Rezoning could bring office flex warehouse, 200 jobs to Canal Winchester

Scott Gerfen
ThisWeek
Tenby Partners LLC is developing this building in Lewis Center along U.S. Route 23 and a similar building could be built in Canal Winchester if City Council approves rezoning  general-commercial use to limited manufacturing.

A Columbus developer wants Canal Winchester City Council to rezone land on the south side of Winchester Boulevard to make way for an office flex warehouse that could bring as many as 200 jobs. 

Tenby Partners LLC wants approximately 11 acres to be rezoned from general-commercial use to limited manufacturing so the company can move forward with constructing a 145,152-square-foot building. 

“This site currently produces little tax revenue to support the community,” city Development Director Lucas Haire told council during an April 5 public hearing. “Developing the site for industrial use will lead to significant revenue being produced through the collection of local real estate and income taxes. These taxes will be a net positive, considering the low impact on public services that industrial uses require.” 

The rezoning request received the first of three readings during the meeting. 

“Many communities in central Ohio and throughout Ohio are funding these projects on the taxpayers’ dime, because they want a spec building, because that’s what it takes to create jobs,” Councilman Bob Clark said. “We have now a private investor, and we don’t have to go out and spend taxpayer dollars to develop this building and get the benefit of 150-200 jobs into this market.” 

Haire noted during the public hearing that the land was planned as a site for industrial development for about 30 years until it was rezoned in 2002 to general commercial in order to match development in the nearby Winchester Square, which houses many retail stores and dining options. 

The site also is within a community reinvestment area and is one of the last remaining undeveloped properties that allow for a 15-year, 100% property tax exemption, Haire said. 

The project would target “small to midsize businesses,” with “an office in the front and warehouse in the back,” Tenby Partners partner Brant Murdock said during the public hearing. 

“What we’ve found is the demand for this kind of product is hitting its prime,” he said. “The idea of a flex building was something you didn’t hear about much, call it 10 years ago. However, it’s gaining steam for a lot of reasons.” 

One reason is the continued e-commerce boom during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, he said. 

The firm is developing similar buildings in Lewis Center along U.S. Route 23. Murdock said an agreement has been signed for one site with a publicly traded healthcare company that has a research and development lab. 

When asked by council Vice President Mike Coolman about the potential wages for jobs created by the project, Murdock mentioned an average salary of $55,000 with positions ranging from CEOs to hourly workers. 

In February, the Canal Winchester Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended that council approve the rezoning request if Tenby Partners “complies with the recommendations for the municipal engineer in regard to traffic improvements required due to the impacts of the proposed development.” 

Residents expressed concerns about increased traffic during the hearing. 

“How many semitruck docks are available?” Carla Dolan asked. “How many semis are going to be coming into and out of the area? We already have a major problem. Now there’s potentially more.” 

Haire said Tenby Partners has completed a traffic study of the area, which is being reviewed by EMH&T, the city’s traffic engineer. 

To keep its project moving, Tenby Partners also has agreed to compensate the city $124,200 for the removal of 292 “major trees” on the property.

City code requires that each tree greater than 6 inches in diameter must be maintained, and if removed as part of an approved landscaping plan, it must be replaced with the number of trees dependent on the size of the tree removed.

A survey by Tenby Partners estimated that it would need to plant 414 trees with a minimum diameter of 2.5 inches.

Initially, the company sought a variance from the city code and proposed replacing 100 trees on the site and paying the city $30,000 for an additional 100 trees to be planted elsewhere in the city.

In March, the planning and zoning commission voted 3-2 in favor of the variance. However, four “yes” votes are required for approval.

Also, Ohio has restrictions on tree clearing from April 1 to Sept. 30 to protect the endangered Indiana bat, meaning the site would need to be cleared before City Council would have an opportunity to consider the variance.

Resident Brandon Hord noted during council’s public hearing that the project was “bulldozing a small forest” for another “flex building or warehouse in our community.”

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