All it took was roughly 6.5 feet to prevent Worthington City Council members from allowing WJI Enterprises Ltd. to construct an addition to Worthington Jewelers at 692 High St.

All it took was roughly 6.5 feet to prevent Worthington City Council members from allowing WJI Enterprises Ltd. to construct an addition to Worthington Jewelers at 692 High St.

After much discussion and debate during their Dec. 20 meeting, members moved to table the ordinance that would grant approval because the proposed structure would encroach upon the Worthington Village Green. Specifically, the construction would extend 6.5 feet north of the right-of-way line into the green and 1.5 feet west of the right of way into North High Street, according to development coordinator Lynda Bitar.

Though council members initially had discussed vacating the portion of the green, essentially giving the public city property to WJI Enterprises, some members said doing so would mean changing the boundaries of the green, thus requiring a supermajority (six of seven) vote by council, according to the city's charter.

According to Article XII, Section 12.01, of the charter, the green "shall not be used for any purpose other than enjoyment of populace." The six-sevenths vote by council would be necessary to "construct, install, erect or place a permanent structure" on the green and "alter, either by widening or narrowing, any of the paved surfaces of any roadway, street or drive located within the boundaries" of the green.

Council president Lou Goorey said he likes owner Joseph Davis and what he has done for downtown Worthington but that to validate any encroachment upon the green would violate his oath as council president.

"I think any encroachment is not something I would vote for," Goorey said, saying the allowance could create a precedent of repeatedly allocating portions of the green to additional businesses. "It's a slippery slope."

The Architectural Review Board approved an application for the addition on Dec. 9.

Davis addressed council about the research he had completed on structures with similar right-of-way issues but admitted he understood the approval process would be tricky.

"I apologize for opening up a can of worms," Davis told council members.

Davis told ThisWeek he wouldn't be comfortable in commenting until after the process had reached completion.

Peter Lenz, the initial architect to the project, said this project was one of the toughest he's seen. Stressing transparency, Lenz described the work he had done to find similar buildings with right-of-way issues.

"I've done so much history on this site, it isn't funny," Lenz said.

According to research conducted by WJI Enterprises staff, council approved a building at 374 E. Dublin-Granville Road to encroach into public right of way in 1986.

Still, council members and others couldn't reach a consensus about the jewelry store's expansion and questioned any possible precedents set by similar situations in the past.

City law director Mike Minister said the charter doesn't prohibit the vacating of property per se, but some council members disagreed.

Council member Scott Myers said to vacate the property in question would be to change the boundaries of the green.

"We are effectively amending the charter by vacating that property," Myers said.

Council member David Norstrom questioned the project's initial design, describing it as flawed. The building could've been designed without going into the green, he said.

"If it had been done right in the beginning, we wouldn't even be here," Norstrom said. He eventually proposed to table the issue, saying council needs more time to figure out how to find a solution.

President pro-tem Bonnie Michael and council members Bob Chosy and Mike Duffey opposed the motion.

Duffey, who will conclude his service to the council upon becoming representative to the 21st Ohio House District in January, called on fellow council members to finish the project at 692 High St. Holding the project would affect business for Worthington Jewelers and could kill the project entirely, he said, asking council members why they would want to retain a patch of grass that isn't being put to use.

"What are we fighting for?" Duffey asked, challenging council members on what use they would want for the land.

"That land is fine just the way it is," Norstrom said.

Though Davis said he was unaware that the proposed building addition encroached upon the green, Norstrom stressed the adherence to set regulations.

"Ignorance is no excuse for complying with our requirements," Norstrom told Davis.

Some community members also spoke on behalf of the jewelers.

Brett Holland of Worthington cited community support for the building addition.

"There's got to be a creative way to get around this," Holland told council.

Worthington resident Jim Ventresca also urged council to grant encroachment.

Lenz said the project has been in production since April. "I feel sorry for Joe (Davis)," Lenz told ThisWeek. "He's just bleeding dollars on this. It's ridiculous."

In other matters, council:

Expressed appreciation and best wishes to Duffey for his "outstanding service as a member of city council and for his service to the community."

Approved a 75-percent tax exemption to 900 Proprietors LLC, specifically to extend the abatement period through Dec. 31 for a dentist's office at 900 Proprietors Road that was completed after the year-end project deadline of 2009.

Approved an agreement with the Perry Township trustees for the use of mutual-aid services. The services, though not required by the agreement, would give the city of Worthington and Perry Township the opportunity to share staff resources in the event of a shortage of city personnel. No money would be exchanged, and Worthington would not pay workers overtime to work in Perry.

Approved a resolution to transfer previously appropriated funds to adjust the annual budget.