Sheetz: Election liquor vote on Centerville Elsa’s site ‘does not change anything’

Gas station chain continues legal battle with city, church, retirement community about project; residents of precinct voted to ban carryout alcohol sales

While residents of one Centerville precinct voted last week not to allow the sale of carryout beer, wine and mixed beverages by stores in their area, gas station-convenience store chain Sheetz plans to continue legal efforts aimed at allowing it to construct a new location there.

Sheetz, which aims to build a store on the site of Elsa’s Mexican Restaurant at 6318 Far Hills Ave., found its plans thwarted last October when Centerville City Council rejected Sheetz’s plans to construct the new location.

The decision came after objections from Epiphany Lutheran Church, Bethany Village retirement community and others and broke ranks with the city of Centerville’s Planning Commission, which in August approved a plan that would have allowed Sheetz to construct its facility on the site.

In November, Sheetz, developer Skilken Gold and the Elsa’s owners filed an administrative appeal against the city’s decision to deny them from building at the site in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. Epiphany, Bethany Village and Centerville have asked to have that lawsuit against them dismissed.

Choosing not to wait for the outcome of that case, Epiphany in January launched two ballot initiatives to block carryout alcohol sales in the precinct of the site, one blocking sale of beer by the package in the precinct, and the other blocking the sale of wine and mixed beverages for off-premise consumption and all state liquor stores.

More than 75% of voters in each initiative cast ballots to ban carryout package alcohol sales. The ballot question will have no effect on restaurant licenses, and no existing carry-out businesses will be affected by the result of the vote, Epiphany officials previously said.

Bethany Village and its owner, Graceworks Lutheran Services, believe the results of last week’s vote show “another clear message from the citizens who live in this precinct,” said spokeswoman Jackie D’Aurora.

“They have again made their voices clear that the traffic and safety concerns that would come along with the Sheetz development are not welcome in their neighborhood,” D’Aurora said. “Graceworks and Bethany Village remain supportive of the voices of the people who live in this community. We remain hopeful the developers of Sheetz have heard enough from the neighborhood that this is not the right site for their growth. We are hopeful this result will finally put this issue to rest.”

But Tuesday’s election results on liquor law “does not change anything from any of our clients’ perspectives,” said Jamie Greer, of Bieser, Greer & Landis LLP, the law firm representing Sheetz, Skilken Gold and Elsa’s.

Greer said his clients will continue with both of their legal filings, one being the administrative appeal in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court and the other being a complaint for damages and other relief in U.S. District Court.

“The only steps to take at this point are the steps needed in the evolution of those two cases,” Greer told this news outlet.

The Elsa’s restaurant remained open for business as of Friday.

Centerville officials understand there is “a lot of interest surrounding the development of the Elsa’s property,” said city spokeswoman Kate Bostdorff.

“City council is committed to prioritizing public safety and well-being with regards to development,” Bostdorff said. “Beyond that, there is no significant impact to city operations or direction. We encourage residents to reach out with any questions or concerns.”

Epiphany Church did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

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