Pickerington Times-Sun

Violet BZA holds off vote on self-storage facility

Hearing on zoning variances to be reconvened tonight in township's administrative offices

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RYAN M.L. YOUNG/THISWEEKNEWS
Storage One is seeking variances from Violet Township to permit construction of a massive self-storage facility on land at the southeast corner of Milnor and Refugee roads. Residents of the Spring Creek subdivision, which lies south and east of the site, are opposed to the plans.
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There was a lot of talk, but zero action last week as the Violet Township Board of Zoning Appeals ran out of time for any decisions on a proposed self-storage facility at the corner of Milnor and Refugee roads.

The BZA had moved its April 24 meeting to the Pickerington Church of Nazarene to accommodate the expected crowd that would be too large for the Violet Township Administrative Office.

But while the church's Activity Room was large enough to serve the approximately 45 people who turned out for the meeting, the 10 p.m. deadline to exit the premises proved too short to conclude the BZA's business.

So, having only discussed one of five variances requested by James Johnson to finalize plans for the construction of a proposed 97,000-square-foot, 519-unit Storage One Self-Storage facility at the southeast corner of Milnor and Refugee roads, BZA officials continued the hearing.

It is scheduled to resume at 7:30 p.m. tonight, Thursday, May 1, and this time it will be back in the Violet Township Administrative Office, 12970 Rustic Drive.

"Given where we're at tonight, and I believe we have to leave at 10 o'clock, I think the board should continue this meeting to a time, date and place certain," said Peter Griggs, legal counsel for Violet Township. "We've obviously not had time to the variances tonight."

He also told the audience the board of zoning appeals could go behind closed doors -- excluding the public -- for a private meeting to discuss the requests before rendering a decision.

"Because this is a quasi-judicial board, (members) have the right to privately discuss the merits of the application," Griggs said.

By 10 p.m., Storage One attorney Jeffrey Vandervoort and Storage One Manager Jayme Gates had only presented their case for a conditional-use permit to be granted to allow a 10-building self-storage business to operate on 7.6 acres of the 10.4-acre site.

Company officials hope to open the storage facility, and have future plans for retail spaces on the remaining portion of the property, after the Violet Township Board of Trustees April 16 voted unanimously to change zoning on the site from a Planned Residential District to Limited Commercial District.

Vandervoort and Gates said the conditional use should be permitted because a self-storage business would be "harmonious" with the neighboring Spring Creek subdivision and other area properties, and expand the township's tax base.

"The facility will create additional tax revenues, I submit to you, of approximately $57,000 per year," Vandervoort said. "We're talking about a net positive."

Although she didn't have a site-specific traffic study -- and neither the township trustees nor the BZA required one -- Gates said a July 2012 report by the Institute of Transportation Engineers indicated there's likely to be only 14.8 vehicles visiting the self-storage business per day, and only about 3.6 during times when school children are getting on and off local buses.

Gates said the business will have a vinyl fence and landscaping to further buffer it from residents.

"That's why we would be the least intrusive," Gates said.

Many who attended the meeting -- most residents of the Spring Creek subdivision -- called on the BZA to reject the variance requests and the overall project.

At least 13 people spoke at the meeting and, of those, 10 opposed the proposed development.

Many cited concerns over traffic safety, contending the business would bring more vehicles to the area.

Some also noted that Storage One and Violet Township officials have pushed for the development's access point to come from Spring Creek Drive.

"Unlike our experience that we had at the board of trustees' meeting, I just ask that you listen," said Mark Vanderhoff, a Spring Creek resident opposed to Storage One's plans. "It's the entrance into the neighborhood.

"This is an entry point that's inside a neighborhood. That is atypical."

Opponents also said they feared criminal activity, such as storage of drugs or other illegal goods, could take place.

Two women who identified themselves as professional Realtors also disputed Storage One's assertions that property values would not be negatively impacted by the development.

Others felt the township could attract a use to the site that would better serve residents, such as a medical office or grocery.

"We would prefer a professional building, yes we would, in our neighborhood," said Janet Thiede, a Spring Creek resident. "Obviously, we'd love for something residential, but we know that's not going to happen.

"We want something that will serve the community," Thiede said.

If the variance issues are worked out, the next question will hover over access to the site.

Last month, Violet Township Engineer Greg Butcher said Storage One must work with the city of Pickerington to gain access to the public right away to establish an entry point to its site.

Pickerington officials have maintained access to Spring Creek Drive, which is a city street, requires city permission.

Violet Township Director of Operations Benjamin King said the township has "been working on the access issue" with the city.

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