Rocky Fork Enterprise

Mill Street building

Council mulls merits of right-of-way encroachment

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Gahanna City Council wants to do the right thing after the process went wrong for a building being renovated at 73-77 Mill St.

Development director Anthony Jones said Lew Griffin, of LGI Building LLC, purchased the property to open his offices there.

Jones said elements still need to be finalized, including legal language for encroachment into the right of way along Mill Street. Work already is being done inside the building.

City services director Dottie Franey said Gahanna has no code to address encroachment.

Originally, she said, legislation was being requested for a building right-of-way revocable-encroachment easement.

"We want to work on the instrument more," she said. "It will be some kind of easement."

Council member Brandon Wright said the process seems to be backward.

"It should have been negotiated on the front end," he said. "Citizens were aware before I was briefed about the (reconstruction)."

Jones said the process started with facade improvement plans.

"It was brought before planning and approved," he said. (See related story.)

Jones said the level of encroachment was not defined.

"This is a unique building," he said. "It's nonconforming. We're now requiring a site plan. That's one way we will rectify."

Franey said the sidewalk on Mill Street was closed without the city knowing it.

"The contractor wasn't aware he needed a permit," she said.

Franey said the city recognized the sidewalk being closed the day it happened.

"They complied with what we asked, including signage," she said.

The existing buildings along the portion of Mill Street in question are very close to the street and this particular building already encroaches on the right of way.

City engineer Karl Wetherholt said the proposed remodeling plan calls for four structural pilasters, their underground foundations and a second-story overhang to encroach into the right of way. He said the sidewalk in front of the building is 9 feet wide, extending from the street curb to the face of the building. The proposed pilasters extend about 18 inches into the sidewalk area of the right of way.

Wetherholt said the primary concern is if the sidewalk would meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

"There's enough room to meet safety requirements for people to walk by in each direction," he said. "The clearance between a light pole and the pilaster is about 7 feet."

Council member Karen Angelou asked about the difficulty of taking a nonconforming old building and turning it around to make it more palatable for the Creekside area.

"I think it will be an asset to the area," she said.

Griffin said he's in the insurance business, not renovation.

"I bought it so we could paint a building and move into it," he said. "The building was extremely out of code. I understand you want to do it the right way."

He said businesses along Mill are being affected adversely because of the sidewalk closure.

"I built a home in two years that was easier than this has been in six months," Griffin said.

Council member Stephen Renner said he appreciates the investment in the building and that's what's needed in Olde Gahanna. But, he said, he's apprehensive in giving right of way in any form.

"I believe the design fits the area," he said. "I'm struck with giving right of way for a structural thing. ... We're talking about one of the busiest arteries of Gahanna."

Council member Ryan Jolley said he's sympathetic to the cost, time and delay of the project.

"We need to get this right," he said. "The building will be here for years. This is one of our busiest areas. It's crucial we get this correct. We really only get one shot at this."

Mayor Becky Stinchcomb said Olde Gahanna has brought many challenges. She said the issue at hand is 18 inches of right of way in four spots.

"If we were talking a 4-foot sidewalk, I would share your concern," she said. "We're talking 7 feet."

More discussion is planned for council's next committee meeting in two weeks.

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