The Canal Winchester Times

Builder files court appeal over apartment plans

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Rockford Homes has appealed Canal Winchester City Council's March 18 decision to deny the builder's plans for a 112-unit apartment project near Groveport Road.

According to court documents, the city of Canal Winchester received a notice of appeal April 10, stating that Rockford Homes Inc. had requested an appeal through the Environmental Division of Franklin County Municipal Court.

Judge Harland H. Hale is listed as presiding over the case. He heard a similar case in 2010, when the Franklin County Court of Appeals upheld his decision in favor of Rockford Homes, stipulating that the company had two years to begin construction on the apartment project.

Rockford Homes representative Catherine Cunningham said the company didn't begin construction in the allotted time frame because the country's economic slump prevented it from obtaining necessary financing.

At a public hearing held Feb. 18, Cunningham said the company now has the funding and intends to build "the remaining multifamily-zoned portion that came as a part of the original PUD."

The city has argued that certain changes to zoning text since 1990 should apply to the new project, particularly if the original planned unit development designation was silent in regard to the updated standards.

Residents, especially those who live in the adjacent Villages at Westchester Eagle Ridge condo development, have been vocal in their opposition to the project.

Resident Dan Konold, who is also a member of the Canal Winchester Planning and Zoning Commission, lives in Eagle Ridge and said he and his neighbors were promised by the Rockford Homes sales staff that the site would be developed as condos, not apartments, when they purchased their homes.

Konold said he felt the company was being a bully in its repeated attempts to build an apartment complex there.

City Law Director Gene Hollins said the next step will be to work with Rockford Home's legal representation to negotiate a case schedule and determine what the appropriate associated documents are that will be argued, before Hale actually hears the case.

"Depending on the decision of the Environmental Court, this could end up being argued in the Franklin County Court of Appeals again, too, but we'll have to wait and see," Hollins said.

City council went into executive session at the end of its April 15 meeting to discuss the litigation.

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