Olentangy Valley News

Planned McDonald's bothers neighborhood residents


Dozens of homeowners showed up at this week's meeting of Orange Township trustees to express their concerns about a McDonald's restaurant planned for the southwest corner of U.S. Route 23 and Lewis Center Road.

Residents of the nearby Olentangy Crossings subdivision told trustees Monday, Aug. 19, that the restaurant would create noise and trash problems, drive down home values and cause traffic congestion and other issues.

"This is not the type of development to be going in a residential neighborhood," said resident Elizabeth Wilbanks.

Township officials told them there is little that can be done as McDonald's, or any fast-food restaurant, is allowed under commercial zoning for that area. The plan already has been approved and surveying work has begun.

Officials said they would try to work with the residents to see if concessions could be made on lighting, buffer zones and other issues. They also would inform residents of plans for any other development on vacant tracts adjacent to the McDonald's.

Also at this week's meeting, Trustee Rob Quigley suggested trustees impose stricter public-participation rules similar to what county commissioners have for their meetings. Under such rules, speakers would be limited to three minutes each, with three speakers each allowed to speak in favor of and against an issue.

Speakers would submit their names and what topic they are speaking on, indicating whether it's an agenda item or not, prior to the meeting.

When asked by Trustee Lisa Knapp what prompted the proposal, Quigley said he has heard complaints from some residents that the public-participation segment takes up too much time.

In the past few months, dozens have spoken at meetings involving a proposed adults-only hotel in the township, a fire levy, parking in cul-de-sacs and other issues. Some of those discussions have taken an hour or more.

"This is just something to present to the board," Quigley said. "It doesn't have to have action tonight ... We've been lax on (allowing the public portion of the meeting to drag on) and we do want the residents to comment."

Trustee Debbie Taranto asked Quigley how this has worked for the commissioners and Quigley said it apparently has gone very well.

Resident Jim Hahn said he was concerned about limiting speaking.

"Can we come up with rules that aren't too excessive?" he asked.

Knapp said she could agree to five-minute limits but not to limit the number of people who can speak.

"I never have a problem with anyone speaking," she said.

Knapp also said people shouldn't have to submit a speaker form.

Also at the meeting, Assistant Fire Chief Matt Noble told trustees that the township over the past seven months has saved more than $260,000 in concessions from the fire department union. The cash-strapped fire department faced closure prior to the passage of an emergency levy in February.

Reducing overtime has saved $123,000; cutting back on the number of hours in the work week from 56 to 52 has saved $64,000; and two full-time firefighters leaving the department has saved $86,000 in salary and pension costs.

Noble said part of the agreement with the firefighter's union was that vacancies would not be filled.

Noble presented the information in response to concerns raised at a meeting last month by a resident that concessions would not result in a savings of $1.3 million over the next three years.

"It looks like we are really on track" to reach that, he said.