Hilliard Northwest News

124 acres likely back in school district's hands

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

A 124-acre parcel between Cosgray and Leppert roads will remain in the hands of Hilliard City Schools after a central Ohio developer opted not to execute a purchase contract the school board had approved in April.

The sale of the land on the west side of Leppert Road and north of Scioto Darby Road to Rockford Homes included a 240-day contingency for the developer to obtain the desired rezoning and development plan.

Hilliard's preferred housing density was determined to be too cost-prohibitive for Rockford Homes to proceed with infrastructure development, Mayor Don Schonhardt said.

Rockford Homes representatives met with Hilliard officials in the summer, Schonhardt said, and were advised that two units per acre would be the maximum density the city would support.

"It was an informal discussion," Schonhardt said. "There was never any application made."

Schonhardt said the development would have required the construction of an east-to-west arterial road between Cosgray and Leppert roads and, more notably, the extension of sanitary-sewer service to the site.

"After you accounted for the land that was needed for rights of way and green space, there simply wasn't enough land (at the maximum density of two units per acre) for it to work," Schonhardt said. "Based on the simple financial reality, it just wasn't feasible for the developer to proceed."

School board president Andy Teater said Robert Yoakam, president of Rockford Homes, notified Assistant Superintendent Tim Hamilton via a July 5 letter that the developer would not proceed with the purchase.

Because no official board action was necessary, Hamilton notified district officials via email July 8.

The letter stated the company had shown a site plan to Hilliard officials and it was not met with the approval, district spokeswoman Amanda Morris said.

Schonhardt said Yoakam met with him and Butch Seidle, the public-services director, prior to July 5 and presented a site plan at the two-units-per-acre density limit.

He said a tax-increment-financing district likely would have been necessary to offset the cost of providing sewer service and constructing the required thoroughfares to handle traffic.

The site plan, apart from dedicated green areas, contained only residential development, Schonhardt said.

Yoakam said Dec. 17 that he had made an informal presentation to the planning and zoning commission and met with Schonhardt and Seidle prior to withdrawing the purchase offer.

"The reality was there was just too much infrastructure costs involved," Yoakam said.

"It was serious money," Yoakam said, and lacking the option of applying a TIF to the project, it was not economically feasible.

"Council does not support the use of TIFs for residential-(only) developments," Schonhardt said, and that message was conveyed to Yoakam, who was offered the opportunity to present a formal application to the planning and zoning commission.

Instead, Yoakam indicated he did not desire to pursue the plan because of the financial hurdles, Schonhardt said.

Now, the district remains the owner of the parcel and it is for sale, Morris said.

The district purchased the 124-acre tract at 4617 Leppert Road from the Grener family in 2003 for $50,000 per acre. It was intended for development of the district's third high school but after voters rejected two bond issues, the district bought land on Walker Road and opened Bradley High School in 2009.

The district intended to sell to Rockford Homes for almost $5 million at $40,000 per acre, $10,000 per acre less than the purchase price, but district officials said it was the best offer available at the time.

Soon after the sale to the homebuilder was announced, city officials said the school board acted hypocritically, given district officials' past complaints about building homes in the district.

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