Westerville City Council voted down rezoning the former Knight's Inn motel property to allow for an Aldi grocery store.

Westerville City Council voted down rezoning the former Knight's Inn motel property to allow for an Aldi grocery store.

The 4-3 vote against rezoning the 2.8-acre property at 32 Heatherdown Drive from Office Institutional to Community Commercial came during the Nov. 19 council meeting.

Council members Jenifer French, Diane Fosselman, Mike Heyeck and Larry Jenkins voted against the rezoning, while members Kathy Cocuzzi, Pete Otteson and Craig Treneff voted in favor.

The rezoning request came to council from the Westerville Planning Commission with a 4-2 recommendation to rezone the property.

Planning Commission then rejected on a 3-3 vote the site plan for the store, a decision Aldi appealed to council. The tie vote means the site plan was turned down.

Council members who opposed the proposal said it amounted to "spot zoning" a small parcel and went against the city's vision for the South State Street corridor, which calls for combining smaller community commercial properties along State Street to allow for larger, single users.

"I believe this (site) is a very economically viable use as an Office Institutional zoning, and I think the adopted South State Street plan has a vision for combining single-use Community Commercial zoning lots to improve our traffic flow and the general appearance of South State Street," said Fosselman, who also sits on the Planning Commission. "Adding as an additional single use Community Commercial doesn't help us meet our goals for the area."

The proposal also broke with the city's vision for the site, the opposed council members said, because the South State Street Overlay design standards call for placing buildings close to the street with parking to the sides and rear.

"My vision for this is much more of a planned approach with a combination of these parcels," Heyeck said. "I just don't think a big building in the back is fitting here."

The Aldi proposal largely complied with the overlay standards for architecture and landscaping but placed the building at the westernmost edge of the site with parking to the east, toward State Street. The property is separated from State Street by the Fazoli's parcel.

Cocuzzi said she voted in favor of the proposal because Aldi representatives worked for more than a year with Westerville planners and architectural consultants to develop a building that fit within overlay guidelines.

"This is a good application. This has come this far with all this recommendation (from staff) and hard work and it frustrates me that it has come this far and it doesn't achieve what we want it to achieve," Cocuzzi said.

Representatives from Aldi also expressed frustration with council's decision.

Aldi first presented a plan for the site to the Westerville Planning Commission in February 2012.

That plan showed a prototypical Aldi store, but since then, the company has worked with city planners and met all of the requests made, said Aldi representative Russ White.

"What we're presenting is direction we received from staff," White said. "This is what we were told to do. Every request that came to Aldi was satisfied. I can't think of one request that was asked to us by your staff, your architectural consultant, your engineer, that we did not do."

Following the rejection of the rezoning, council voted unanimously to reject Aldi's appeal of the Planning Commission decision to reject the site plan.