The developer of a 27 acre Northridge Crossing Shopping Center in Westerville, Ohio, withdrew his plans one year ago — but now he’s baaaaack. His plan now has a Wal-Mart with 5 acres of floor space, and a parking lot big enough to fit 1,300 cars. “This will be an attractive addition,” the developer told city officials, “and it won’t be merely a large building and asphalt parking lot.” But that’s exactly all local residents will see. The proposed Wal-Mart would be near a Meijer’s discount store now under construction, and a shopping center with a Kroger grocery. Neighbor Amy Williams, who is leading opposition to the plan, told The Columbus Dispatch that she worries what will happen if one of these stores fails. The City’s Planning Commission unanimously opposed the Northridge Crossing Wal-Mart. The Commission said the plan lacked the imaginative design and creativity envisioned in the city’s development code. “It’s hard to see how a building of this size on this relatively small site can be deemed ‘imaginative site design'” the Commission said. “The site will be totally dominated by the Wal-Mart building, which is over 84% of the space. Basically it will be a big gap in the kind of streetscape we’d like to see there.” But the developer says he’s planning to have 2 ponds by the entrance, a decorative red brick tower, a fountain, trees, and earth mounds ranging from 8 feet high to 30 inches high. “Headlights from cars on the site will not be seen on the street,” the developer boasted.
The city of Westerville has every reason to block this Wal-Mart project. The City spent years developing a plan for the northern entry into the city, and this big box development, with its 8 foot high wall of earth, simply violates many of the provisions of that plan. The developer produced his own economic impact survey that promises nearly $900,000 a year in income and real estate taxes, but such a study bears little credibility, coming directly from the developer’s hands, and it begs the main question about why the plan does not meet the development code. To the developer, he sees an attractive store with ponds and a fountain. But to many residents, its just another sea of asphalt surrounded by a wall of concrete. The Planning Commission called it right: this is just a big gap in the city’s plans for its future.