An Aldi store could replace the Knight's Inn on South State Street, but developers have to gain the approval of the Westerville Planning Commission first.

An Aldi store could replace the Knight's Inn on South State Street, but developers have to gain the approval of the Westerville Planning Commission first.

Representatives of the discount grocer and local property-management firm Kohr Royer Griffith spoke to the planning commission Feb. 22 to garner feedback on preliminary plans to redevelop the northwest corner of South State Street and Heatherdown Road.

The plans call for placing an Aldi store where the Knight's Inn now sits at 32 Heatherdown Drive and constructing a restaurant to the east to replace Fazoli's. Retail would sit in between.

As the area is zoned office institutional, the developers would need a rezoning to commercial or planned community commercial, Westerville senior planner Bassem Bitar said.

The planning commission did not vote on the plan because the developer asked only for feedback, but members expressed concern that plans for the store broke with South State Street overlay design standards.

"When I first saw this, I just had to scratch my head. I can't even imagine this there, especially on the South State Street corridor that we're trying to build up," commission member Gerald Domanik said.

Domanik acknowledged that the preliminary proposal is an improvement over the current development, but he said he could not support the plans.

"That's a good tradeoff, but I personally do not see that happening as is. It just don't fit," he said.

Aldi representative Russ White said the traditional Aldi design, with parking in the front and a tower with logo above the entrance, is necessary for the retailer to allow for visibility, truck access and signs.

"(The tower entrance is) our one point of monitored ingress and egress," White said. "Our format doesn't make it conducive to have people park either on the back or around our docks."

Commission members said they couldn't see diverging so drastically with the design standards, especially when the city is spending a lot to improve the area.

"As a gateway to our city, with the money and what we're doing - we don't want to turn away business from our city, but as a gateway feature, I don't think this hits the mark," commission member Matt Whitehead said.

Councilwoman and commission member Diane Fosselman agreed.

"I put a lot of importance in adhering to the South State Street corridor (standards). A lot of planning went into that, as well as investment from the city," she said.