Northland News

Restaurant sites could get zoning flexibility


When the business environment was no longer friendly for the Friendly's Ice Cream store on East Dublin-Granville Road and not enough families treated themselves to a meal at the nearby Olive Garden, both closed some years ago.

J. Jeffrey McNealey, an attorney with Porter, Wright, Morris and Arthur LLP, spoke at the Northland Community Council development committee meeting last week about a rezoning request that would allow many more uses than just restaurants for the properties at 2345 and 2365 E. Dublin-Granville Road.

"The problem is that it's just no longer capable of being a restaurant," McNealey said of the former Friendly's site.

While the former Olive Garden is currently a jazz club and restaurant, the Friendly's location has been vacant for a while.

McNealey said his client, BL&G LLC, has found a financial services company, Drummond Financial, that wants to move an auto loan operation into the building.

The requested rezoning would change the designation from commercial planned development that was created specifically for the two eateries to C-4, more or less straight commercial zoning.

"We feel this is consistent with the rest of the area, and gives the owner more flexibility for what have not been the most appealing uses for some years," McNealey said.

That would be too much flexibility, however, in the view of development committee members.

Chairman Dave Paul said the vote was 12-0 in favor of recommending approval for the rezoning, but with some specific exclusions regarding permitted uses under the C-4 designation. These include bars, cabarets, nightclubs, temporary shelters and missions, all of which McNealey agreed to, saying his client never had any intention of opening a "slippery-pole cabaret."

In addition, during their deliberations, Paul said committee members decided they also wanted to exclude the possibility of a pawnbroker opening at either location, something to which McNealey was unwilling to commit during his presentation.

"I can't respond to that," he said.

"They really did feel pretty strongly about the idea of excluding pawnbrokers, even though Jeff did not agree to that," Paul said. "The committee said they really thought that was a requirement for their support."

Development committee members heard two other presentations, one of which was shelved for the time being because the applicant for the site at 4873 Cleveland Ave. was seeking uses not permitted under the commercial zoning being sought.

The other was not voted on because it came to the committee's attention late and will be ruled on by the Board of Zoning Appeals before the next session July 30.

That involved a variance from the requirement for a bypass lane for stacked vehicles at the drive-through of a new Taco Bell that will be built on vacant land at 6480 Central Crossing Road.

Mike Williamson of Terrain Evolution, representing the CL Cos., told committee members a common access road on the site serving other properties creates the problem requiring the variance.

"It chews up a lot of land in the lot," he said.

"You've got 10 pounds in a five-pound sack," Vice Chairman William Logan said of the proposed fast-food establishment.

"It meets the fire requirements," Williamson responded. "The city seems fine with it."

"The committee kind of felt there must be a better solution," Paul said. "We really didn't have a suggestion to fix the problem but we felt there must be a better way."