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Developer considers scaled-back form of plan

A proposed commercial development near a residential neighborhood in Waterville may be scaled back to address some concerns raised by opponents of the project.

Kevin X. Smith, manager of real estate development with the Bostleman firm in Maumee, said the company will consider reducing the scope of the project as options are being considered.

However, he said he needs to discuss the scaled-back option with the land owner, the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, to find out the diocese's “needs, wants, and desires.” Bostleman has a contract to buy the 7.78-acre parcel at the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Waterville-Monclova Road. The developer plans to build a commercial center that would include a Fifth Third Bank branch.

During a meeting with residents last week, opponents of the project asked if plans could be changed to reduce the impact on people living near the site.

Vladimir Nagorny, who lives on Waterville-Monclova Road, said he prefers to view homes rather than stores when he looks out his front window. Mr. Nagorny helped gather signatures on referendum petitions that could result in a public vote on a zoning change for a portion of the parcel. Petitions were submitted to the clerk of council last week, and then forwarded to the Lucas County board of elections for review.

No site plan has been submitted yet, but the retail center would have an “old downtown streetscape look,” Mr. Smith said.

Plans now call for the construction of two commercial buildings, each featuring 8,000 square feet of space - two to four tenants could locate in each of the buildings. Retail stores could include restaurants, a dry cleaners, or specialty food stores, for instance.

The 3,500-square-foot Fifth Third Bank building could have three drive-through lanes and a drive-through lane for the ATM, Mr. Smith said.

Estimated investment, including purchase price for the land and construction of the buildings, is $5 million, he said.

Residents have complained that the new stores and bank would increase traffic at the intersection - a traffic light will be installed there in the coming weeks because of the already heavy traffic - but Mr. Smith said the shopping center would divert traffic, not generate it.

Constructing a neighborhood retail center at the location is a “very responsible use” of the land, Mr. Smith said.

Some residents contend that keeping the property zoned residential rather than commercial is a better fit for the small town.

Of the 7.78 acres Bostleman plans to purchase, 3.45 acres would be set aside for a residential development. Bostleman has no intention of seeking a zoning change to turn that portion into commercial property, Mr. Smith said.

Last month Waterville council approved the developer's request to change zoning from residential to commercial on the proposed site of the retail shops and bank. It was the second vote on the zoning issue.

During council's meeting Oct. 22, four members voted against the rezoning, and three members voted in favor of the measure. Mayor M. David Myerholtz had told council that “It takes at least five `no' votes to overturn the planning commission's recommendation to approve” the zoning change. Based on the 4-3 vote, the zoning change was declared to have been approved.

However, Keith Wilkowski, village solicitor, later advised council that the zoning change had not been approved because a majority of council (four members) must vote in favor of any ordinance enacting a zoning change in order for the ordinance to be adopted.

In October, Norm Witzler, Ann Cherry, Tim Pedro, and Edward Winzeler voted against the zoning change. Voting yes were Joe Beckler, Mayor Myerholtz, and Tim Guzman.

The vote last month was approved 5-2 with Mr. Witzler and Mrs. Brodie voting against the zoning change. Mr. Pedro is no longer on council. Mrs. Cherry switched her vote as did Mr. Winzeler.

During council's meeting last week, Mr. Winzeler said that he did not do the proper thing when he voted the first time against the zoning change. He explained that some “old feelings” had surfaced because more than 20 years ago he had a pharmacy in downtown Waterville, but the pharmacy as well as other nearby stores went out of business after the new Food Town store and a drug store opened in a plaza across the street from the proposed Bostleman development.

Commenting on the referendum petitions, Mr. Winzeler said that he welcomes input from the community on the zoning issue, noting that council sometimes makes wrong decisions.

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