Hilliard will get a new digital-communications tower but likely not in the location city officials initially planned.

Hilliard will get a new digital-communications tower but likely not in the location city officials initially planned.

The Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission on April 10 approved the construction of a tower between Heritage Middle School and Darby High School, near the northeast corner of Scioto Darby and Leppert roads.

The tower will serve Verizon Wireless customers and provide digital radio service to the Hilliard Division of Police and Norwich Township Fire Department.

The shared-use tower will be built in lieu of a tower the city had planned inside Roger A. Reynolds Municipal Park.

"We are pleased with the partnership ... the key is there will now be only one tower instead of two," police Chief Doug Francis told commission members.

The city, the Hilliard City Schools and Verizon have not yet signed a final agreement but it is expected soon, Francis said.

Jeff Franklin, director of business for the Hilliard City Schools, and Mike Hennon, a subcontracting agent for Verizon Wireless, also were at the meeting.

Verizon will lease the tower site from the school district, Franklin said, although the amount Verizon will pay the district was not finalized April 10.

The deal is the first lease agreement between Verizon and Hilliard City Schools, Franklin said. The district has similar lease agreements with other telecommunication companies for towers on district property.

Verizon needs a tower for improved cellular service in western Franklin County as annexation and new construction expand in the Hilliard and Dublin corridors west of Columbus, Hennon said.

The police need the tower for similar reasons because police officers inside Bradley High School on Walker Road lose radio contact, Francis said.

Verizon will not charge the Hilliard police department to attach its equipment to the tower, Francis said, and the school district will not charge the city for use of its property.

The Hilliard Division of Police also is required to get a new tower because the city recently joined the Central Ohio Interoperability Radio System, or COIRS. Joining COIRS was the result of Hilliard's decision last year to contract with Dublin police for all emergency-dispatching services.

Hilliard and Norwich Township had agreed to share the cost of building a new $1.8 million tower in Roger A. Reynolds Municipal Park.

Sharing a tower with Verizon will save the city money, though the amount is yet to be determined, Francis said.

Verizon and COIRS will construct the tower but the cost and amount each will pay has not been finalized, Francis said.

Landmark Lofts

In other business April 10, planning and zoning commission members approved a modification to the development plan for Landmark Lofts, a mixed-use apartment and retail development at Cemetery Road and Franklin Street.

Commission members joined two separate planned-unit development zoning designations into a single planned-unit development.

Commission members last year approved a planned-unit development for 5.8 acres. Then after an agreement was reached later for the adjacent Sunbelt Rentals property, the commission approved a planned-unit development for the 0.6 acre.

Ben Buoni, a Norwich Street resident, also reiterated his concerns about the quality of work neighbors expect.

"The city of Hilliard is on steroids when it comes to apartments," Buoni said.

Buoni said he understood the administration's explanation for supporting apartment projects, but he told commission members he was there to "kindly remind them" that the developer, Buckeye KRG, had pledged apartments that were to be "unique and a cut above."

"I want to you to hold Buckeye KRG accountable," Buoni said.

Mayor Don Schonhardt, a member of the planning and zoning commission, said he "would watch as closely as you do" and there is "no reason to believe (the developer) would do anything less."

Other business

* Commission members approved a development plan for the construction of a 9,860-square-foot funeral home on the west side of Trueman Boulevard, about 2,400 feet south of Davidson Road.

Newcomer Funeral Home is set to open at the site, giving Hilliard its second funeral home. Tidd Funeral Home on Norwich Street has been the only mortuary in Hilliard for almost three decades.

Glen Dugger, an attorney representing Newcomer Funeral Homes, said the applicant will not be able to replace the required number of trees, opting instead for payments in lieu of the requirement.

* Commission members tabled to May 8 the rezoning of 15.9 acres for the construction of 381 apartments north of Davidson Road and east of Interstate 270.

Trueman Boulevard would be extended north of Davidson Road and connect to Edwards Farms Drive as part of the proposed development.