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Concrete barriers causing a stir around Northfield businesses

Posted at 6:33 PM, Dec 14, 2022

NORTHFIELD CENTER TWP., Ohio — A pair of concrete barriers have captured the attention of businesses, customers and the zoning inspector in Northfield Center Township. They recently went up between a coffee shop entrance and a grocery store parking lot near State Route 82 and some say they’re creating a safety hazard.

On Wednesday afternoon, News 5 witnessed at least a half dozen illegal left turns from Rt. 82 into the parking lot of Dunkin’ Donuts and Jiffy Lube. The driveway from the busy thoroughfare was designed to allow for only right turns in and out of the lot.

“The actual drive into Dunkin’ and Jiffy Lube is a controlled drive apron where you can make a right turn in and a right turn out only,” explained Northfield Zoning Inspector Donald Saunders.

Designers offered an alternate entrance when the coffee shop opened several years ago. A secondary driveway gives drivers access from the western edge of the Giant Eagle parking lot. It allows cars to cut through the parking lot and take a controlled left at a stop light.

The option was cut off late last week when a pair of concrete barriers were placed at the edge of the driveway.

“Usually you’d just pull into here, but now they have to do an illegal turn into there,” said Dunkin’ customer Heather Gearing, pointing out the sharp U-turn westbound drivers have been taking.

Another customer, Bud Andrews, added, “You have to come up here and try to fight traffic and do illegal turns or go all the way down out of your way to come back to get your coffee.”

Saunders said he’s been fielding dozens of calls and emails about the recently added barricade, but it’s unclear why it was placed there. He explained the barriers are a zoning violation because whoever dropped them in their current location did not file the proper paperwork.

“I’ve talked to the property owner of Giant Eagle and the Dunkin’ Donuts owner. They’re all blaming each other,” Saunders said. “It has snowball effects on a lot of different areas.”

The zoning inspector believes the grocery chain is responsible for the barriers, but Giant Eagle’s corporate office hasn’t responded to explain why they’re blocking one of the entrances.

“If they don’t get back to me then I’ll send them a citation for it and request that they be removed,” he said.

Saunders said the driveway has been there since the Dunkin’ Donuts opened several years ago. In addition to giving drivers more access to the businesses, it also is a faster route for emergency services.

“If something happened, our safety services can’t get in or out either. So that’s another reason for that apron being there… because we can get ambulances, fire equipment or anything in there,” he explained.

He believes the safety concerns, potential effect on business and zoning violation could lead to litigation.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t end up being a fight in court with lawyers because that doesn’t serve any business,” he said.

If the responsible party does apply for a permit, Saunders said he’d likely deny the request. An appeal process to the zoning board would likely take weeks, during which he hopes the barriers would be removed.

Property owners declined to comment on the ongoing dispute.

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