Some Hilliard residents have appealed to city officials to consider revising plans for a four-story mixed-use residential and retail development that would abut Norwich Street residences.
To address their concerns, developers of The Silo project planned at Franklin Street and Cemetery Road met with about 25 residents Jan. 16 at the Norwich Township Joint Safety Services Building.
Mayor Don Schonhardt, Director of Public Service Butch Seidle and Economic Development Director David Meeks joined the developers in an informal, open forum to discuss the proposed development currently scheduled to go before the Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission on Feb. 14.
At the conclusion of the two-hour meeting, the developers and city officials said the residents' concerns would be considered, but many said they still were concerned about the scope of the project. Some of the residents said they plan to attend the next commission meeting to hear the formal presentation on the development and share any continuing concerns.
The Silo proposal includes about 183 one- and two-bedroom apartments on the second, third and fourth floors of the new building. Retail shops and restaurants, including the relocated Starliner Diner, would be on the ground floor.
The inoperable grain silo on the site would be converted into a community center for tenants of the apartments and would include a gym, pool and rental office, but the first floor would be made available for public use.
The $15 million to $18 million project also would align Luxair Drive with Franklin Street.
City officials intend for The Silo to capitalize on the extension of the Heritage Rail Trail recreational path from its current terminus at Main and Center streets in Old Hilliard.
John Royer, a partner with Kohr Royer Griffith, developer of the project; Jim Bender, of JL Bender Architects and Planners; and attorney Glen Dugger, an attorney with the Smith and Hale law firm, outlined the proposed development.
"We think this is the best use of the land and are excited to bring a first-rate project to Hilliard," Royer said.
"It is consistent with the vision of the city's comprehensive plan," Dugger said.
But some area residents said The Silo development would not blend into the neighboring residential area and would swamp already congested streets.
They also questioned developers about the composition of the project and challenged city officials about the results of a traffic study.
Norwich Street resident and business owner Ben Buoni suggested that the development take a "quality over quantity approach" with a 50-50 split of housing and commercial components, as well as reducing the height of the proposed structures.
"I think this will look out of place," said Buoni, who also criticized the size of the apartments, currently proposed as 720 square feet for one-bedroom apartments and a maximum of 910 square feet for two-bedroom units.
But Dugger said market studies have indicated the proposed mix of residential and apartments are best for the area.
"This will provide a value for the city," Meeks said, adding that if Hilliard is not to receive income-tax revenue from tenants with higher salaries, then "we want them to spend their money here."
Meeks said the residential component of the development is critical to supplying Old Hilliard with an increased market and is consistent with the ongoing effort to revitalize Old Hilliard and increase pedestrian traffic.
Such an increase in pedestrian traffic, including bicycles, will be facilitated with the extension of the Heritage Trail, Schonhardt said.
Resident Dan Bloch questioned the long-term value of the development.
"I'm all for development there, but I don't see how this development helps Hilliard in the long term," Bloch said.
Hilliard City Council has approved a tax-increment financing district on the 5-acre parcel. Revenue from the TIF will fund infrastructure improvements, but Bloch opined the additional development will cost the city through increased public services.
Charles Self, who lives on Luxair Drive, said it is nearly impossible to get out of his driveway at rush hour because of the number of drivers using the road as a conduit between Cemetery Road and Scioto Darby Road.
He predicted it would be worse because The Silo proposal calls for all of Franklin Street to become a public road and connect to Luxair Drive at a signalized intersection.
Don Kelly, a resident of Hamilton Road, also predicted traffic gridlock.
Seidle said a traffic study showed "adequate capacity," which elicited exasperation from the residents.
"I don't care what your study says. ... It's wrong," Kelly said.