Hilliard Northwest News

Heritage Preserve development plan forwarded to City Council

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Hilliard City Council members appear to support the development plan for Heritage Preserve, a 687 single-family and multifamily residential development proposed on 419 acres at the southwest corner of Alton Darby Creek and Davis roads.

The developer and land owner associated with the project presented it at the Jan. 14 meeting of the City Planning, Projects and Services Committee of Hilliard City Council.

Committee members forwarded City Council ordinances rezoning the parcel and authorizing a developer's agreement. Both ordinances are scheduled for introduction and a first reading at the Jan. 28 meeting.

"We think we have created a unique housing opportunity for residents," said Jim Houk, of Bird Houk, a Gahanna-based architectural firm.

House prices are expected to range from about $250,000 to more than $600,000.

"I think our design is in keeping with the objectives of the comprehensive plan and hopefully you see that," Houk said.

Cincinnati-based Fischer Homes will be the developer of the single-family homes while Schottenstein Homes will develop the multifamily residences.

Dan O'Brien, of Planned Development Co. of Ohio, owns the land. He was present Jan. 14 but did not speak.

Having already been vetted by the Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission Nov. 8, the Jan. 14 meeting served as little more than an overview of familiar material.

City Planner John Talentino said the city is "comfortable with the commitment" of the developer to supply a wide variety of housing stock and price points.

Talentino reviewed density bonuses and told committee members their use was "appropriate and necessary."

The proposed density for Heritage Preserve is 1.64 units per acre, which exceeds the recommended density of 1 unit per acre in the Big Darby Accord.

Heritage Preserve is the first residential development in the environmentally sensitive Big Darby Creek Watershed area, which is virtually the last developable area for Hilliard.

The Big Darby Accord Advisory Board unanimously rejected the plan Aug. 14, the first such proposal the advisory board rejected since it was formed in 2007. However, the advisory board's recommendations are not binding.

The Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission did not follow that recommendation, but issued a positive recommendation to City Council at the conclusion of a two-hour meeting Nov. 8.

Commission members said other elements of the development plan were sufficient to warrant "density bonuses" that allowed the proposed density to exceed the recommended density in the Big Darby Creek Watershed area.

Talentino outlined these at the Jan. 14 committee meeting: they included a 20 percent bonus for stream restoration and 10 percent bonuses each for having excessive open space, a regional recreational path system, extraordinary infrastructure improvements and a conservation design of homes, for a total of a 60 percent density bonus.

Mayor Don Schonhardt emphasized the numerous walking and biking paths in the development and Service Director Butch Seidle lauded the accompanying infrastructure that will benefit the community as a whole.

No opponents spoke at the meeting but Committee Chairman Al Iosue announced that the city had received a letter of opposition from the Brown Township trustees.

Beth Clark, executive assistant to the Brown Township trustees, told commission members Nov. 8 that the application of density bonuses "was a serious misinterpretation" of the policy of the Big Darby Accord.

The developer also will pay an impact fee of $2,500 per unit to fund area infrastructure improvements, and a 5-mill neighborhood community authority tax will apply to the property tax, providing revenue to the Norwich Township Fire Department, Hilliard City Schools and the city of Hilliard.

"This is an innovative approach and I support what has been brought forth," Councilman Brett Sciotto said.

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