The Northgate Commerce District drew a crowd — most of them from outside Sunbury — to last week’s Sunbury Village Council meeting.
A public hearing for a zoning change — as well as the first reading of an ordinance for the change — was on council’s agenda last Wednesday.
Representing Northgate were developer Pat Shively, attorney Glenn Dugger and Greg Chillog of the landscape development firm EDGE.
Members of the public present were from the Estates at Cheshire, located immediately south of the 250 acres where Northgate Commerce District and a proposed southern Interstate 71 interchange will be built. Chris Rinehart of Rinehart Legal Services was in attendance, speaking for the Estates at Cheshire residents.
The Ohio Department of Transportation has determined that I-71 interchange improvements west of Sunbury would be south of the existing Routes 36/37 interchange. An “intersection modification feasibility study” is underway. A southern I-71 interchange would be in the vicinity of the abandoned ODOT weigh station south of the existing interchange.
Shively and his Northgate Center partners recently received a nod of approval from members of the Village Planning & Zoning Commission for a change from agricultural zoning to a planned commercial district zone for 250 acres of the 628 acres recently annexed into the village. Annexations during the past year extend the village as far west as 3 B’s and K Road.
Northgate’s zoning change request is for an initial commercial development east of I-71 that would connect to the village by a new road built entirely on recently annexed land — Sunbury Parkway.
“There will be uniform landscaping, uniform signage and a freeway-type commercial district developed using best practices, with standards above and beyond what’s in Sunbury zoning,” Dugger said. “Sub Area B, next to the Estates at Cheshire, has additional setbacks and height standards. This is a very comprehensive attempt on our part to deliver a quality result.”
Dugger said the Northgate project works from a financial standpoint, and would provide an initial first impression as a doorway to Sunbury.
“We’ve been very busy creating qualitative elements,” Dugger said. “We’ve addressed setback concerns and tweaked the rear loading docks so they wouldn’t be visible from the public right of way.”
Dugger said project designs show a big picture view, and that final uses will be determined as Northgate develops.
“Any final use would have to come back before zoning,” Dugger said.
Sunbury Mayor Tommy Hatfield noted members of the village zoning commission approved the zoning change, contingent on final legal and engineering review.
“We’ve approved a Northgate New Community Authority, and we need to get this zoning done for those processes to continue,” Hatfield said. “We do have some urgency for ourselves as a village and the school district.”
Rinehart said the proposed zoning change did not allow for a two-step development plan; that approving the zoning change would allow the development as proposed in preliminary drawings.
“These issues cannot be deferred; my clients feel this development plan is deficient,” Rinehart said. “My clients feel the rezoning cannot be approved until the southern intersection and Sunbury Parkway are approved.
“My clients understand that development is going to come,” Rinehart continued. “We recommend that the zoning change be remanded back to the zoning commission to address their concerns. We also ask, if possible, that it’s not passed as an emergency so it could be subject to a referendum.”
Estates at Cheshire resident Paul Young said the process was going too fast, and the concerns of residents living in his development were not being addressed.
“And it’s not just us,” Young said. “This is a very big development that’s going to affect a lot of people. Mr. Shively and his group said they intend to put up a first-class commercial development, but what happens if Mr. Shively goes away?”