Monday, July 20, 2015

Tim Hortons-Donatos proposal raises traffic concerns

Originally published in print in Johnstown's ThisWeek News



More than 30 residents attended the regular Johnstown Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Wednesday, July 15, to discuss a potential dual Tim Hortons and Donatos restaurant at 18 W. Coshocton St.
The proposed building would be constructed to house a 1,786-square-foot Tim Hortons restaurant and a 1,930-square-foot Donatos restaurant, two drive-through windows, 22 parking spots and outdoor patio seating.
Village Manager Jim Lenner said the main concern is traffic flow in and out of the property and onto U.S. Route 62.
"There's already a lot of traffic in that area and we are not sure how much it would increase," Lenner said.
Representatives of RSSUM Holdings, a group of franchise owners that already owns 32 Columbus area Tim Hortons, presented their proposal, designed by Shremshock Architects and Engineers, to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Louise Stonehouse, a representative from RSSUM Holdings, said Tim Hortons and Donatos are companies deeply involved in their communities.
She said the businesses would create 45 new jobs with a total payroll of $600,000.
"We want to understand your issues and concerns and are willing to make tweaks and come back," Stonehouse said.
James Hartzler, who was hired by the village to look at potential planning and zoning issues, said traffic is a major potential concern with the proposed project.
He noted Coshocton Street is a major arterial road to the village and he believes in other cities Tim Hortons restaurants have caused significant traffic increases.
Hartzler said the applicant must provide additional information such as a detailed traffic study by a registered professional engineer, before the planning commission accepts the application.
Commission Chairman Marvin Block said he has received at least 40 calls about the issue.
"This building you're proposing would be a big distraction to our historic downtown area," Block said.
"We welcome progress and want you here, but we want something we can be proud of," he said.
"I know this architect firm and I've played this rodeo before and I'm not doing it again," Block said. "They want to stomp on Johnstown."
Because of the concerns raised about traffic and architecture, Stonehouse and RSSUM Holdings moved to withdraw the application.
"We were literally here trying to follow as many rules as possible," Stonehouse said. "If we need a new architect, we will hire one."
Village Law Director Jennifer Croghan, confirmed the applicant was permitted to withdraw their application.
Before the floor was opened to public comment, Village Zoning Inspector Jim Blair said the proposed project has become a very passionate issue.
"We have to remove all the emotions," Blair said.
"These are business people and they will bring legitimate business to this area," he said.
"They are going to make a $1- to $2-million-dollar investment in the community.
"I don't see anyone else lining up to make that kind of investment," Blair said. "We need to deal with the facts.
"Let's remove the emotion," he said.
During the public comment section, Carol Van Deest asked if RSSUM Holdings had ever done a collaboration like this.
Stonehouse replied saying they currently own seven Wendy's and Tim Hortons collaborations, but this would be the first combined Donatos and Tim Hortons.
Several members of the public, such as Craig Perkins a resident of Oregon Street, pointed out current and potential traffic concerns with the proposed business.
Jill Kelly asked what the seating capacity would be and Stonehouse answered the seating capacity would be for 42 people, but typically those seats are not all full.
Janet Piper said she would like to see Johnstown and Tim Hortons work together
Joyce Evans voiced her opinion protesting the business.
"It's crazy to think we need more pizza places," Evans said.
"We already have nine pizza shops," she said, "and those are present businesses that have survived in the good and bad years.
"That corner should be a park, purchased by the community," Evans said.
Evans said she believes Tim Hortons and Donatos will only hurt current businesses.
After the public comment session was closed, the commission passed a motion to table the application.
Stonehouse ended the night by thanking the commission and residents for their comments.
"We are really excited about this opportunity and thank you for taking the time to get involved," she said.