A Canal Winchester church received approval from City Council to rezone part of its property so it can be sold to commercial developers -- over the objections of nearby residents who are concerned about a thoroughfare that is part of the project.

Council members unanimously approved the request sought by Crossroads Christian Life Center at the southeast corner of Gender Road and Canal Street during its Dec. 18 meeting.

The city staff and the Canal Winchester Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the plans for the nearly 28-acre site, which call for construction of a 58,000-square-foot sanctuary and parking lot -- including the request to rezone nearly 5 acres from multifamily residential to commercial.

According to lead pastor Tim Moore, the church wants to sell the front acreage because it's more area than the congregation needs and the sale would help offset some of the project costs.

"We feel it is in the best interest for ourselves and (the city) to have that front ... to be commercial and match the rest of the commercial corridor that you see on Gender Road," Moore said. "We have been approached several times by apartment builders who've asked to buy our property. ... We've never been interested in that."

A general commercial zoning designation allows for retail, restaurants and offices, and is consistent with zoning currently along Gender Road.

Residents who live in the Cherry Landing subdivision are concerned about a planned thoroughfare that would extend Bigerton Bend to Gender Road.

Canal Winchester Development Director Lucas Haire said the proposed extension has been on every thoroughfare plan the city has approved since 2001.

Developers, whether it be commercial or residential, must follow the city's plan and pay for construction of the road extension.

"Seventeen years ago, there was a vision that all the land between the church (site) and Cherry Landing was going to be a large community," resident Nate Floyd told council members. "Times have changed, and that plan has also changed. What has occurred since those plans were drawn on an empty map has been significant. A tight-knit community evolved out of Cherry Landing."

Residents who are concerned about increased traffic and crime asked council to halt any rezoning request to review plans for the connector.

"It seems like we're being held hostage to a decision made 17 years ago," resident Robert Sycks said during council's Dec. 4 meeting. "Seventeen years ago, someone drew an arbitrary line and said, 'This is Bigerton Bend.' Of course, at that time, there wasn't anybody to object to the ramifications. ... but a lot has happened since then ... houses have become a community."

Members of the church congregation have agreed to meet with Cherry Landing residents to explore options, Executive Pastor Joe Miller said.

The approved site plan includes the roadway extension and a bridge, which still need approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Council President Steve Donahue, who did not seek re-election in November, emphasized that the road extension was not part of the rezoning criteria.

Any future changes to the site would need to come before City Council.

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