A pair of developers said they would move forward with plans to open a Swensons Drive-In on Cemetery Road, despite the Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission rejecting the proposal Aug. 9.

“It’s just a recommendation. ... We will go to (Hilliard) City Council and win; we’ve done everything right,” said developer Tim Reardon, who is partners with Jamie Moore in 4810-4832 Cemetery Center LLC, after the commission voted 6-0 to reject a rezoning application required for the restaurant to open.

The developers are seeking to rezone the property immediately west of the entrance to J.W. Reason Elementary School, 4790 Cemetery Road, from B-3 commercial zoning to a planned-unit development.

The sock-hop-style drive-in restaurant would be built at 4810 Cemetery Road, according to the application. It would have no indoor or outdoor seating, Reardon said, and orders would be delivered to vehicles to be consumed there or taken to go.

Hilliard City Council will have final say in the matter but a two-thirds majority – or five of seven members – would be required to overturn the negative recommendation of the commission.

Early in the meeting, commission members made it clear they had misgivings, and vice chairman Jay Muether – acting for absent chairman Scott Movshin – asked whether the developers desired a postponement to address the city’s concerns.

“You’re going to get a ‘no’ vote,” Muether said.

But the developers’ attorney, Tom Hart, after conferring with Reardon, told commission members they desired to continue.

Each of the six commission members, in varying detail, explained their reason for rejecting the proposal.

“It’s just the wrong site for you,” Muether said.

Mayor Don Schonhardt, a commission member, said in comments preceding his vote that he desired Swensons in the community but not at the proposed site.

Schonhardt said the site must be viewed “holistically” and that the adjacent school building might not always be there.

“This is just the wrong location but I can’t convince you on that,” commission member Bill Uttley said. “You’ve got to be able to find a better location.”

John Talentino, a city planner for Hilliard, told commission members the proposal was “not consistent” with the city’s standards for building materials, signs and tree replacements, and staff members also had concerns about the traffic plan.

“From a traffic standpoint, staff has expressed concern about the location of a high-trip generating use at this location,” Letty Schamp, the deputy city engineer, said previously.

Six single-family homes are on the south side of Cemetery Road – across from the proposed site – and westbound motorists entering these driveways currently do so using the center turning lane, Schamp said.

The proposed restaurant on the north side of Cemetery Road would cause more eastbound motorists to use the lane for left turns into the new site, she said.

“During nonpeak periods, this is not expected to present a problem; however, this will result in greater conflict during the afternoon peak period, potentially pushing the westbound left-turning lane into the westbound through lane,” Schamp said.

Further, Talentino said, the property’s B-3 zoning, while allowing for full-service restaurants, prohibits those with drive-thru or drive-in features.

Talentino told staff members he believed the developers were seeking a PUD rezoning to avoid the limitations of the B-3 district.

Meanwhile, Hart, speaking after the meeting, told ThisWeek a full-service restaurant would have a greater impact than the use the developers are suggesting.

Jeff Flowers, CEO of Swensons, and Ron Dee, vice president of real estate for the company based in northeast Ohio, outlined their proposal before the vote.

Founded in 1934 and with only eight locations – a ninth is scheduled to open later this year on Sawmill Road, the first in central Ohio – the company is “very selective,” Flowers said.

“We are excited to be a part (of Hilliard) and hope to make it happen,” he said.

Dee, in response to the staff report, said Swensons worked hard to create “a unique design” that appeals to its customers, a “retro” look reminds senior citizens of their childhood and that millennials haven’t before seen.

In addition to the drive-in restaurant, the developers would build a new sidewalk on the east side of the driveway entrance to J.W. Reason and relocate a sidewalk from the west side of the school driveway to the west side of the restaurant.

The site would have full turning access from Cemetery Road, as well as access to the school driveway, except during the arrival and departure of school buses in the morning and afternoon. At those times, a gate would prohibit access to the school driveway. How that would work in practice is unclear.

“A variable-access condition may result in driver confusion as vehicles attempt to enter the site from the school driveway and find it closed sometimes,” Schamp said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo

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Previous story:

A pair of developers said they would move forward with plans to open a Swensons Drive-In on Cemetery Road, despite the Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission rejecting the proposal Aug. 9.

“It’s just a recommendation. ... We will go to (Hilliard) City Council and win; we’ve done everything right,” said developer Tim Reardon, who is partners with Jamie Moore in 4810-4832 Cemetery Center LLC, after the commission voted 6-0 to reject the rezoning required for the restaurant to open.

Mayor Don Schonhardt, a commission member, said in comments preceding his vote that he desired Swensons in the community but not at the proposed site.

The proposed Swensons is immediately west of the entrance to J.W. Reason Elementary School, 4790 Cemetery Road. The restaurant would be built at 4810 Cemetery Road, according to the application.

Schonhardt said the site must be viewed “holistically” and that the adjacent school building might not always be there.

“This is just the wrong location but I can’t convince you on that," commission member Bill Uttley said. "You’ve got to be able to find a better location."

City Council will have final say in the matter but a two-thirds majority – or five of  seven members – would be required to overturn the negative recommendation of the planning-and-zoning commission.

The sock-hop-style drive-in restaurant would have no indoor or outdoor seating, Reardon said.

Orders would be delivered to vehicles to be consumed there or taken to go.

Read the full story in the Aug. 16 edition of the ThisWeek Hilliard Northwest News and online at ThisWeekNEWS.com/Hilliard.

 kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo