Members of the Columbus Development Commission voted 4-1 last week in favor of a rezoning to allow a 152-unit apartment complex at 5450 Riverside Drive.

Members of the Columbus Development Commission voted 4-1 last week in favor of a rezoning to allow a 152-unit apartment complex at 5450 Riverside Drive.

"Much to all of our dismay," Rosemarie Lisko, chairwoman of the Northwest Civic Association graphics and zoning committee, wrote about the city commission's OK in an email announcing the positive recommendation from the panel.

The final decision on the rezoning rests with Columbus City Council.

The Development Commission ruling runs counter to a unanimous vote Northwest Civic Association trustees took after a lengthy special meeting Jan. 8 at Centennial High School.

The session was held in the school's auditorium to accommodate the expected overflow crowd of nearby condominium residents who strongly oppose the apartment project proposed by Casto Communities.

Civic association President John Ehlers, who was out of town on business and unable to attend the commission meeting, left behind a detailed letter stating the organization's objections to the rezoning and mentioning that a petition signed by more than 250 nearby residents was submitted at the special meeting.

In his Feb. 3 letter, Ehlers noted reasons the association and residents oppose the rezoning, including:

* Increase in density from 12 to 13.7 units an acre.

* Land use inconsistent with surrounding luxury condos and duplexes.

* Impact on traffic, with some "quiet streets" in a neighborhood of mostly retirees bearing the brunt of 1,200 or so vehicle trips a day from the complex.

* Aesthetics.

* Safety relating to access for emergency vehicles and school buses.

* Diminished property values.

* Soil cleanup concerns regarding in-ground fuel tanks left when a service station closed on the site in 1972.

"Of all the letters and emails I received from residents on this matter, I found two to be especially interesting," Ehlers wrote.

"Dick Meyer estimates that the lower tax revenues from the surrounding area, resulting from lower property values, would more than offset additional tax revenues from the development.

"Bill Kientz Sr. uses information from Casto and some estimates of his own to show that building half as many duplex units as proposed rental units would yield greater profits.

"There are other viable options for this site and some problems to be worked out, but this development proposal does not fit with the site's constraints, nor with the community," Ehlers wrote.

"I urge the commissioners to support the residents and disapprove the applicant's request."

In advocating for the rezoning at the Northwest Civic Association's December session, during which he asked for a delay in the vote, and again at the Jan. 8 special meeting, attorney Jeffrey L. Brown of Smith and Hale LLC said changes in the economy no longer make condo development of the site -- which some residents said was promised to them when they bought -- financially feasible.

The split commission vote was in keeping with the recommendation from city planning staff.

"Staff has determined that this proposal is compatible with surrounding residential development as recommended by the Northwest Plan, noting that the requested 13.7 units per acre represents a negligible difference of approximately 20 dwelling units more than a density of 12.1 units per acre ... ," the report stated.

"The requested ... Limited Apartment Resident District also replaces nearly four acres of more intense commercial zoning with a consolidated residential development that incorporates substantial specificity and development standards in consideration of adjacent residential uses."