Northland Community Council development committee members approved a complex rezoning maneuver Aug. 30 that will clear the way for a new Rally’s restaurant in the Morse Centre, 2100-2110 Morse Road.
The panel also voted in favor of a variance that will allow a low-powered FM radio station, geared to the area’s growing African community, to erect an antenna up to 25 feet tall on top of the Northland Professional Building, 1495 Morse Road.
Attorney James Maniace represented Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc. for a second time before the committee last week. At the committee’s July 26 session, he agreed to table the rezoning request while entering into discussions with the committee’s chairman, Dave Paul, and vice chairman, William Logan.
The problems in what should have been a simple proposal for developing an outparcel of the shopping center resulted from oversights that came to light when the entire property was given commercial planned development zoning as part of a sale in 2002, Maniace said. Although some aspects of the property did not comply with the zoning code in place at the time, these were allowed to stand, he said.
That commercial planned development designation, however, meant the language relating to the property was “set in stone,” and that prohibited development of outparcels within the overall center, Maniace said.
Rather than seek a rezoning that would trigger code requirements for the entire site, potentially costing the owner millions of dollars in upgrades, Maniace said his proposal was for a new commercial planned development that allowed development of the fast-food outparcel and another outparcel.
“What we’re here for is to ask you to please not fix something that’s not broken,” Maniace told committee members. “We’re asking to keep things the same. We’re just asking for a place to have a Checkers (the restaurant chain in Ohio operates under the Rally’s brand) and everyone can get their fries and their shakes.”
Logan asked if, on behalf of his clients, Maniace was willing to commit to a standard list of prohibited uses the committee imposes. These include nightclubs, cabarets, animal shelters, check-cashing operations or halfway houses.
“I don’t think there’s going to be any issue,” Maniace said, but added he could not speak on behalf of the property owner regarding the other outparcel.
The committee voted 14-0 with one abstention to recommend approval of the rezoning, Paul said.
Ernest Opuni represented WCRM-LP/Pri-Value Foundation in seeking the variance request at the Aug. 30 development committee meeting. With the approval of the Federal Communications Commission, he said, the license for the low-powered FM station has been transferred from Columbus Community Radio to his nonprofit group, but that required the antenna to be relocated.
Programming for the multicultural station, Opuni said, would be aimed at not only the estimated 200,000 members of the African community in Columbus, but also other immigrant and refugee groups.
“We believe this radio station, low-powered radio station, will be a very good way to communicate to our communities,” Opuni said.
The variance is needed because the Northland Professional Building is 44 feet tall, and an antenna of that height is permitted only on buildings 50 feet or taller.
Paul said it involved aesthetics: the taller the building, the less visible an antenna would be from the ground.
The vote was 13-0 with two abstentions, Paul said.
Opuni said the station, when it goes on the air, would broadcast within a 35-mile radius of the antenna.