Developer Lance Osborne began his public relations campaign in earnest after GetGo variances were approved. Osborne’s hoping to convince Highland Heights voters to approve Issue #58, the GetGo rezoning issue.
GETGO VARIANCES APPROVED
On October 10th, the Highland Heights Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) approved 7 variances for Osborne’s proposed mega GetGo development project.
Those variances exempt Osborne from strictly complying with the city’s green space, front/side/rear yard and property use regulations.
For example, although the Highland Heights zoning code imposes a 20% green space requirement---a restriction designed to limit development density---only 13% of the GetGo parcel and 14% of the rear parcel will be undeveloped green space.
Osborne also received an exemption from the city’s 10’ side yard setback requirement. The developed area of the GetGo parcel will end a mere 2’2” from Brainard Road.
P&Z also agreed to a 50% reduction in the city’s front yard setback requirements, allowing Osborne to install a huge metal GetGo gas pump canopy that will end just 53’ 6½” (versus 110’) from the center of Wilson Mills Road. (I understand P&Z is going to reconsider and perhaps “tweak” that variance this week, while still allowing the huge metal canopy).
Still to come are sign-related GetGo variance requests.
Osborne’s drawings indicate that he wants to install two 6’x18’ monument signs along Wilson Mills and Brainard Roads.
The drawings also indicate that the GetGo will sell both diesel and gasoline fuel. While most family cars use gas, many commercial vehicles use diesel fuel.
GETGO PR CAMPAIGN BEGINS
Council President Cathy Murphy (who represents Ward One) offered developer Osborne an opportunity to give a presentation about his proposed mega GetGo development project to residents attending her September 20th Ward One meeting.
As background Murphy explained:
“Mr. Osborne agreed to work with us (the city) to create a development plan…If the rezoning issue (Issue #58) passes, the property will be developed in accordance with the plan. We worked hard on it (the plan). We worked together on it.”
“To have a gas station, the property has to be rezoned. That’s why it’s on the ballot. Only voters can rezone property in our city.”
“Council has not endorsed the GetGo development, but we worked with them. I am pleased we did. I am pleased we have a development plan. I encourage you to look at the plan before you vote.”
Here are some of the things Osborne, and his leasing agent, said at that meeting.
In explaining why a mega GetGo gas station and convenience store were part of their development plan:
“GetGo is owned by Giant Eagle, the property is owned by Giant Eagle and Giant Eagle wants a GetGo there.”
“The use (for a GetGo) is pretty important. Giant Eagle has a lot of customers. They know where they want to be.”
“Giant Eagle wants to be here and they want you to shop there.”
In describing the project:
“There are tradeoffs. This is an opportunity to create something special.”
In explaining why the GetGo was a good fit for the Catalano’s property:
“Wilson Mills is a commercial street…It will bring awareness to the market…GetGo is the catalyst to the redevelopment of that corner of Highland Heights.”
“It will be relevant and new and offer amenenities.”
“This corner is not going to be a park. Giant Eagle is not a nonprofit business. It will be developed.”
And the threat, if residents vote against Issue 58 and reject Osborne’s GetGo development plan:
“We will be gone. It will be over as far as Highland Heights developers working with the city.”
A few meeting attendees expressed enthusiasm for Osborne’s proposed mega GetGo.
One resident (quite incorrectly) opined that the traffic won’t be any different than what residents experienced in connection with the old Catalano’s grocery store.
In making that comment, the resident ignored two very important differences between Catalano’s and the proposed mega GetGo:
- The mega GetGo will be open for business many more hours each day than Catalano’s was.
The GetGo will be open for business 20 hours a day, from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m.
- The GetGo won’t serve just nearby residents.
Giant Eagle has a gas points program. That program will drive Giant Eagle customers for miles around into Highland Heights, to the proposed mega GetGo gas station.
There was no similar incentive program bringing customers to Catalano’s.
In fact, developer Osborne openly admitted that his traffic study didn’t consider what effect the Giant Eagle gas points program will have on traffic flow in the city. That omission raises significant questions regarding the study’s conclusion that the mega GetGo won’t cause a “degradation” of the Wilson Mills/Brainard Road intersection.
Another resident opined that she was tired of seeing the Catalano’s property sit empty. That prompted a rebuttal by another resident, who pointed the finger at Giant Eagle.
“They said No to the library. We could have had the library there.”
Among the comments shared by other concerned residents at the meeting:
“I have talked to others who have seen similar GetGos and they call them glorified truck stops. This is a small community, a family community. It doesn’t seem that we would want that kind of development in our community.”
“How is it written as far as the number of gas pumps (16) and store hours (5 am to 1am). Does GetGo have you by the short hairs?”
“You can’t build a gas station that’s clean, quiet or attractive enough for the surrounding area. You can’t build or operate a gas station that will enhance the property values in Highland Heights. We need to overwhelmingly vote no so that Giant Eagle sells the property. …We should send a message to Giant Eagle that they don’t want the property because we don’t want a gas station there.”
“That is a lovely picture (the artistic rendering of proposed retail spaces in the back of the Catalano’s property), but it doesn’t show the gas stations in front of it. It’s a little deceptive don’t you think?... You are selling something that doesn’t exist. In front of those lovely stores is a gas station.”
As for me, I thought most interesting was Osborne’s attempts to disassociate himself from the GetGo part of the project. The message he seemed to want to get across was:
We’re good guys. We’re residents. It’s all Giant Eagle’s fault!
In reality, Osborne has worked out a pretty sweet deal with Giant Eagle involving the mega GetGo.
Osborne told the city’s volunteer economic development committee in December that Giant Eagle has agreed to sell him the entire Catalano’s property and that he intends to lease back the front, GetGo portion to the GetGo operator (a Giant Eagle-affiliated company).
In other words, Osborne plans to make a lot of money from the GetGo.
Which raises this question:
Given the deal he’s worked out, why is Osborne pretending that he has nothing to do with the GetGo? Why wouldn’t he be just as excited as Giant Eagle about including a mega GetGo as the crown jewel of his development project?