A representative of Westerville-based property developer Metro Development LLC says apartments planned for U.S. Route 23 will add very few students to the Olentangy school district -- and district officials agree.
Jill Tangeman, a land-use attorney representing the developer, addressed the Far North Columbus Communities Coalition at an Oct. 2 meeting, where she said the impact on the school district will be negligible if apartments are built just east of Route 23 at Lazelle Road, just north of the Delaware County line.
She was addressing new concerns over an explosion of proposed apartment complexes in the area. Some residents and officials have expressed fears that the district can't accommodate a sudden, unplanned influx of students.
The apartment complex on Lazelle Road would include 148 apartment units and 90 extended-stay hotel rooms on an 11.2-acre parcel, according to current plans.
Tangeman said the developer expects the 10 two- and three-story apartment buildings would attract mostly young professionals, with school-age children accounting for fewer than 5 percent of residents. That number is based on the percentage of students living in a similar Metro Development complex in New Albany.
"We expect very, very few children in these properties," Tangeman said. "At Albany Landings, it's under 5 percent school children."
Olentangy Local School District Business Manager Jeff Gordon said those claims are credible. Unlike other apartment complexes planned for the area, the Lazelle Road apartments will have fewer amenities and a lower price point -- the kind of apartments that historically attract young, single people, not families, Gordon said.
Similar claims made in August by representatives from Lifestyle Real Estate Holdings Ltd., which hopes to build apartments at Sawmill Parkway and Seldom Seen Road, didn't hold water with Gordon.
That developer wants to construct 550 townhouse apartments and pitched the idea to Powell City Council on the grounds that it would attract mostly young professionals. Soon after, another developer proposed a second batch of apartments just off Sawmill Parkway, north of Home Road.
But Gordon estimates an influx of 138 new school-age children between those two developments, despite developer claims that they would house mostly young people in their mid 20s and 30s.
By comparison, Gordon said the Lazelle Road development might add 20 students.
The final development details for the complex aren't finalized, but all signs indicate the project will go forward as soon it is approved by Columbus City Council. The land, originally part of Orange Township, was annexed into the city of Columbus in March, opening an opportunity for the development of apartments under Columbus' more-lenient density restrictions.
The final zoning request will be considered by the Columbus Zoning Commission at a public meeting set for 6 p.m. today, Oct. 11, at the zoning and permits building, 757 Carolyn Ave. The commission will make a recommendation to City Council, which likely will vote on the zoning request at a November meeting, said Chris Presutti, Columbus' chief zoning official.
Some local business owners and members of the Far North Columbus Communities Coalition have spoken out against the Lazelle Road development, saying it's much too dense. Those concerns have made a dent in the developer's plans -- the apartment count stands at 148, down from 172 in the original application.
Still, some fear it will unreasonably raise traffic levels on an already congested stretch of Route 23.
There also have been concerns about access for schools buses and fire trucks into the tightly packed apartment complex. But Presutti said the development wouldn't be approved if it didn't meet code requirements for emergency access, stormwater management and other factors.
He added the city can't block commercial development based on traffic complaints.
"City Council understands the traffic issues but they also understand that it may not be a justifiable or legally sound reason to stop development," Presutti said. "The developer has the right to develop the land."