Opposition continues to mixed-use development
Enough, they said, is enough. In fact, it's already too much.
About 50 people crowded into the Minerva Park Community Center last week while many more set up lawn chairs and waited in front of the building to protest plans for a mix of apartments and commercial uses on Ulry Road.
The plans haven't yet been formally proposed for property that's not yet within the city of Columbus.
The residents of subdivisions and condominium complexes in the vicinity turned out in force to show their unanimous opposition to any more multifamily projects in their vicinity.
"We are one," said Dee Grindley, a resident of the Rolling Ridge subdivision west of Ulry Road, during the informal "look-see" session of the Northland Community Council's development committee.
The purpose of such meetings is to permit developers or their representatives to apprise committee members of what's in the offing, get some feedback on how the proposal sits and then return at a later date, either with a revised concept or formal application for which the panel's recommendation is sought.
Jill Tangerman of Vorys, Slater, Seymour and Pease LLP, representing Preferred Real Estate, gave a presentation about the proposed development at 5800 Ulry Road. The site is still within Blendon Township, she said, because the owner of the property pulled an annexation request to move it into Columbus "as a courtesy" to allay concerns of nearby residents.
"We're hoping that this is a collaborative process," Tangerman said. "We want to hear your thoughts."
Dee Grindley didn't hesitate to offer hers. She pointed to the development drawing Tangerman held and said, "You can just take that now and tear it up, because that's not going to happen. It's just not going to happen."
A development plan for that portion of the Northland area adopted by Columbus City Council in 2002 calls for three units an acre, Grindley said.
Preferred Real Estate is seeking 10 units an acre, Tangerman said, or a little more than a threefold increase, not the 800 percent hike contained in a petition circulated among nearby residents.
Multifamily projects in the vicinity range from eight to 12 units an acre, Tangerman said.
"We picked the middle number, basically," she said.
The overall project would include 96 units in one section with a small amount of commercial zoning for small shops such as convenience stores or dry cleaners, said Nick King, the Preferred Real Estate representative on hand for the development committee meeting.
"This is the beginning, we feel, of the conversation, not the end," Tangerman said.
Opponents to the proposal found an ally on the committee in William Logan. As he had done in an earlier case involving an apartment proposal, he asked Tangerman how this project fit in with the plan that calls for single-family development to be emphasized over multifamily.
"We're warehousing people," Logan said.
The funding simply cannot be found currently for single-family subdivisions, Tangerman responded.
"When we end up with projects that tank, everyone suffers," she said.
"Once we commit to this, it's there forever," Logan said, noting areas with apartments elsewhere in the Northland area have become crime-troubled neighborhoods.
"I don't know that I would paint all multifamily with one brush," committee Chairman Dave Paul said. "I'm not sure I would go that far."
Royal Morse, of the Blendon Chase Citizens for Sensible Development, said 137 residents have signed a petition demanding the Northland plan be adhered to, in large part because they don't want noise and light pollution.
"The truth that our average age is dead is not quite true, but we are an elderly community," Morse said.
In the end, with more and more people demanding to be heard in their heated dislike of the proposal, Tangerman and King offered to meet with the individual groups -- something the attorney said they had attempted before but had been rebuffed.
Development committee members will try to schedule such meetings, Paul said.
"We're not going to just wash our hands of it," he said. "We're going to try to facilitate that."