Gahanna City Council could vote May 3 on a zoning change to allow construction of an apartment complex for people with mental illnesses.

Gahanna City Council could vote May 3 on a zoning change to allow construction of an apartment complex for people with mental illnesses.

Melissa's House would be built at 1105 Beecher Crossing North.

During council's April 26 finance committee meeting, Councilman John McAlister said he supports the zoning change but would not be at the May 3 meeting. McAlister reminded other council members that in his absence, "there's the potential for a 3-to-3 vote."

Councilman David Samuelson, who chairs the finance committee, said he would like to see the zoning change voted on May 3.

City attorney Tom Weber said McAlister could request in writing that council delay the vote until the May 17 meeting.

Only council president Tom Kneeland said he would consider delaying the vote another two weeks, but he wasn't willing to commit to a delay.

Melissa's House is a 10-unit apartment complex being proposed for 2.3 acres at 1105 Beecher Crossing North, on land currently zoned as a limited-overlay suburban office district. The planning commission on Feb. 10 recommended approval of the change to limited-overlay multifamily residential for Melissa's House to be built.

Several people have spoken against the project, most of them residents of the Courtyard at Beecher Crossing.

During the April 26 meeting, council members asked several more questions about the project.

Councilwoman Nancy McGregor said she learned that the most recent office building constructed in that area was a bank three years ago.

When asked if changing the zoning from residential to office and back to residential sets a bad precedent, development director Sadicka White said it doesn't because the property owner always has the right to request that a zoning be changed. Also, the city has the right to review the zoning change to see if it matches future plans for the property. In this case, she said, commercial, office or residential all are part of the city's plan for that area.

McAlister asked Nate Goldberg to speak about the project. Nate and Elaine Goldberg formed the idea for Melissa's House after the death of their daughter, who had a mental illness.

Nate Goldberg said their daughter lived in various institutions and hospital settings. They said they worried that if they were to die while she was still alive, there would be no positive place for her to live. They formed the idea for Melissa's House as a positive environment, where people with mental illnesses capable of living independently could thrive as normal citizens.

Because council is authorized to consider the health and safety of its existing residents when considering a zoning change, McAlister asked Goldberg to speak about the types of people who would live in Melissa's House.

Goldberg deferred to Samantha Shuler, director of real estate development for the Community Housing Network (CHN), which would manage the facility. Shuler said CHN manages several different types of properties that house people with mental illnesses. All people requesting housing through CHN are screened through the county Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board (ADAMH) to determine how they function with their illness. Those who are high functioning and are capable of living independently, seeing a case manager only once a month, are the types of people who would be recommended to rent apartments in Melissa's House. Those who require on-site care and regular visits from case managers would not be recommended.

Weber requested a copy of the tenant lease and building rules, typically attached as an addendum to the lease, to determine the eviction powers CHN would have.