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Published: Wednesday, 6/20/2001

Gerken: Wal-Mart not bound for Alexis

BY LISA A. ABRAHAM
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Is Toledo city council, which is opposed to a potential Wal-Mart in South Toledo, opening the door for one on Alexis Road?

Councilman Pete Gerken says no, and he says council will get that in writing.

Mr. Gerken addressed concerns yesterday that have come up since council voiced its approval last week to a plan by the Benchmark Group of Amherst, N.Y., for a development on Alexis Road near Lewis Avenue.

Council is expected to vote Tuesday to grant Benchmark a zoning change for vacant land off Alexis, where the developer is expected to build a home improvement center. The vote would change the zoning from residential to a restricted commercial class.

In addition, Benchmark plans to buy the shopping center where Ames is located on Alexis. The center, owned by Joseph Brothers Realty, is next to the vacant land on the north side of Alexis, just west of Lewis Avenue.

Mr. Gerken said the plan commission and members of a neighborhood coalition have questioned whether council has considered what Benchmark could do with the plaza, which is zoned an unrestricted commercial classification.

Mr. Gerken said Benchmark officials have pledged not to use the site for a Wal-Mart, a retailer that council members have expressed distaste for because its stores are nonunion. Council is delaying a vote on a zone change for the former Plaskon Products on Glendale Avenue, in part because of concerns that a Wal-Mart could be located there.

The question on Alexis Road is over the two different zoning classifications.

The Ames plaza is zoned C-3 or general commercial, a non-restrictive class that requires no prior review by the plan commission or city council before a business can locate there, as long as requirements for parking and the development's distance from the road are met.

The classification C-4, however, restricts development to shopping centers only and requires site plan review by the plan commission and approval from city council before construction can begin. It requires a detailed traffic study, according to Steve Herwat, director of the Toledo-Lucas County plan commissions.

Members of the Toledo plan commission, at their meeting last week, voiced concern over council's intent to approve Benchmark's zoning change request, which the commission twice rejected.

Mr. Herwat said plan commission members asked him to send a letter to council suggesting it require C-4 zoning for the entire site. He said the plan commission is concerned that part of the site is zoned C-3, because the city would have virtually no control over what goes there.

Mr. Gerken said Benchmark officials have agreed to put in writing their intent to seek a zoning change for the Ames plaza so it too would be C-4.

Benchmark and city officials are expected to be at a public meeting at 7 tonight at Kotz Hall at Regina Coeli parish to discuss the development.



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