City Council OKs rezoning for office flex building in Canal Winchester

Scott Gerfen
ThisWeek
Canal Winchester City Council approved Tenby Partners LLC’s request to rezone approximately 11 acres from general commercial use to limited manufacturing so the company can move ahead with plans for a building of more than 145,000 square feet, similar to this building in Lewis Center along U.S. Route 23.

A Columbus developer received approval from Canal Winchester City Council May 17 to rezone land on the south side of Winchester Boulevard, where a proposed office flex warehouse could bring as many as 200 jobs to the city. 

Council approved Tenby Partners LLC’s request to rezone approximately 11 acres from general commercial use to limited manufacturing so the company can move ahead with plans for a building of more than 145,000 square feet. 

The vote was 6-1, with Councilman Pat Lynch voting against the request. 

He questioned the city’s desire for another “warehouse” in the community, referring to the large-scale “spec” buildings that The Opus Group constructed at 5080 Gender Road. 

“What’s to make your facility different than what’s across the street?” Lynch asked Tenby Partners partner Brant Murdock, who fielded questions from council members before the vote. 

“I have concerns that we stop ‘cute and quaint’ and we’re suddenly in a warehouse district all behind there,” Councilwoman Jill Amos said. “If we go with limited manufacturing … how are you going to make sure this doesn’t turn into an industrial nightmare, with pallets of stuff sitting in front of windows?” 

Murdock explained that the structure would have a “warehouse-y look,” but it was “going to look quite different than what’s across the street,” referring to The Opus Group buildings. 

“You can ‘lipstick it up’ only so much, even though there are offices up front,” he said. “There is a healthy balance.” 

The project is designed to target small to midsize businesses, with office space in the front and warehouse space in the back. 

Tenby Partners LLC is developing similar buildings in Lewis Center along U.S. Route 23. An agreement has been signed for one site with a publicly traded healthcare company that has a research-and-development lab. 

When asked about potential wages for jobs created by the project during a public hearing in April, Murdock mentioned an average salary of $55,000, with positions ranging from CEOs to hourly workers. 

Council Vice President Mike Coolman noted the financial comparison to The Opus Group project and its potential impacts on city income tax revenue. 

“(The Opus Group’s) first tenant that’s only occupying 30% of the square footage is bringing us $2.2 million in payroll,” he said. “That is huge. It’s future revenue. And this product is going to bring the same type of job structure.” 

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

City engineers are working with the firm on a proposal to add a through lane at the intersection of Winchester Boulevard and Gender Road to help alleviate traffic, city Development Director Lucas Haire said. 

Tenby Partners LLC 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.   

Mayor, council salaries  

The salaries for Canal Winchester’s mayor and City Council members would remain unchanged for the next two years under legislation that received the first of three readings during council’s May 17 meeting. 

Mayor Mike Ebert will be paid $100,842 this year after council in June 2019 approved a 2.5% pay increase in both 2020 and 2021. 

The mayor's benefits package also includes $500 per month in compensation for the use of his personal vehicle in conducting city business. 

Every two years, council must vote on legislation by July 1, setting the salaries and benefits for the mayor and the city's seven elected council members. Changes then take effect the following year after a council election is held. 

Council members are paid $6,592 annually, with the council president receiving $7,251 and the council vice president receiving $6,921. They last received a raise of 3% in 2016. 

Anti-racism resolution approved 

Following months of discussion and debate, City Council unanimously approved an anti-racism resolution May 17. 

The “resolution to our commitment to equity” condemns racism and discrimination “in all forms” and encourages diversity, equity and inclusion “among all, including but not limited to community partners, grantees, vendors and contractors.” 

It also promotes “unity with due respect to the equity, inclusion and diversity of all thoughts, beliefs and demographics.” 

The resolution states that council “believes” city administrators and elected officials should “seek out or continue to attend” training on diversity, equity and inclusion and training about “implicit biases, including racism, and how to mitigate them.” 

The resolution is available online at canalwinchesterohio.gov in the agenda center for council. 

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