Olentangy Local School District officials have identified even more proposed apartments they say could spell trouble for the crowded district.
Westerville-based developer Metro Development LLC plans to build a complex featuring 148 apartment units and 90 extended-stay hotel rooms just off U.S. Route 23 at Lazelle Road. The developer also plans the construction of several apartment buildings near the old Germain Amphitheater location, east of Interstate 71 and just south of East Powell Road, said Orange Township Zoning Inspector Tom Farahay.
Both properties previously were part of Orange Township. The Lazelle Road plot was annexed into the city of Columbus last year, bypassing Orange Township density restrictions that wouldn't have permitted the tightly packed apartments. Annexation of the Powell Road location is ongoing, Farahay said.
The developer now is seeking proper zoning to finalize its development plans.
They represent the third and fourth rounds of apartments that have residents and officials worried about an unplanned influx of new residents and students, which could be costly for the Olentangy school district.
Opponents of the apartments worry that adding so many new students in such a short time could force another round of redistricting, or even force the district to consider building another new elementary school sooner than planned. That cost would be shouldered by taxpayers.
"The bottom line is this, the dreaded L-word: levy," Superintendent Wade Lucas said at the school board's Sept. 25 meeting.
"I think this is one topic that we all can agree on, and it's one thing that can bring us all together."
"The tax money that will be garnered from those developments would not benefit the district," said board member Julie Wagner Feasel, "and the students that would be coming in would adversely impact the district."
Calls to Metro Development LLC for comment were not returned in time for publication.
The other two proposed apartment complexes that have stirred opposition both would be located on the west side of the district, along Sawmill Parkway. The first is proposed for a lot just south of Seldom Seen Road; the second would be built just north of Home Road.
The east-side developments have spawned similar opposition from area business owners and groups, including the Far North Columbus Communities Coalition.
That includes Columbus Mitsubishi North owner Tom Carpenter, who fears U.S. Route 23 development will worsen traffic conditions on the roadway near his business.
"It is just way, way too dense, and it's going to create some real traffic problems," Carpenter said.
Property developer Vince Margello, a vocal critic of the developments, said the explosion of planned apartments in the Olentangy school district is part of a nationwide housing trend, with financial uncertainty prompting many residents to rent instead of buy.
At the Sept. 25 school board meeting, Lucas said the district is keeping a close watch on all four developments.
Former school board member Dimon McFerson also spoke out against the proposed apartments during the meeting, urging the board to stand in opposition.
"I think it's time for this board of education to get hugely involved in this issue," McFerson said. "We must act or we're going to be acted upon. It's that simple.
"This area is what it is because of Olentangy schools and its commitment to single-family housing."