Worthington News


New citizens group wants voice in UMCH site's future


The threat of a Giant Eagle in Worthington has spurred the formation of a citizens group that wants to be involved in any further negotiations for the development of the United Methodist Children's Home.

Though Continental Real Estate chairman Frank Kass told The Dispatch on Sept. 28 that plans for a "large Giant Eagle" on the UMCH site have been dropped, negotiations among the developer, the children's home and the city continue.

The city has received no other proposals, but approximately 30 residents attended the Oct. 1 Worthington City Council meeting to say they want to be involved when talks resume.

Worthington Alliance for Responsible Development is a group of residents and property owners who seek transparency and involvement in the decisions regarding the development of the 40-acre UMCH site, Evening Street resident Michael Bates said.

"I've never seen so many people come out of the woodwork before," resident Richard Lamprey told council.

Council member Bonnie Michael said it was wonderful to see such cohesiveness and to have so much support for the city's Comprehensive Plan.

The plan, which guides development decisions, calls for the children's home site to be developed with a mix of uses, including retail, offices and housing.

It specifically recommends against big-box retail uses.

The land is zoned S-1, for such special uses as schools and churches, with a small strip of commercial zoning along High Street.

Kass presented plans for a Giant Eagle during a public meeting Sept. 17. The plans were met with roaring criticism from the crowd of residents.

Located directly across from the Worthington Municipal Building and abutting the Worthington Estates community, the UMCH site is the last large piece of property to be developed in the city.

What occurs on that land will have a lasting effect on the city, said Eric Gnezda, a member of WARD.

"If the wrong kind of thing goes in there, it won't be Worthington anymore," he said.

Residents are less trusting of large developers after CVS did not follow through on its agreements with the city when it built here several years ago, resident Fred Yaeger said.

CVS, on the corner of North and High streets, was not built according to plans; promised development of the lots on the south side of the building did not occur; and the company put such limits on any lease of its former space that a much-needed small market could not move in.

"CVS is a big outfit, but it's not as big as Continental Real Estate," he said.