SIDNEY — The rezoning of a parcel of land southeast of Wilson Health from an R-1, single family residential district to an I-2, general industrial district was discussed Monday evening during a public hearing at the Sidney City Council meeting.
If approved, Wilson Health plans to construct a 45-foot-tall, monument-style, combination gateway sign and digital billboard at the southeast corner of the Fourth Avenue and Court Street intersection.
Community Development Director Barbara Dulworth, said the property is currently undeveloped, and was until recently believed to be the state of Ohio’s right-of-way for state Route 47. It is adjacent to the limited access right-of-way on Court Street and Fourth Avenue and the railroad right-of-way to the south. Wilson’s plan for the sign is one of the few uses available given the limited access to the land.
The Sidney Planning Commission voted at its Dec. 16, 2019, meeting to recommend for City Council to approve the rezoning.
The size of the property in question is about 2.5 acres, Dulworth told Vice Mayor Mardie Milligan, when asked. She also confirmed the chain link fence in front of the edge of Wilson’s property is the dividing line between the right of way and the hospital’s private property. When asked if the fence will be removed, Dulworth said she believes a request has been made of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to remove it.
Dulworth told Mayor Mike Barhorst Wilson learned it owned the land last fall when doing research through the recorder’s office. It was discovered the land was inadvertently not included with the original plot of property.
Barhorst stressed traffic safety is his concern, and shared that he chairs the Community Traffic Safety Network of Shelby County. He also noted this particular intersection is one of the busiest intersections in Sidney, where multiple crashes occur. He questioned the experience and background of the engineer who conducted the traffic safety study of the intersection. Dulworth did not have that information and said they would need to ask the engineer working at Choice One Engineering.
During the public hearing, adjoining property owner John Elliot, spoke up in opposition to the request for a fear of more crashes at the intersection. Traffic turning left onto Fourth Avenue from state Route 47, he said, would be in the direct line of drivers’ vision and that they could become distracted.
John Kirirah, owner of Kenjoh Outdoor LLC, who is working with Wilson to create the gateway sign, said the state will give him the permit to remove the fence. He said he understands the safety concerns but noted his digital billboard sign above Francis Furniture at the intersection of Vandemark and Michigan Street has not effected traffic negatively. Based on data, he said, the sign has not caused more crashes, despite being the busiest intersection in town. He clarified the sign will be a digital advertising billboard.
Kirirah felt he had hired the best company in the county to conduct a traffic study of the area, but said he would be happy to pay for another company of City Council’s choice to conduct another study, if they wish.
Greg Long, Wilson Health chief operating officer, confirmed one of Kirirah’s signs has been safely located at a busy intersection in Beavercreek, where he lives, for some time. He also expressed Wilson Health’s support for the new sign in Sidney and they at Wilson believe it will benefit all parties, including the city of Sidney.
Several members of the business community spoke up in favor of placing the sign.
Tom Martin, of Firehouse Subs, spoke for the sign for advertising purposes, to beautify the city and to bring awareness to the downtown.
Myron Koester, owner of Perkins and Smok’n’ Jo’s BBQ, also was in favor of the sign. He noted he currently has a sign with Kirirah and is satisfied with it. Koester said the new sign would clean up the area where multiple signs are attached to the fence there now. He also doesn’t think it will create more problems with traffic.
Carol Pierce, media sales consultant with the Sidney Daily News, who manages the two signs Kirirah has in Sidney, also spoke in favor of the sign. She told council she has received positive feedback from the businesses she surveyed. Business owners told her they felt advertising on the sign could help their business and are hopeful and excited for it to be at the location near Wilson.
Amy Breinich, Sidney Alive executive director and Sidney Visitor Bureau member, also spoke in favor of the sign to beautify the gateway into the downtown. She said the sign above Francis has been fantastic for the Sidney Visitor Bureau to get the word out about community events.
Kirirah emphasized these signs, which he has placed in Charlotte, North Carolina, Norfolk, Virginia, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, St. Louis, Missouri, as well as in West Carrollton, Beavercreek and Sidney, are the direction cities are going in the future.
The item will return for further deliberation at the next regular Sidney City Council meeting on Jan. 27.
Council member Ed Hamaker was absent Monday and was excused by council.
Council also went into an executive session to discuss the discipline of a public employee. No action was taken after council members emerged from the session.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.