Lots south of CVS
Council to Kessler: Build two stories or don't build at all
Worthington City Council's message was this: Either build two stories, or don't build at all.
Council's message to the owner of the two lots immediately south of CVS came via unanimous vote Sept. 10 .
Rick Kessler of MK&K Realty Co. proposed building two one-story buildings for commercial use on the two grassy lots that adjoin the CVS site on High Street at East North Street.
Kessler said adding second-story apartments would be too costly.
Residents who filled council chambers insisted that the city stick to its resolve to require two-story buildings on that site.
The city's comprehensive plan calls for two stories, and when developer Skilken received approval to build CVS in 2007, two two-story buildings south of the drug store were part of the development package the city had approved.
The CVS was built, but the two adjoining lots remain empty, grassy plots.
Kessler, who, through a complex set of steps, both owns the property and leased it back from CVS, wants to build the one-story buildings rather than see the property not developed.
His proposal is for a 4,272-square-foot building nearest CVS, separated by a driveway under an archway, and a 6,402-square-foot building on the next lot south.
He would not reveal the names of possible tenants but asked for enough setback from the sidewalk to allow for outdoor seating for restaurants.
His lease with CVS prohibits him from leasing space to anyone who would compete with CVS. It also prohibits offices because they might take too much parking space, he told council.
The two Colonial Revival-style designs were approved by the Worthington Architectural Review Board on July 26. During the same meeting, the Municipal Planning Commission recommended that council approve the development plans.
Council members were blunt in their objections to CVS' refusal to carry out plans for the two-story buildings and for "holding the city hostage" on the property it owns and formerly occupies. It is across the street, on the northeast corner of North and High streets, and has been vacant since CVS moved out in 2008.
"CVS is the elephant in the room, and that's sad," council member Bob Chosy said.
Several council members said CVS had no intention of building the two buildings to the south. The company agreed only to win approval for the main CVS building plans, council member Bonnie Michael said.
"I've got a feeling CVS is not caring about this community, and that's a concern for me," she said.
Council member Scott Myers said CVS is holding the community hostage on the property to the north. He said CVS has refused to lease the property to any business that would be in competition. That means no company could sell alcohol, food or even greeting cards.
Now, he said, plans call for leasing the site to a hardware store that would compete with Worthington Hardware. That is not in the best interest of the community, Myers said.
MPC chairman Richard Hunter said he understands council's reluctance to allow the one-story buildings but then explained why the commission voted in favor of them.
"I have never been more frustrated and angry in all my years of service to the community," he said, referring to CVS' refusal to follow through on its promise to construct the buildings it had promised.
MPC member Mikel Coulter said approving Kessler's proposal was a way to make it work, a way to make lemonade out of lemons, he said.
Resident Fred Yaeger urged council to follow the recommendation of the comprehensive plan, which calls for more efficient two-story buildings that take cues from Old Worthington at that corner.
Other nearby communities follow the same guidelines, with buildings going up along sidewalks and parking in the rear. Second-floor residential is part of the "urban" feel being encouraged.
"If Dublin can force a second-story, why can't we?" Yaeger asked.