The Berlin Township Zoning Commission recently approved a rezoning that would expand an existing car dealership along U.S. Route 23 in Lewis Center.
Celebration Kia, at 5342 Columbus Pike (just south of Columbus State’s Delaware campus), was seeking to modify an existing Planned Industrial District, and to rezone just over 4 acres from Farm Residential District to Planned Industrial District to expand the parking lot. Permitted PID uses include a car dealership. The owner is currently operating as a lessee out of the space.
Chairperson Steve Flaherty “said this was filed as two separate cases due to the way the land was done, but it is one large project,” the meeting minutes read. Due to differences in zoning, it couldn’t be consolidated into a single parcel.
Molly Gwin, attorney for the applicant, said the major modification was “to expand that existing use to add an additional service writeup area, a new car delivery center, additional service stalls near the rear of the building, and an enhanced car wash. Also proposed is an extension of the showroom to the north of the site and a reconfiguration of some of the existing parking.”
The current building is 16,770 square feet, and 11,400 square feet would be added. The total number of parking spaces would be about 500. There would be improved signage as well the use of downlighting. A prior divergence for off-street parking has been removed. Customer parking would be scattered throughout the site and around the building, and the product would be of higher visibility displayed around the perimeter.
“This is intended for inventory storage on the site,” Gwin said. “The operator is expanding, and they need more storage.” As soon as permits are approved, the parking lot construction would begin.
In addition, the applicant proposed an additional curb cut to the north of the site to allow for easier access and circulation. The minutes state the applicant had been in touch with the Ohio Department of Transportation, and it was determined the changes “likely do not require a traffic study for the inclusion of the curb cut.” Currently, there is no left hand turn into the property heading north. A traffic analysis indicated a turn lane would not be warranted until 2031.
During the commission’s consideration, it was said that 6.6 acres west of the property outside the subject plan was intended for drainage and water retention with a full retention pond, a storm sewer will be installed, and nonblocking mounding will separate the area.
There were also questions about the signage and landscaping. It was asked if a continuous row of shrubs could be used to shield headlights.
Commission members were concerned about traffic and the number of deliveries per week by tractor-trailers.
“Gwin said the applicant is fully committed to complying with all ODOT mandates,” the minutes read. In addition, the township’s fire department would be provided with design plans for its review and approval. Also, no cars would be parked in the right-of-way or to violate the parking setbacks.
Flaherty “noted that traffic is not a part of zoning.” Member Mike Bardash said, “This is an existing dealership (Byers) with 18-wheelers coming in off Route 23 for years.” Bardash also said, “Regarding the headlights, this is a car dealership and other than a few months out of the year, it is not even dark when they are open. The cars along Route 23 will be parked for customers to look at and their lights will not be on.”
The meeting was held virtually on Jan. 12, with the major modification approved on first application, followed by the rezoning. There were no comments from the public. The applicant was reminded by Zoning Inspector David Loveless that Berlin Township does not allow “feather flags” with advertisements.
The rezoning amendment will next go before the Berlin Township Board of Trustees in a virtual hearing at 7 p.m. Feb. 22. For more information, visit the township website at www.berlintwp.us.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.