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Catholic church in Medina Township fighting proposal for Sheetz gas station

Sheetz withdraws rezoning request 'for now'
Holy Martyrs Church Medina
Posted at 5:54 PM, Mar 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-12 23:23:04-05

MEDINA, Ohio — Holy Martyrs Catholic Church sits on a hill on Old Weymouth Road just off state Route 3 in Medina Township.

The church has been around for 40 years and is known for its serene setting, including a prayer path and Stations of the Cross in the woods.

"We wanted to create a place of tranquility and peace and that's worth preserving," said Rev. Steve Dohner.

Dohner, along with several parishioners, believe that tranquility would be shattered if Sheetz gets its wish to build a store/gas station across the street from the church.

Sheetz initially requested a parcel of land be rezoned from business limited to business general, which would potentially allow for the gas station to be built.

Many church members fear idling vehicles in front of a store, measuring more than 6,000-square-feet, and loud music piped outdoors would disrupt services.

"This is not a Better Homes and Gardens objection. This is more than just an aesthetic objection. This is how church is done," Dohner added.

Those objecting to the proposed project have also expressed traffic and safety concerns.

Youth Minister Skip McQuate said more than 900 children are dropped off and picked up from youth activities. He's concerned heavier traffic could put kids at risk.

"There would be so much more traffic out here, people coming in and out of Sheetz," he said. "It just really didn't feel like it was a good fit and there are other places along I-71 here where people can gas up."

Holy Martyrs listed many of their concerns on its website and encouraged people to make their voices heard about the project idea.

The church also suggested drug users coming onto the parish's property could become an issue.

"Sheetz has been installing blue lighting in their bathrooms, making it more difficult for drug users to find the veins in order to shoot up. A ready alternative for drug use would be our wooded areas or any of the parking lots," a church member wrote.

"They're good at getting the problem off their property, but the question we had then was where do people go?" Dohner said.

On Thursday morning, News 5 requested a comment from Sheetz. That afternoon, a spokesperson indicated the business was withdrawing the rezoning application, which canceled a hearing before the Medina Township Zoning Commission on March 16.

"While Sheetz is planning a store location off of Route 3 in Medina Township, it is too early on in the project to discuss specific details. More importantly, Sheetz is aware of the concerns raised by Holy Martyrs Church. For each of our store projects, Sheetz seeks to establish a productive dialogue with the surrounding community. In order to do that, we are withdrawing our rezoning application for now. We look forward to working with the community on this project," said Nick Ruffner, public relations manager for Sheetz.

While Sheetz left the door open to revisit rezoning, Bob Steinmetz, a parishioner, is not expecting any new information that would sway his opposition.

"We have nothing against Sheetz. It's just this particular location," Steinmetz said. "I don't know what could be changed about the traffic problem, about the safety problem."

While many church members consider it a victory that the gas station proposal is now on hold, Dohner fears there will be more efforts to develop the area that could take away from the spirituality of Holy Martyrs.

"That allows you to be closer to nature, be closer to God. Those places are rare," Dohner said.