F2, the developer planning 176 apartments on 13 acres near Avery and Davidson roads, completed its last pre-construction step at the June 19 session of the Hilliard Board of Zoning Appeals.
Construction is expected to start in late summer or early fall, said Glen Dugger, an attorney representing F2.
The BZA voted 5-1 to grant F2 a variance to adjust the required minimum setback from Avery and Davidson roads from 60 feet to 30 feet.
Mike Cope cast the dissenting vote and board chairman Brent Gilmore was absent.
Although Cope acknowledged the BZA had no oversight on the zoning of the parcel or its construction, he said the BZA was not required to grant the variance.
"I can't do anything about this monstrosity going forward (but) we are here to apply our judgment (concerning the variance)," Cope said.
City Planner John Talentino recommended the BZA approve the variance, though his staff report appeared to give the BZA opportunity to question the recommendation.
In his staff report, Talentino wrote the "essential character of the neighborhood could be altered" but that adjoining properties "would not suffer a substantial detriment as a result of the variance."
Further, Talentino wrote the "property owner's predicament can feasibly be obviated through a rezoning to a planned district with the specified setbacks."
Board member Dean Worthington noted the duality.
"This seems 50-50 to me," said Worthington, repeating comments in the staff report that seemed to conflict concerning the impact on neighboring single-family residences.
Dugger also noted the word choice, telling the board he had thought, "What (is Talentino) trying to do to me?"
Cope later challenged Dugger for the comment, saying, "What are you trying to do to us?"
Dugger told board members the reduced setback from 60 feet to 30 feet was the result of a deliberate negotiation with the city's administration.
"It was agreed there was a desire for the buildings to be closer to the street," Dugger said.
Board member Brian Boshane asked if the apartment buildings could be arranged so as to not require the variance for the reduced setback, but Law Director Tracy Bradford advised the board it was only to consider the variance application.
"The city and my client agreed it was better to move (the buildings closer to the road)," Dugger said.
Dugger said the arrangement would be more aesthetic, further the city's goals of establishing a pedestrian-friendly community and help with traffic calming.
Worthington called for public comment on the issue but received no response.
"I was hoping for a response from residents," Cope said.
Earlier this year when the proposal was introduced, numerous residents attended City Council meetings and a special meeting F2 hosted to discuss the proposal.
The Glenmont Christian Science nursing home, 4599 Avery Road, owns the land on which F2 will build. Since 1982, most of Glenmont's land has been zoned for a nursing home and multifamily housing.
F2 will purchase about 13 acres from Glenmont to build the 176 apartments. Glenmont will keep about 5.5 acres, including 35 single-family units, and convey 0.6 of an acre, including a farmhouse, to the city to convert into a public use.
Because the land already was zoned properly, no rezoning was required and F2 was not required to submit a development plan; instead, F2 worked with city officials to meet zoning requirements prior to obtaining a building permit.
City officials previously granted a lot split and variance to allow the project to continue as proposed, and Hilliard City Council on June 23 approved the developer's agreement among the city, F2 and Glenmont. The agreement included a site plan, building elevations, the lot split and setbacks.
The multifamily development would be the first for F2, a new company headed by Ted Foster, a multifamily developer for Casto, and Mike Fite, who designed student housing for Edwards Land Co.
In other business June 19, the BZA approved a variance to reduce the minimum setback for a communications tower for Verizon Wireless, 3450 Parkway Lane; to permit construction of a fence at W.W. Williams Co., 3535 Parkway Lane; and to reduce the minimum separation between two fences at a residence in the 5300 block of Grandon Drive.