It was a textbook example of democracy in action when concerned area residents packed the Violet Township Administrative Office April 2.
They came to voice opinions, both for an against, a proposed 97,000 square-foot, 519-unit self-storage facility targeted for construction on more than 10 acres in the township.
The Violet Township Board of Trustees held the meeting to consider rezoning just the westernmost 7.6 acres of the parcel, from Planned Residential District to Limited Commercial District, to accommodate the facility.
Whereas many of the residents of the neighboring Spring Creek subdivision in the city of Pickerington have mobilized against the proposed facility, a small contingent of citizens took the podium to express their full support for the project.
The site plan for the Storage One Self-Storage proposal calls for 10 buildings, all 15.6 feet in height, enclosed by a six-foot tall vinyl picket fence at the southeast corner of Milnor and Refugee Roads.
Storage One Self-Storage attorney Jeffrey Vandervoort said the public needs to understand that rezoning the 7.6 acre parcel "is an amendment from one commercial classification to another. It's not a significant impact."
Vandervoort said the parcel has been designated for commercial uses since 1996 when the site plan for the Spring Creek Residential District was approved.
He said a storage facility at the location is also consistent with the Violet Township Comprehensive Land-Use Plan.
Vandervoort said as it stands now the parcel could host mixed commercial uses such as offices, retail stores, bakeries or banks without having to undergo rezoning.
"We propose a different type of commercial use," he said.
"Storage One plans to build a first-class storage facility, with minimal or no impact on the surrounding properties," Vandervoort said.
It will be a highly secure, limited-hour facility with nominal traffic, insular lighting and little noise that will also bring more than $56,000 annually in tax dollars to the township's coffers, Vandervoort said.
Storage facility proponent Rocco Sabatino urged residents to consider the stakes.
"They need to know the facts," Sabatino said.
"This is the least intrusive thing they could put on this corner. This will not impact anyone's property values negatively," Sabatino said.
On the other side were the vocal majority, mostly Spring Creek subdivision residents, who said they consider a large self-storage facility a threat to their tight-knit, family-oriented community.
They said they believe the proposed facility will generate traffic, noise and light pollution.
"We have a feeling the horse is out of the barn, that a decision has been made," said Mark Vanderhoff, a Spring Creek resident who has also spearheaded a neighborhood petition campaign against the facility.
"All we're asking is to be heard as a community," Vanderhoff said. "I implore you to listen to the voices."
Many residents said a storage facility would add little value to the community.
"Nobody on (the television show) Househunters says 'I want to buy a house next to a storage facility,' " Spencer Nevin said.
Diane Stewart worries about the many children playing in the Spring Creek neighborhood.
"I have an autistic child that doesn't understand traffic," Stewart said, adding she hoped whatever goes in there would be "a small business we could use, somewhere to walk to with our kids and enjoy, not storage units."
Matt Dansby said he was also speaking for the kids.
"It doesn't make sense for a residential area," he said.
"There are kindergarteners and up, (more than) 30 on my street alone," Dansby said.
"Kids playing everywhere, all the time," He said. "The junior high kids stand out there, waiting for the bus."
The rezoning hearing wrapped up after two hours, however, the trustees did not make a decision. They will have 20 days in which to do so.
"As chairman of the board of trustees, thank you for coming and being very cordial, said Trustee Harry Myers Jr.
"We really appreciate you taking an interest in your community," he said.