Hilliard Northwest News

Possible June 10 council vote

Hilliard residents ask city to rethink Landmark Lofts

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Residents opposing the construction of Landmark Lofts, a mixed-use residential and commercial development at Cemetery Road and Franklin Street, took their arguments to Hilliard City Council on May 13.

They spoke in opposition to the proposed development during a public hearing for an ordinance that would rezone the 5.8-acre parcel to planned-unit development. The ordinance is scheduled for a third and final reading June 10.

The developers have yet to present a final development plan to the Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission for consideration. The plan is expected to be presented in July, though the rezoning application process has revealed the buildings proposed for the site.

Landmark Lofts, named for the Landmark Grain Co. that once operated at the site, would have 17,000 square feet of commercial space, a 7,000-square-foot community center and 181 apartments.

Two four-story buildings would front Cemetery Road. The first floors would be commercial, with apartments on the other floors.

Two other four-story buildings at the back of the parcel would be apartment buildings. The inoperable grain elevator on the site would be converted into a community center with a halo-lit sign on top bearing the name, Landmark Lofts.

During public comments, Dan Bloch of Norwich Street criticized the term mixed-use to describe the development because, he said, it is mostly residential.

"It's a 7-percent sheep in wolf's clothing," Bloch said, referring to the estimated 7 percent composition of commercial components compared with the residential parts.

Bloch appealed to City Council members not to allow the desire to clean up the parcel to "cloud (their) judgment."

Walter Downey of Quarry Stone Drive, called the proposal an "unwise decision" that would not provide the city with long-term financial support.

Downey suggested the city instead focus on Britton Parkway and Anson Drive.

Kim Buoni of Norwich Street cautioned City Council members to learn from past mistakes and remember instances where what appeared to be a good idea proved not to be.

Concrete, landscaped islands in the center of Davidson Road were thought to be a good idea, but ultimately removed, Buoni said.

"Four-story buildings won't be so easily corrected," Buoni said.

City Planner John Talentino and Glen Dugger, an attorney representing the developer, Buckeye KRG, outlined the proposal and appealed for its support before residents spoke in opposition.

Talentino said the residential density is "artificially high" because the developer acquiesced to build one- and two-bedroom apartments to minimize the effect on the school district.

"We think this (the development) is great, all things considered," Talentino said.

City officials, particularly members of the administration, have voiced support for the development because it is designed to attract young tenants most likely to frequent the Old Hilliard district, and the development promotes alternative transportation, namely pedestrians and bicycles, to and from Old Hilliard.

"You have a proposal before you that matches your goals," Dugger said.

City Council Vice President Kelly McGivern inquired about the fate of existing businesses at the site during the construction period, specifically the Starliner Diner, which McGivern referred to as "an institution."

Dugger told McGivern he was aware there had been conversations between the Starliner Diner and John Royer, a partner with Buckeye KRG, but was not aware of any agreements.

"We have kept (business owners) informed as best we can about the timeframe (of the development process)," Dugger said.

Before accepting public comments, Councilman Al Iosue announced the City Council clerk had received 21 letters or emails concerning the development that were entered into the record, and that the Hilliard Area Chamber of Commerce had issued a letter of support.

While seeming to generally support the proposal, City Council members did indicate a concern about the lack of a buffering plan to screen the development from the backyards of some Norwich Street residences.

Even though the rail lines have been removed, the Norfolk Southern railroad still owns the right of way between the site and the lots on Norwich Street, requiring an easement from the railroad.

McGivern asked for a letter of agreement from the railroad concerning the placement of landscaping on its right of way in advance of the third reading of the legislation June 10.

"It would comfort (City) Council to have that letter," Iosue said.

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