City Council considering Aldi rezoning request
Weeks after the Westerville Planning Commission voted down a preliminary site plan for Aldi at 32 Heatherdown Drive, the company went before Westerville City Council to proceed with rezoning for the site and appeal the commission's decision.
City Council heard the first reading of legislation at its Oct. 15 meeting to rezone the property, which houses the shuttered Knight's Inn at heatherdown and South State Street, and voted to hear Aldi's appeal of the Planning Commission vote.
At its Sept. 25 meeting, the commission voted 4-2 to recommend City Council rezone the property from Office Institutional to Community Commercial, which would allow for a grocery retail use.
The commission also voted down the preliminary site plan for Aldi with a 3-3 vote.
Commission member Brian Szuch abstained from both votes because his employer does work with Aldi.
Current development in the area is fragmented, City Planner Lisa LaMantia told council, with R4 multifamily residential zoning for the Camelot condominium property to the north, Community Commercial zoning for Fazoli's restaurant to the east and offices on other sides.
Having the entire area zoned Community Commercial could open up opportunities for the area, LaMantia said, particularly for the property that houses Fazoli's at the northwest corner of Heatherdown and State, where the city would like to see a larger building to help give presence to Westerville's southern entryway.
With the rezoning, council is supposed to consider only the most appropriate zoning for the site when making a decision and is not supposed to consider the proposed Aldi.
Regardless, Council Chairman Mike Heyeck said he worried that with the Aldi plan, which breaks with the South State Street overlay to locate the building to the back of the lot with parking in front, the city could be poised to make a bad decision for a major corner.
"I think this rezoning may create a lost opportunity," Heyeck said.
"That corner is going to be very precious to be redeveloped," Heyeck said. "It looks like a big parking lot with a big box in the back, and I'm trying to envision what would happen to the Community Commercial in the front, given the big Community Commercial in the back."
Council plans to have a second reading of the rezoning legislation at its Nov. 4 meeting and a public hearing and vote Nov. 19.
Heyeck recommended council also hear the appeal for the Aldi site plan decision Nov. 19 to coincide with the rezoning vote.