Westerville City Council has delayed a decision on rezoning the property at the southwest corner of Cleveland Avenue and West Main Street to allow a Tim Hortons to move into the former Key Bank building.
The rezoning, from Office/Institutional District to Planned Community Commercial District, and preliminary development plan for 33 S. Cleveland Ave. was set for a public hearing at council's Jan. 15 meeting. But the proposal was tabled until Feb. 19 at the request of the developer.
In November, the Westerville Planning Commission passed the issue on to City Council with a recommendation for approval; council, however, has expressed concerns over how a fast-food restaurant would impact traffic surrounding the already busy intersection.
The Planning Commission addressed those concerns by attaching to its approval the condition that the city engineer's office could require the developer to build a median along West Main Street and a "pork-chop" median at its Cleveland Avenue entrance, to prevent people from turning left into or out after a one-year trial period.
The city's staff now is requesting that the medians be included in the current plan and constructed in conjunction with the building's renovations.
That would allow Tim Horton's to budget better for the project, said city planner Lisa LaMantia.
City Engineer Susan Banbury said she was concerned that left turns into and out of the site would add to traffic backup during peak times if the medians are not in place when the restaurant opens.
Members of the council said they worried that Tim Hortons would worsen traffic in the area -- even with the medians.
"Are we saying this is the best we can do, and it's still going to be bad?" asked Councilwoman Jenifer French. "How is the traffic really going to be going if there is a Tim Horton's in this?"
Council Chairman Mike Heyeck questioned whether a Tim Hortons was the best use for the site and whether the site should be rezoned, as the rezoning would allow for full-scale fast-food restaurants in the future.
"I think we need to take much more of a leadership role in the use of land rather than just someone coming in with a bright idea and an opportunity," Heyeck said.
Heyeck questioned whether the city had worked to encourage a professional use, such as a law or accounting firm for the site.
Assistant City Manager Julie Colley said the Tim Hortons seemed like a good use to the city's economic development staff because it would provide a better mix of uses to the area, serving the apartment complex immediately west and the day care immediately south.
"We thought this might be a good use for this site because of the apartment complex," Colley said. "It was a use we actually encouraged."