Council told about plans for Movie Gallery lot

Developers are ready to build a 2,900-square-foot restaurant and open an office rental business at the location of the former Movie Gallery near the Seventh, Pike and Greene streets intersection if Marietta officials will agree to vacate a portion of city right of way there.

“We’ve been working on a site plan with Mark Welch, consultant on the project for Charton Management, Inc., and the plan will be complex. But we want to be sure their new building is sited properly so that it will not create problems for our upcoming improvements to the Seventh, Pike and Greene intersection,” city engineer Joe Tucker told members of city council’s streets and transportation committee Wednesday.

Earlier this year Grant Wharton and Matt Herridge with Charton Management announced plans to purchase the Movie Gallery property where they would locate a new restaurant and office rental business. Charton Management also operates the Burger King restaurant on Pike Street.

At that time their plans hinged on whether the city’s proposed pedestrian and traffic safety upgrade of the Seventh, Pike and Greene streets intersection would eliminate a much-debated left turn from Seventh onto Greene street which Wharton and Herridge said would negatively impact customer access to the businesses they had planned.

In March the intersection upgrade plans were approved with the Seventh-to-Greene turn left intact, after which Wharton and Herridge said they would continue their development plans with a goal of bringing 52 new jobs to Marietta and an investment of up to $4 million.

During Wednesday’s streets committee meeting Welch said plans for the development would leave the former Movie Gallery building on the property to be used for the office rental business, and a new 2,900-square-foot restaurant would be constructed to the west of the existing structure, with a parking lot in between.

“But the new building has to be able to fit in that area or it can’t be built,” Welch said.

Tucker suggested the city vacate a portion of the right of way there in order to provide enough room for building of the new structure.

Welch said Charton wants to close on the purchase of the property by May 17, but the company first wants some assurance from city council that it will be possible to vacate the right of way as Tucker has recommended.

“We want to work with these businesses, so I don’t see why we wouldn’t work something out,” said councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward.

Councilman Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward, said he, too, wants to see the business development and would be OK with vacating the right of way as long as it did not create problems for moving ahead with the Seventh, Pike and Greene streets intersection project.

The two other council members present, Harley Noland, D-at large, and committee chairman Denver Abicht, D-at large, also said they would not object to the proposed right of way vacation.

Tucker suggested that Welch and the Charton Management owners return to the committee with their detailed plans for the project after the property purchase is completed later this month.

In other business Wednesday, David Haney, managing principal with City Telecommunications Consultants Ltd. of Columbus, discussed a right of way ordinance that the city originally proposed back in 2009.

“Multiple cities have right of way ordinances in Ohio-Zanesville is probably the closest to us,” said Tucker. “We’ve also looked at ordinances from other Ohio communities. The idea is to have an ordinance in place so that the city can exercise home rule over its rights of way.”

He noted the city came close to passing a right of way ordinance in 2009, but it was not supported at the time.

“This was four years ago, and it was stopped by the utility companies,” said Haney, who helped develop the draft ordinance in 2009.

He recalled at that time representatives from the natural gas, electric and telephone utility companies met with council members and essentially told them that an ordinance was not needed because there had never been any problems, and the companies would take care of any issues with the city.

“If you follow that reasoning, it’s like someone asking if you’ve ever had a fire, and if you haven’t then you don’t need fire insurance,” Haney said.

Tucker said another issue was that although the right of way ordinance would allow the city to recover any costs incurred from utilities working in the city right of way, there was no way to track those costs.

“But we now have new city software being installed that will allow us to track the time and costs city departments would spend investigating complaints and fixing any right of way problems caused by utility companies,” he said.

Vukovic noted another concern was that a right of way ordinance would result in any higher costs being passed on to customers by the utility companies.

But Haney said before any utility can increase prices it would have to go before the Public Utility Commission of Ohio.

He said utility companies do not like right of way ordinances and will always oppose them, but as a home rule community the city has the right to enact an ordinance governing its right of way.

Haney asked the committee members if they wanted to pick up where the former council left off and move toward adoption of the right of way ordinance. He said the draft developed four years ago would still be viable, although it would require some legal review in case anything in the draft ordinance had changed since 2009.

Vukovic, Abicht, Noland and Kalter agreed to continue the effort.