LIMA — After roughly 50 concerned citizens visited the Shawnee Township Zoning Board of Appeals conference room Tuesday to voice their opinions, a motion to rezone a property that was to be a potential Casey’s General Store floundered after never receiving a second.
Last October, Casey’s General Store had begun its planning to set up shop at 2800 Shawnee Road, a property just across from Shawnee United Methodist Church. At the time, church members voiced their opinions about the proposed use at a zoning board meeting, and they cited concerns of alcohol, tobacco and lottery sales so close to the church and the schools in the area.
This meeting saw a high turnout as well, except Zoning Board Chairman Earl Weigt made it clear that Tuesday’s meeting concerned the approval of variances and not dealing with public concern about liquor sales.
“This is the zoning board bible,” Wiegt said while holding up a zoning board book of laws. “This is what we have to go by, even if there’s a church there.”
In response, citizens tweaked their concerns to the board. Some claimed that the traffic studies were done at less than peak traffic times. Others were concerned with property lines, the size of the lot, construction of ramps in and out of the property and potential underground hazards. But the message was clear: locals did not want a Casey’s General Store on that lot.
Zoning board member Thomas Bowman made a motion to rezone the property to allow the gas station to begin construction, but no other board member took up the second, which ended any discussion on the matter.
“After seen approval by state, county, regulations, rules and bylaws, there’s almost something we have to keep in mind and we have to deal with,” Tom Spieles, owner of the lot, said at the beginning of the hearing. “They’re called neighbors.”
“I have no doubt about, if I’m Mr. Casey, and I’m on this side of the street and I look over to the church — as far as the walk I’ve had in my faith — I’d see welcome. Because that’s what the Lord has always said. If there were differences, he was always able to work them out for us,” Spieles said.
The gathered members of the public didn’t seem to buy it.
“It’s an eyesore, and if you want to talk about neighbors. Neighbors don’t put up an eyesore,” William Wells said.
“Everything that’s the church has done over the course of its history is to be the best neighbor it could be,” Shawnee United Methodist Church Pastor Bryan Bucher said. “Speaking as a neighbor, quite frankly, the fact that you’re asking for a variance is that it’s too big for that piece of property.”
As for Casey’s General Store, it remains to be seen what the company might do. Representatives of the company didn’t wish to comment.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.