The Canal Winchester Times

Rockford Homes tries again for approval of apartments


Rockford Homes representatives returned to the Canal Winchester Planning and Zoning Commission last week to lobby for reapproval of a contentious apartment project on Groveport Road.

About 20 residents showed up at the Dec. 10 meeting to protest the company's plans. Planning and zoning commission members also expressed their disappointment in the application.

Resident Jim Bohnlein said he contacted both apartment complexes and condo developments in the area. According to Bohnlein, there are more than 100 apartments currently available with more coming at the end of the month, but almost no condos available.

"I know you know the value of a dollar, so it might behoove you to take a look at this information instead of trying to force this monstrosity down our throats -- because building condos just might make good business sense, too," Bohnlein said.

Rockford Homes President Robert Yoakam said the application the company is now seeking approval for is "nearly identical to the one ultimately approved during the 2008 process."

The builder purchased land south of Groveport Road, north of Eagle Ridge, in 2003 as part of the Village at Westchester development. The company originally submitted a plan for 112 apartment units which were approved at that time, but not built.

In 2005, Rockford Homes approached the city with plans to build condo units on the site, similar to the Eagle Ridge condo development. This project was similarly approved at the time but was never built. Then, in 2008, Rockford Homes resubmitted its earlier application for a 112-unit apartment complex.

Both the planning and zoning commission and city council denied the application, according to Canal Winchester Zoning Administrator Andrew Dutton, because it did not conform closely enough to the city's updated zoning codes.

Rockford Homes argued that the planned unit development (PUD) text specifically refers to the 1990 city zoning code.

After an appeal to the courts, Rockford Homes won approval for the project with the stipulation that the units be built within two years of the court's decision. Once again, the project was not built within that time frame; Yoakam said this was because the company couldn't get financing due to the economic downturn.

"I think it's fundamentally problematic for you to come in before us and want to build something based on standards that are 22 years old," planning commission member Mike Vasko said. "The rules have changed with our community ... that tells me you don't want to be a part of our community. It tells me something about what your real goals and objectives here are."

Commissioner Dan Konold, who owns a condo in Eagle Ridge, which was originally developed by Rockford Homes, said he and his neighbors were promised that site would be developed as condos, not apartments, when they purchased in Eagle Ridge.

"Look, Canal Winchester is a nice community with a neighborhood feel and I'd encourage you to be neighborly about this and not bullies," Konold said.

Yoakam said he did not want to make any comment in defense of the accusations until after the planning commission made its decision.

Members tabled the application until the Jan. 14 meeting, per a recommendation from law director Gene Hollins.