A proposal for a food-truck-supplied restaurant and microbrewery at 6678 Central College Road in New Albany failed to gain support from any New Albany Planning Commission members Feb. 19.

But New Albany City Council will have final say on the rezoning, according to city officials, though it is unclear when that will be.

The proposal has been the subject of local discussion – and debate – for more than a month.

In early January, a business entity comprising New Albany resident Brian Hamrick, his business associate, Joe Dwyer, and two other individuals who have been involved in various restaurants around central Ohio announced plans to repurpose the building owned by the New Albany Lions Club, according to attorney Aaron Underhill, the group’s legal representative.

The building, which has been there since 1836, is used for Lions Club functions and as a location for a church on a month-to-month basis, Underhill said.

The land would need to be rezoned from agricultural to infill-planned-unit development for the project, which is on 0.93 acre northeast of and adjacent to the intersection of Central College Road and state Route 605, according to the project application submitted to the planning commission. The applicant listed is TFTFP LLC, which Dwyer created in December 2017, according to the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office.

However, because of some initial concerns over the location and other matters, as well as being turned down Jan. 15 by the Rocky Fork-Blacklick Accord Implementation Panel, the proposal was tabled Jan. 21 at the request of the applicants.

At the time, Underhill said, they thought it best to take another month to continue to evaluate the project and see how they could improve it to address concerns.

But the result Feb. 19 was a 4-0 vote against the rezoning request, with commission member Brad Shockey absent.

The negative vote is a recommendation to City Council members, who will take final action on the rezoning application, said Stephen Mayer, New Albany’s development-services manager. 

Mayer said the city has no immediate timeline for when council would hear the rezoning request.

If council approves the rezoning, the project would return to planning commission members, who would have to review a final development plan, he said.

The project has elicited concerns, including about parking, traffic and operations affecting neighbors, from residents and planning commission members. Rocky Fork-Blacklick Accord Implementation Panel members cited similar concerns, Mayer said.

Planning commission chairman Neil Kirby said the space was too small for the type of use, and the space lacked enough of a buffer between the venue and neighboring homes.

Commission member Andrea Wiltrout said she thought the plan was good, but it was “so close” to neighbors.

“I just could not do that to people who have been living in New Albany for as long as they have,” Wiltrout said.

Commission member Hans Schell said he liked the concept, but he voted against the project because of neighbors' opposition to it.

Commission member David Wallace said that although the applicant’s desire to save a historical structure was a good thing, he voted against the rezoning request because the site is so close to residents and is small.

Meanwhile, resident Christopher Haag, who lives behind the church building on Route 605 and started an opposition website Jan. 8, listed the proximity of neighbors, traffic and parking among his concerns.

He told commission members Feb. 19 that a petition circulating against the the project had gained 216 signatures, with most of them being neighbors.

“The folks that live in this area are the most impacted,” Haag said.

Resident Lawrence Cohen said traffic and proximity to residents also concern him.

The commercial use for the site would not fit with the residential environment, Cohen said.

Another resident, Brad Griffith, said although the plans were the best possible for a bar at the location, he would much rather see an office use for the building.

Mayer said the applicants already have made several changes to the proposal to reflect residents’ concerns.

Underhill said those changes included:

• Relocating the outdoor deck from the east side of the building to the west side.

• Increasing parking to 47 spaces to be compliant with city code.

• Extending a privacy fence on the northern boundary line westward so it extends slightly beyond the deck.

• Reducing the permitted number of food trucks to two at all times.

• Adding a requirement that the building’s interior and the deck must close by midnight. Food trucks, he said, must cease operation earlier than that.

Underhill also said the business would prohibit special events that could keep the establishment open later than normal.

City staff members support the rezoning request and have recommended approval with specific conditions, Mayer said.

Mayer said staff members have 15 conditions for approval. They include:

• Streetlight types, fixtures and locations would be evaluated at the time of a final development plan.

• Baseline background noise must be established prior to construction.

• The “proposed arborvitae screening” must be installed facing the neighboring properties.

• No special events are permitted.

• A 10-foot privacy fence must be installed along the northern property line to provide screening for a deck.

• The applicants must work with a neighbor to minimize the impact to the trees during fence installation.

• No outdoor televisions are permitted.

• No smoking is permitted on the deck.

• A submitted traffic study must be reviewed and approved by the city engineer prior to the application being heard by the planning commission.

• No live music is permitted.