Rocky Fork Enterprise

Creekside

Commission postpones decision on apartments

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Gahanna Planning Commission members have some concerns with a proposed four-story, 32-unit apartment building on 0.52 acres at Mill and North streets.

The commission on Nov. 20 voted to postpone various related applications until Dec. 4 for the Creekside District Apartments, 152 Mill St.

At issue are a final development plan, variances, a certificate of appropriateness for site plan and building-design and flood-plain use permits from developer Strathmore Development Co., which owns the Creekside development.

The application for the final development plan lists the land owner as Creekside Carwash LLC, of East Lansing, Mich.

Ron Calhoun, Strathmore senior project manager, said he has participated in two workshops in an attempt to respond to various concerns about the apartments.

One concern involves inadequate parking for tenants. He said the project provides 56 parking spaces for 32 proposed units. Below-grade parking would accommodate 56 of the required 64 spaces, with a variance proposed for the difference.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Bonnie Gard said a slight conflict exists between multifamily-use code and site-planning codes. She said portions of both codes have been included for the variance requests.

"That's something we'll need to reconcile," she said. "They're being held to a high standard on multifamily zoning. The site-planning requirement would be less than multifamily."

Based on the code issue, commission member Kristin Rosan asked that the applications be postponed to seek the city attorney's advice.

Commission member Jennifer Price asked if fewer units would be an option.

Calhoun said fewer units would be cost-prohibitive. Initially, he said, more than 32 units were in the plan.

"Another option is to look at getting another eight (parking) spaces," he said. "At the end of the day, we can figure out a way of doing that. ... We have the ability to create lifts and stack cars on top of each other."

Doug Dachenbach owns property on North High Street, immediately east of the proposed project.

He said the problem lies in putting a "600-pound gorilla" in that section of Creekside.

"You're asking for tons of exemptions/variances," he said. "I've heard (with the view) from Mill Street, it looks boring. I see the back. My side is nothing like what Mill Street is. It's nothing like what Creekside is. I don't think that's what the people want it developed to be."

Dachenbach said the project abandons guidelines for Olde Gahanna.

"No matter how you dress it up, it's still a huge building with tons of variances," he said. "I think this would be a mistake in the long and short run for Gahanna."

Commission Chairman Don Shepherd said Creekside is a unique development itself. He said the economics relate to the price paid for the lot.

"I get tired of developers saying, 'I have to have this,' " Shepherd said. "You've paid too much, so you have to build this big monstrosity? You need to keep it at two spaces (per unit). I don't think we need to change any variances on city code. I think you could meet the entire code.

"If we have a variance, maybe (have just) one variance," he said. "We're asking for a lot on these variances. We're a lot off on a lot of these."

Commission member Dave Andrews said it's a big building for such a small lot.

"I wasn't thrilled with the building," he said. "I think it's boring for our downtown."

Commission member Thomas Wester said he has issues with parking, fire access for the entire block and traffic.

"What I've heard is that the neighborhoods would see more cut-through traffic as they work their way through the main drag to get to (Interstate) 670," he said. "Neighborhood cut-through traffic is a big concern."

In a letter to the commission, city Development Director Anthony Jones said the project would convert a currently underused piece of property along the major corridor in Olde Gahanna into a high-density residential complex. He said it conforms to components in the Olde Gahanna vision plan by embracing and fostering diversity in housing types; promoting the creation of urban places, which are oriented to pedestrians, thereby promoting security and social interaction; and using urban design tools to enhance mobility and circulation.

In other action Nov. 20, the commission voted to recommend to City Council a zoning-change application submitted by Creative Housing Inc. The property at 559 N. Hamilton Road is zoned restricted institutional district, and Creative Housing is requesting that it be changed to two-family residential district.

The company also is requesting permission to allow the existing two detached single-family dwellings to remain on the property, with no additional development planned at this time.

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