With the blessing of Berkshire Township voters, Simon Property Group and Tanger Outlets will move forward in building a 400,000-square-foot outlet mall on 208 acres just off the U.S. Route 36-state Route 37 interchange with Interstate 71.
Berkshire Township voters Tuesday, Nov. 5, were asked to cast their ballots on a referendum that, if upheld, would have overturned the zoning that was approved by the township zoning commission in May.
Township trustees in June voted 1-1 on the application, upholding the commission's decision.
Final, unofficial results from the Delaware County Board of Elections show the referendum was narrowly defeated, with 576 "yes" votes (51 percent) to 551 "no" votes (49 percent).
There were rumors that a broken voting machine in one precinct could change the election's outcome, but Board of Elections Deputy Director Josh Pedaline said that was not the case.
"We had one machine that froze up and we were able to pull 10 votes off of it," he said. "Everything was counted on Election Night."
Those who promoted the successful "yes" vote did so under the belief that Simon-Tanger could have the land annexed into Columbus or Sunbury if the referendum were upheld. That would have meant the mall could be built on the same land, but any taxes and zoning associated with the mall would be in the hands of the annexing municipality.
"It's a great day for Berkshire Township," Trustee Bill Holtry wrote the morning after Election Day. He posted to the Meaningless Beanfield Facebook page, which served as a source of information for both sides in the months leading up to the vote.
"The township remains whole," he added. "For those who believed annexation was a scare tactic, believe me, it was not."
Many who backed the opposing side rebuked claims that annexation was imminent.
Rick Bowman cast his ballot to uphold the referendum that he led petitions for, but he said his ultimate goal was achieved, despite the defeat.
"At the end of the day, thank God everybody got to vote," he said.
The bested effort was funded by Horizon Group Properties, which in February received rezoning approval for 108 acres off Smith's Mill and Beech roads in New Albany to build the Outlet Shoppes at Columbus.
A press release issued by Simon-Tanger following the announcement of the election results said the property will be developed with residents in mind and the opinions of the members of the Berkshire Township Citizens Advisory Group will be considered.
"We are pleased with the referendum vote and will continue to work hard to provide a shopping experience that will make the community proud," the press release said.
"We will continue to be an active part of the community as we share the common goal to support and improve the quality of life for which Berkshire Township is known. We have appreciated the input received from community members to date, and we will continue to solicit feedback and input through ongoing advisory board meetings."
The press release said updates will be posted at tangeroutlet.com/berkshire.
Simon-Tanger has said construction on the mall will start in the spring with a projected opening in summer 2015. It has estimated the outlet mall would employ about 800 workers and bring in close to $2 million in annual property taxes.
No announcement has been made as to what stores will be featured at the mall.