LIMA — The Bath Township Zoning Commission heard the public during its Tuesday night public hearing that addressed the rezoning of five properties northeast of the intersection of Willard Avenue and Harding Highway.
In a 3-1 vote, the commission recommended to keep the parcels as residential, effectively putting up a potential obstacle for applicant Joe Smiley, a Columbus-based owner of development company Land Strategies, who asked for them to be rezoned as commercial. But the move was mostly symbolic as the Bath Township Board of Trustees has the final decision that could affect what Smiley says is a $1.3 million investment into the area.
Roughly 50 Bath Township residents, most of them from the Lost Creek area, came out to the meeting to make public comment about traffic concerns, potential disruptions to a quiet neighborhood and the lack of plans by Smiley as to what businesses will be moving into the area.
Many residents had lived in the region for decades, and the majority were vocal against the rezoning.
Smiley tried to address their concerns before public comment began — laying out his career of development in Columbus and how he would be willing to provide forested buffer zones between the residents and the businesses that would set up shot at the corner.
“We’re not here to hurt anybody; I just want everyone to know that. That’s not our goal,” Smiley said.
Those in attendance weren’t impressed. Ruth Hollenbacher, president of the Lost Creek Neighborhood Association and prior fiscal officer for the township, led the opposition to the rezoning.
”The best argument to not allow this is Speedway,” she said.
“You can put anything in there you want, but if there’s lights shining through my windows at night, I’m going to shoot them out,” Bath resident John Martin said.
Before the final vote, Smiley addressed a few of the concerns that he had heard during the hour-long volley of negative public comments thrown his way. He said that a median could help decrease the problem of Speedway, properties south of Harding Highway closed down because of lack of access and a buffer zone could help reduce residents being bothered by any commercial businesses. As for the danger of the intersection, he said the Ohio Department of Transportation reported six injuries at that location in the last three years.
“I wish there was another vehicle to address these comments,” Smiley said.
“I do think there are real valid concerns from the neighborhood, but I think there’s also lot to be said that these lots against [state Route] 309, they are prime for commercial development. And if we don’t recognize that and try to address it, you’re not going to see positive development in the neighborhood,” Commission Chairman Ian Kohli said. Kohli was the single no vote for the recommendation. Earlier in the night, he made a motion to rezone the properties as commercial, which failed to get a second.
The rezoning issue will be heard by the Bath Township Board of Trustees at a date to be announced.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.