Hilliard City Council brings pharmacy in violation of zoning code into compliance

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group

A pharmacy off Trueman Boulevard that had operated for about a year contrary to the applicable zoning code now is compliant per a Hilliard City Council decision May 10.

Council voted 5-2 to overturn the Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission's recommendation from April 8 to reject a proposal to allow the pharmacy.

At issue was Matrix Pharmacy, which since last spring has occupied a suite at 3775 Trueman Court, according to John Talentino, a city planner for Hilliard.

Hilliard City Hall is at 3800 Municipal Way.

City leaders learned of the pharmacy when it applied for sign permit last summer, Talentino said.

They decided not to order closure of the pharmacy because it could deprive people of access to medication during a pandemic and instead tried to find a way to reach compliance, he said.

The parcel is in what is known as the SOMA planned-unit development, a zoning text established in 1998 in advance of the development on Trueman Boulevard between Fishinger Boulevard and Davidson Road.

A "retail use" was not permitted on the 3-acre parcel that includes Matrix Pharmacy, but City Council on May 10 amended the subarea in the SOMA PUD zoning text to allow retail, with restrictions. Tom Baker and Les Carrier voted against a resolution for the amendment.

The restrictions would prevent Matrix Pharmacy, or any future tenant, from operating as a retail pharmacy, such as in the manner of a CVS Pharmacy, Talentino said.

For example, Matrix Pharmacy is not permitted to have any retail display of any kind, and the retail space is limited to 1,254 square feet, he said.

In addition, only pharmacy technicians are permitted behind the counter to retrieve prescription medication and any over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin, at a customer’s request, he said.

Rebecca Mott, an attorney representing Matrix Pharmacy, said the underlying zoning is not being changed and Matrix Pharmacy was seeking “a minor modification” to the zoning text.

Mott said Matrix Pharmacy mostly is a mail-order operation while also providing convenience to people whose physicians are in the same building.

Some council members appeared to find the restrictions sufficient.

“It’s not a retail model anyone would do,” Andy Teater said.

But Baker was skeptical.

“There is an evolution to businesses,” Baker said.

Residents from the adjacent subdivision to the east, Scioto Run, said the decision sets an undesirable precedence.

“You’re opening a can of worms,” said David Mueller of Scioto Run Boulevard.

Bill Gibson of Scioto Run Boulevard said the residents’ “No. 1” when the SOMA PUD was hammered out 20 years ago was “no retail,” adding that like any business, the pharmacy desires as many customers as possible.

Gibson said he was opposed to the allowing Matrix Pharmacy to continue operating because it overturned the recommendation of the planning and zoning commission, was contrary to a “hard-fought agreement” and the pharmacy “was asking forgiveness rather than permission.”

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo