Northwest News

NWCA rejects rezoning request for apartments

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

A 152-unit apartment complex on Riverside Drive would not be "consistent and compatible" with the surrounding properties, Northwest Civic Association Graphics and Zoning Committee Chairwoman Rosemarie Lisko said at a special meeting last week.

She was reading from the city's area plan for the Northwest Side, and then made a motion to recommend disapproval of a requested rezoning to pave the way for the project.

The other civic association trustees agreed.

"That's just a ridiculous proposal," Kellie Ehlers commented.

"It's unanimous," said John Ehlers, her husband and the board's president.

With that, 100 people in the auditorium at Centennial High School broke into applause.

They are the owners of condominiums around the 11.1-acre site at 5450 Riverside Drive, mostly older people who expressed worries during the special session that their lives would be disrupted, their peace disturbed and the values of their properties harmed if the Casto Communities project were to go through.

Denial of the application is not a done deal, John Ehlers cautioned the upset residents of the area close to the intersection of Riverside Drive and West Case Road.

Unless withdrawn by the applicant, the rezoning request will go before the Board of Zoning Appeals in late February or possibly late March, and then to Columbus City Council for a final ruling about two months after that, Ehlers said.

He advised the condo owners to be ready to turn out in force at least twice more.

"We can make a very compelling argument to them that this is not going to work, but we need to have a collective voice in doing that," Ehlers said.

The request to rezone the entire parcel, once the location of a service station that closed down in the 1970s, first came up at the NWCA's Dec. 4 session.

About the same number of irate condo owners, many of whom said they were promised that site would also be developed as equity-owned condominiums when they bought their units, were on hand for that meeting, stretching by a wide margin the occupancy limit on the room in the Meadow Park Church of God where civic association gatherings are normally held.

Attorney Jeffrey L. Brown of Smith and Hale LLC withdrew the request before the trustees vote was taken, but after getting an earful from those in the audience.

The association was not scheduled to have a January meeting because the first Wednesday of the month fell on New Year's Day, but with the major rezoning request in the offing, board President Ehlers called for the special session and obtained permission to hold the meeting at Centennial High.

Most of the 11.1 acres is currently zoned for multifamily housing at 12 units an acre, Brown said at the special meeting.

About three acres is zoned commercial, and the attorney said if developed as currently zoned the property would have more of an impact on traffic than if allowed to be turned into an apartment project with 13.7 units an acre.

Brown also said Casto Communities would not only develop the complex but also manage it.

"They're local people," he told the crowd. "They do a good job of managing their property.

"If you check, I think you'll find Casto has a fine record.

"I'm sorry that I don't have a magic wand with the traffic."

One man asked Brown if it was economically viable to develop the property as currently zoned.

"We're not going to answer that," Brown answered.

"You just did," the man replied.

"We can make a very compelling argument to them that this is not going to work, but we need to have a collective voice in doing that."

-- JOHN EHLERS

Northwest Civic Association

Board of Trustees president

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