Hilliard City Schools officials and the developers of Swensons Drive-In are working toward an agreement concerning the placement of crosswalks and sidewalks at J.W. Reason Elementary School, 4790 Cemetery Road.
However, a Feb. 6 meeting with district officials – including Deputy Superintendent Mike McDonough – "didn't resolve anything," said Tim Reardon, a managing partner of New Start Development.
Reardon and his partner, Jamie Moore of Dublin-based Crawford Hoying, founded a limited-liability company to construct the Swensons Drive-In on the north side of Cemetery Road, immediately west of the J.W. Reason driveway.
Hilliard City Council on Jan. 28 voted 5-2 to approve the planned-unit-development rezoning required for the construction of the drive-in, overturning a negative recommendation that the city’s planning and zoning commission had issued in August.
But now that Swensons has been approved, the developers are working with school district officials to compete a final development plan.
The final development plan does not require City Council approval, said city planner John Talentino.
“The school district was given three options (and officials said they) would get back in touch,” Reardon said.
District officials are scheduled to meet with the developers March 1, he said.
Reardon said he would not discuss the options in detail while they remained under consideration but confirmed it is possible a sidewalk in question could remain in place.
The proposal City Council approved Jan. 28 differed from what the commission considered in August, but though it was acceptable to City Council, another issue arose.
As proposed, and according to an agreement developers and the school district reached in August, a sidewalk on the west side of the school’s driveway will be removed and a new sidewalk built on the east side of the school’s driveway.
Another sidewalk also will be built on the west side of the Swensons, between the restaurant and the Cemetery Road Church of Christ to the immediate west of Swensons, 4840 Cemetery Road.
“The agreement provides sidewalks on both the east side and west side of the property, access controls during school hours and (annual) maintenance support for the access to the driveway,” Superintendent John Marschhausen said about the August agreement.
However, it appears the fact the crosswalk on Cemetery Road would not align with a sidewalk with a direct path to the school was not questioned publicly until Jan. 28.
City leaders expressed uncertainty whether district officials were satisfied with the proposed location of the crosswalk and sidewalks and who would be financially responsible if any changes were desired.
Letty Schamp, Hilliard’s deputy engineer, said as proposed, a second crossing guard likely would be required for students crossing the driveway to the new sidewalk on the east side of the driveway.
“If (district leaders) are comfortable with it, then we’re OK with it (but it’s) not a preferred design,” Schamp told council members Jan. 28.
Former council President Albert Iosue said he was concerned about the uncertainty but he voted in favor of the drive-in restaurant’s construction after Tom Hart, an attorney representing the developers, added a condition that the city would not pay for any modifications resulting from changes in the final development plan. (Iosue resigned Feb. 10.)
Council member Tom Baker, who with Nathan Painter voted against the rezoning application, said he remains opposed to the project.
“First and foremost, I do not want Cemetery Road to turn into a Hilliard-Rome Road,” Baker said. “My vision is for the remainder of any commercial lots west of the old library (at 4772 Cemetery Road) to be low-impact offices. Secondly, having it in front of the school has never felt right for me. When you have to make so many modifications to make it work, that tells me it isn’t a good idea."
When asked if the district would require a relocated crosswalk, district spokeswoman Stacie Raterman said, “We will continue to work with the developers as we have been doing to ensure the safety of our students.”
If the crosswalk were to be relocated, how it would be funded remains unknown, but it is clear “the city isn’t paying” for any changes, Reardon said.
That much was also made clear Jan. 28 when City Council required the condition that it would not pay for any modifications resulting from changes in the final development plan.
The cost of a new crosswalk is not easily quantifiable, Schamp said.
If a crosswalk and pedestrian lights are added to the east side of the J.W. Reason driveway, their connection to the decades-old traffic signal would need evaluated, she said.
“We might be able to use the traffic light, but it might need to replaced,” Schamp said.
Swensons is a traditional burger-focused, drive-in-style restaurant, with no indoor or outdoor seating and no drive-thru, Reardon said. Orders would be delivered to vehicles to be consumed there or taken to go.
The first central Ohio Swensons, which was founded in 1934 in northeastern Ohio, opened on Sawmill Road near Dublin in November.
A second location opened Feb. 4 near Polaris Fashion Place in northeast Columbus.