Hilliard Northwest News

Residential density unlikely to change

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The developers of Landmark Lofts have made a few changes to the development in an effort to appease residents opposed to it, but those residents say not all their concerns have been addressed.

Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission members are expected to consider the proposal for the mixed-use residential and retail development at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 14, at the Hilliard Municipal Building, 3800 Municipal Way.

The project's opponents, who have banded together to form the Landmark Lofts Neighborhood Steering Committee, said they plan to be at the meeting to express their remaining doubts about the project.

The Landmark Lofts plan calls for 181 one- and two-bedroom apartments -- as well as retail shops and restaurants, likely including the relocated Starliner Diner -- in multiple buildings on the 5.8-acre parcel on the north side of Cemetery Road at Franklin Street.

The inoperable grain elevator on the site would be converted into a community center for tenants of the apartments and would include a pool, gym and rental office. The first floor would be available for public use.

The $15 million to $18 million project also would align Luxair Drive with Franklin Street at an unsignalized intersection.

After meeting twice in January with residents, the developers from Kohr Royer Griffith asked the planning and zoning commission Feb. 14 to postpone their application so they could address their concerns about traffic congestion, building elevations and the residential density of the apartment buildings.

City officials and representatives of Kohr Royer Griffith then met March 7 with members of the steering committee to discuss amendments to the plan.

Glen Dugger, an attorney representing the developers, said the elevations of the buildings at the site were lowered, although they will remain four stories. As proposed previously, some of the buildings would have retail shops or restaurants on the first floors.

The minimum distance from the buildings to the back lots of Norwich Street residences was increased from about 265 feet to about 440 feet.

Garages were added to the plan, but the number of apartments was not altered.

Ben Buoni, chairman of the steering committee, said the changes outlined March 7 were "a move in the right direction," but concerns regarding residential density remain. Steering committee members also have maintained the proposed density exceeds the guidelines of the comprehensive plan for the area.

"I'm still disappointed about the number of (apartments)," Buoni said. "We would like to see fewer stories (on the buildings), but our focus is on the density and the city needs to be prepared to answer why they aren't following the comprehensive plan."

Mayor Don Schonhardt said a development such as Landmark Lofts requires a compromise on residential density.

"What we heard was, 'Bring us a high-quality development here. ... Make it nice or don't do anything at all,' " Schonhardt said, referencing residents' desires for the site at Cemetery Road and Franklin Street and the inoperable, deteriorating grain elevator that currently sits on it.

He said the developer's costs to build high-quality structures and address environmental issues equated to a minimum number of units to make the project feasible.

Schonhardt said the city had been unsuccessful in compelling the owner to address code violations at the site and ultimately had threatened to take action in environmental court if the owner did not repair the property or identify a developer.

Dugger appealed to members of the steering committee to consider the absence of three-bedroom apartments in the Landmark Lofts plan.

Typically, Dugger said, residential developments have a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.

City officials desire the proposed plan because it is most likely would attract young, affluent singles who would use the nearby walking and bike path to frequent businesses in Old Hilliard.

Officials have commonly cited the 1,500 employees moving next year to Verizon Business on Britton Parkway and workers being hired at a new IBM office in Dublin as targets for tenants at Landmark Lofts.

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