Canal Winchester City Council has sided with residents who feared large illuminated signs proposed for a neighboring church would shine onto their homes.

Council members spent more than an hour in executive session July 6 before voting 4-2 to grant an appeal filed by Bigerton Bend resident Jeremy Ebert.

Council members Mike Coolman, Chuck Milliken, Will Bennett and Jill Amos voted yes, and council members Bob Clark and Pat Lynch voted no. Council President Mike Walker abstained.

Construction on the 58,000-square-foot, 1,200-seat Crossroads Christian Church -- better known as X Church -- at 6600 Bigerton Bend is nearly complete.

Ebert appealed a May 11 planning-and-zoning commission decision that permitted the church to erect internally lit signs on three sides of the building: a 10-by-10-foot sign on the north side facing a shopping area, a 6-by-27.1-foot sign on the west side facing Gender Road and a 6.6-by-29-foot sign on the east side facing Ebert's neighborhood.

"I would not be so opposed myself if the backlit sign on what I would call the front (would be) the back side of the building that faces Gender Road, like all of the businesses have," Ebert told council during a June 29 public hearing.

But he and other residents voiced concerns about the other signs that could affect their nearby homes.

"Maybe the signs will not reflect directly on the properties, but the illumination will certainly be visible and distract from the peace and tranquility of the area," Cherry Bend resident Barbara Goodman said during the public hearing.

Plans for the church were approved in 2017. However, Canal Winchester's zoning code was updated last year to allow only externally illuminated signs in residential districts, meaning a sign must have a light shining on it, not from it.

The church sits just south of the shopping centers along Gender Road, where internally illuminated signs are permitted. However, if a sign faces a residential area, it cannot be within 100 feet of those homes.

"The distance from the point of the building to the closest residence is through a wooded area and is in excess of 500 feet," city planning-and-zoning administrator Andrew Moore told City Council during the June 29 public hearing.

The planning-and-zoning commission approved the church's variance request for the internally lit signs in May by a 5-1 vote, with Bill Christensen, Michael Vasko, Brad Ritchey, Kevin Serna and Joe Wildenthaler voting yes and Joe Donahue voting no.

Tim Moore, the church's lead pastor, has described the signs as having "minimal light emission," with the face of each containing small perforations that allow for a "diffused soft white light" to be emitted during the evening hours.

Moore, who did not attend the July 6 council meeting, has said church officials are willing to place the sign facing homes on a timer. Meanwhile, city and church officials continue to work toward a solution.

City Council's July 6 meeting was its last before starting its annual summer recess. Its next regular meeting is scheduled for Aug. 3.

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