By Timothy Cox
ST. MARYS -- A public hearing has been set for the zoning of newly annexed land that could pave the way for a new commercial-residential development likely anchored by a Kroger supermarket.
There are a number of engineering obstacles to overcome before the project can proceed and some neighbors of the 64-acre parcel at U.S. 33 and state Route 66 have valid concerns, Safety-Service Director Mike Weadock said.
Council will hold the public hearing on the zoning at 7 p.m. Oct. 25. The developers are seeking to have about 40 acres of the property zoned for general commercial use and the remaining 24 acres to be zoned residential for an apartment complex.
A Kroger official announced at a Sept. 14 planning commission meeting the company's intent to be part of the development. A number of other smaller retail outlets are expected to be part of the project.
Making the development happen will challenge project engineers, Weadock said. There are a number of traffic, drainage and neighborhood issues to be worked out before the project can move ahead, he said. Traffic access to the site is one of the critical issues. The property is bounded on two sides by highways and on a third side by the Miami-Erie Canal. As it stands now, the only vehicular access to the site would be at the southeast corner, near the already busy intersection of McKinley Road and Route 66.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is now analyzing a traffic study done by the developers, Weadock said.
"The intersection is not good today," Weadock said, noting the nearby industrial park with heavy truck traffic and an elementary school 1,000 feet to the south, plus the state highway.
Additionally, the part of the land tract closest to the canal drops off sharply and may create some drainage issues engineers will have to work through.
Neighboring property owners to the south want to make sure any new development is adequately screened from their view.
"There are concerns of the abutting property owners," Weadock said.
If all the details can be worked out, the site holds tremendous potential, Weadock said. Kroger tends to build gas stations on out lots at its grocery stores and the site could even eventually be home to a restaurant, something city development officials have been pursuing for some time.
"There is some potential there ... Hopefully, some other things will happen there," Weadock said.