Driveway access is blocking the opening of an O’Reilly Auto Parts store in Oberlin.
The approximately 7,400-square-foot store would be located next to Advance Auto Parts, 14911 Rt. 58, just north of US 20.
City planning director Carrie Handy at a June 6 council public hearing said ideally Advance and O’Reilly would share Advance’s driveway off Rt. 58. She said O’Reilly was willing to allow Advance customers to cross its property as long as Advance was willing to reciprocate.
However, Handy said Advance hasn’t agreed and she doesn’t know whether Oberlin could legally compel the business to do so. Drew Mencke, an Advance manager, said June 15 he didn’t want to share the driveway because there would be too much traffic.
“Our store does deliveries as far as for our commercial accounts. I’m sure O’Reilly does too,” Mencke said. “That’s a lot of traffic in and out between our drivers (and) between our customers.”
O’Reilly stores usually do good business. The company had nearly $8 billion in sales last year, up about $750 million from 2014, according to its annual report. O’Reilly has 4,571 stores nationally, including locations in Amherst, Elyria, and Lorain.
Councilman Bryan Burgess said at the hearing that he was reluctant to vote for approval until there was an agreement on a shared driveway. He said it would set a bad precedent for new businesses.
“I don’t want to punish the existing business owner because someone wants to put another retail spot right next door,” he said. “What I’d very much like to avoid is having separate driveways.”
Concerns were also raised about increased traffic in the area and whether the 50 mph speed limit is safe. “I think it’s too high,” Handy said.
Handy said the Ohio Department of Transportation determined a traffic impact study was unnecessary because the store wouldn’t generate 100 trips in the area during peak hours. A 2014 ODOT traffic count found that in a 24-hour period, 5,750 vehicles drove on Rt. 58 in Oberlin.
The planning commission in April approved waiving the study and recommended rezoning the area for commercial use. Handy said planning department staff also supported rezoning.
However, Mark Chesler, owner of Anchors Aweigh, an antique store at 14880 Rt. 58., said the O’Reilly store would create too much traffic. Chesler, whose business is across from where the store would be, said the company was trying to “pervert” Oberlin’s comprehensive land use plan and that the commission should have mandated a traffic study.
He said a 2007 study of the area by MS Consultants, an architectural and engineering firm, underestimated typical traffic flow because it was done in the “dog days” of summer. Chesler, a frequent commission critic, said the study was the “analytical equivalent of rolling back the odometer.” He urged council to reject the store to “avert a Pandora’s box plague of Gasoline Alley strip commercial development” on Rt. 58.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.