Worthington's planning commission has sent development guidelines for the United Methodist Children's Home to the City Council.
Worthington’s planning commission has let go of development guidelines for the United Methodist Children’s Home and sent them on to the City Council.
It’s not a hard-and-fast plan, commission Chairman Richard Hunter said Thursday night. Rather, “it’s a vision” for the 44.5 acres on High Street across from the Municipal Building, he said.
The architectural firm MKSK will prepare a final draft for the council, which President Bonnie D. Michael expects will support the document because of the lengthy public vetting involved. Michael said the council will discuss the document on Sept. 2, and a comprehensive plan could be ready sometime that month.
Jeffry Harris, the city’s economic development director, would then set off again to meet with developers who have expressed interest in the property.
The property is owned by the United Methodist Church, which would negotiate any sale with a developer. “Perhaps we can play matchmaker,” Harris said.
It is the largest undeveloped site in Worthington.
The document’s original zones — High Street Mixed Use, Neighborhood Core, Worthington Estates Edge and Tucker Creek Preserve — remain. However, commissioners agreed to remove the word “ substantially” to describe how far the commercial-residential mixed use could expand into the neighborhood core.
Commissioner Mikel Coulter said the redacted word implied that a developer would have the right to make the commercial area “enormous.”
“And not having it doesn’t preclude someone from proposing it,” said Jo Rodgers, a member of the commission’s architectural review board.
Some commissioners had worried that allowing alleys behind homes would result in a row of garages and trash cans behind houses.
MKSK principal Chris Hermann said alleys help with a denser development and provide builders with alternatives to “snout houses” that have garages as the prominent street-front feature or houses with garages attached in the rear.
Coulter suggested adding architectural considerations for alleys that try to “qualify what we expect them to be.”
The same architectural considerations will apply to the height and setback of buildings fronting High Street, commissioners said.
Vice Chairman James Sauer objected to the document’s 25-foot setback, saying a five-story building that close to High would create an unattractive “canyon” effect. Other commissioners said a building’s height could be made less imposing by terracing back the upper floors. The commissioners agreed to remove any specific setback number.
They kept in language that cul-de-sacs are “strongly discouraged” because the design doesn’t promote a walkable neighborhood. However, they said, a cul-de-sac with a walkway at the closed end connected to a neighboring street might be favorably viewed.
The commissioners also kept in strong language to ensure that the access from the development to adjoining Evening Street would not become a cut-through for large commercial vehicles.