel said.
Canal Winchester Development Director Lucas Haire said there are currently no development plans on the table. He added that the property could not be used for either a gas station or a convenience store without receiving further approvals from the city.
Haire said he thought the site more likely would be used for office space or possibly something like a hair salon, if it is ever developed.
"Convenience stores and automotive are considered conditional in our code, so if that request was made, you'd receive notice for the hearing and be given the chance to come back and argue it," Haire said. "There are no utilities available to the site right now and it would cost a lot to extend them there. But the idea is that no one will want to live right there on a busy intersection, so a commercial use someday is what makes sense."
Haire said the rezoning at this time, even without current development plans, is part of the negotiations for the right of way. Otherwise, it could become an eminent domain proceeding, which potentially would end up in a legal battle, setting roundabout construction back indefinitely, he said.
Council is scheduled to vote on the requested rezoning at its April 7 meeting, which will start at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall, 10 N. High St.