The owners of 70 acres at Bixby and Rager roads where a Kansas City developer plans to build two large industrial buildings no longer want their property located in Canal Winchester.
Teresa and Dale Schacht, whose family has farmed in the community for more than 150 years, intend to pursue an annexation agreement with Columbus after a citizens group collected enough signatures to get a referendum on the November ballot regarding warehouse development.
The referendum would allow voters to decide if council’s decision to rezone the property should stand so the project can proceed.
However, the referendum now may not appear on the ballot because the owners of the property in question want to de-annex it from the city.
City Council heard the first reading April 4 of an ordinance that would allow the Schachts to “detach/de-annex” their land from Canal Winchester.
“NorthPoint (Development Inc.) was willing to come in here and help build an interchange (at Bixby Road), add value to the community, and you ran them out of here like they did something wrong,” said Dale Schacht, who attended the meeting.
“Why would they want to come back? Why would any developer ever want to come to Canal Winchester again? I think you need to change your name to ‘Can’t Winchester’ because you can’t do a damn thing here.”
A pre-annexation agreement with Canal Winchester allows the Schachts to detach from the city if zoning approvals are “referred to the electorate for approval/referendum vote.”
If City Council were to deny the Schachts’ request, “it would place the city in jeopardy of a lawsuit,” city Law Director Thaddeus Boggs said.
Council Vice President Bob Clark said detachment would be “a real catastrophe for Canal Winchester when we now know that these are going to be built in Columbus. … It’s a no-brainer for them.”
Clark said annexing the Schachts’ property into Columbus would “open up 500 to 700 more acres on the other side of (U.S. Route) 33 that they will be able to … continue to annex and put more buildings that you don’t like, more apartments … and they will continue to do that.”
The Schachts’ decision means Canal Winchester stands to lose out on millions of dollars.
Representatives of NorthPoint Development Inc., which wants to construct two warehouses on the Schacht land, each more than 500,000 square feet, have said the $90 million investment would create 300 jobs and $14 million in payroll.
The buildings are supposed to be the second phase of NorthPoint’s Canal Crossing project. The company already has constructed two 430,000-square-foot warehouses on 110 acres along Bixby Road.
NorthPoint also had agreed to spend $1 million to widen 3,000 feet of Bixby Road; $500,000 to improve the Bixby Road and Winchester Pike intersection with an additional right-turn lane; and $500,000 for improvements at Winchester Pike and Gender Road.
Tim McElroy, NorthPoint’s vice president of development, praised City Council’s “thoughtful approach” to the project and said the firm already has had “informal discussions” with Columbus.
“They will welcome us with open arms,” he said. “Mark my word, (the land) will be developed in the city of Columbus.”
Council member Ashley Ward said she doesn’t believe that’s the case.
“I don’t think that a warehouse is going to be built there,” she said. “I know there are some who think this is a juicy opportunity and Columbus is going to snatch it up. But Columbus is slammed. Their development is so unbelievably busy.”
Ward was referring to Intel’s $20 billion project in Licking County and the development opportunities it brings to central Ohio.
Members of CW for SMART Growth-No More Warehouses!, the Facebook group behind the referendum, were back in front of council with their demands to slow industrial growth in the city until a comprehensive development plan is created.
The group’s organizer, Angie Halstead, said they have no intention of withdrawing the referendum and are prepared to do more.
“If we have to referendum another (warehouse development), we will,” Halstead told council. “I don’t understand why we’re not working together, you’re not working to fix what is going on here. (Warehouses) can’t be the only game in town, and with Intel coming in, it’s not. Have conversations. Work for us.”
Council member Patrick Shea asked council to support a resolution requesting Halstead’s group to withdraw the referendum.
The resolution ultimately failed.
“I campaigned to reduce the residents’ tax burden,” said Shea, who was elected in November. “This is the kind of project that reduces residents’ tax burden.”