Gahanna could be the first central Ohio location for Otterbein Homes if access issues could be resolved between the applicant and the city's planning commission.
The commission has scheduled a workshop for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, to review revised plans that would include access to the proposed skilled-nursing and rehabilitation neighborhood from Beecher Road instead of Hamilton Road.
Applicant Sue McConn told the commission Oct. 24 that Otterbein Homes has been in existence for 100 years, starting as an orphanage and senior-citizens home in 1912 in Lebanon. The child-care program was ended in 1963, and Otterbein currently operates five senior-living communities, five small-house neighborhoods and a home-health agency in Ohio.
In keeping with Otterbein's United Methodist tradition, McConn said, a mission is to enhance the quality of life and holistic growth of older people.
"We have continued to be a place for elders to live out their final days," she said. "We set on a journey on how we deliver skilled nursing."
Instead of traditional-style nursing-home facilities, Otterbein facilities include actual homes for multiple residents.
McConn said institutionalizing elders doesn't enhance quality of life, whereas a home does.
Otterbein proposes a skilled-nursing and rehabilitation neighborhood at 975 N. Hamilton Road, on the southwest corner of North Hamilton and Beecher roads.
McConn is requesting a rezoning of about 5.5 acres from an 11.57-acre parcel from the currently zoned planned commercial center to suburban office and institutions district.
The site faces North Hamilton Road and is abutted by Beecher Road on the north.
The project site is an undeveloped lot with many trees.
McConn said a typical development includes five homes, with 50 people living in an Otterbein community. People in charge of the houses actually would live there.
"They are involved in meal and activity planning," she said. "We follow the requirements of the Ohio Department of Health. We have certified nursing assistants."
Five similar neighborhoods are in Perrysburg and Monclova in northern Ohio and Maineville, Middletown and Springboro in southern Ohio.
"The success we've had is remarkable," McConn said.
She said elders who don't do well at traditional institutions begin to flourish and manage for themselves in an Otterbein home.
McConn said the Ohio Department of Health annually determines who needs beds for the elderly, and it was determined that Franklin County was down by 800 beds.
"We started looking at Franklin County and found this beautiful piece of property," she added.
Brian Gruber, representing Ridge Stone General Contractors, said an Otterbein development includes five houses that create a neighborhood setting, typically featuring a gazebo gathering area, and all of the buildings have a black roof.
Floor plans of each home include five private bedrooms, with bathrooms on each side and recreation and dining areas in the center. A home also includes a physical-therapy room, an administration area, a great room, a salon and spa area and public restrooms.
Commission member Thomas Wester said he was disappointed in the traffic study that included 2008 data.
"It doesn't include the OSU Medical Center that opened south of this area," he said. "The data presented should be an actual traffic count."
Wester said Hamilton Road was improved in the past six to eight years, and a lot of time and money were spent on restricted access, with businesses having a right-in, right-out access only.
"Do we really want to compromise the design of access with a left-turn access?" he asked.
If the only access would be from Hamilton Road, a left-turn lane is advisable, city engineer Karl Wetherholt said.
Commission member Don Shepherd said access would work better off Beecher, and he asked Wetherholt which would be better.
"This facility doesn't add a whole lot of traffic," Wetherholt said. "It seems reasonable to go with Beecher."
Civil engineer Greg Feller, of Feller, Finch & Associates, said the traffic study was done to analyze the need for turn lanes on Hamilton.
"Initially, we were having the entrance on Beecher," he said. "When we did the analysis, we looked at the need for right and left turns, and the '08 data was readily available. ... The purpose was more of a narrow focus."
He said the study could be updated.
Commission member David Thom said the ingress and egress were based on what the applicant had discussed with the neighbors.
"Eventually, we will need access off Beecher for whatever goes on that property (split)," he said. "I think you have a great application with use. I'm concerned with traffic and how it's laid out for the future."