Despite concerns over heavy traffic in the area, Powell's Planning and Zoning Commission last week unanimously approved plans for an apartment and retail complex on West Olentangy Street.
The board OK'd the final development plan for the Center at Powell Crossing at its Feb. 12 meeting after tabling discussion of the project at its previous meeting. Several board members expressed concerns at the earlier meeting that building new apartments and retail at the site was contrary to the city's current comprehensive plan, which stresses limiting through traffic near downtown Powell.
Commission member Joe Jester said the stakes of the discussion about the complex were high.
"I look at this project as probably one of the most important things we've done in downtown Powell for a while," he said. "I think it's a great project."
The planned development would bring four 16-unit apartment buildings and two retail buildings to the site at 147 W. Olentangy St.
Jester said the success of the development would be tied closely to the completion of two proposed city projects: the extension of Murphy Parkway and the installation of a new traffic signal at Olentangy Street and the CSX railroad tracks.
He said he thought the Murphy Parkway extension would reduce traffic on Olentangy Street, but added he wants to keep a close eye on the city's plans for traffic changes near the railroad tracks.
"If it isn't done right, your project is going to have all kinds of trouble," he told representatives of the Center at Powell Crossing.
Todd Faris, of Faris Planning and Design, said he was "committed to working with the city" on making sure traffic improvements work well with the development. He said the developer already has agreed to make whatever improvements are possible to help with traffic in the area.
"We're enhancing the streetscape along Olentangy Street," he said. "Studies show that that calms and slows traffic down."
Faris said the developer also would pay for a left-turn lane for westbound traffic on Olentangy Street at the site.
Commission member Bill Little said the decision about the Center at Powell Crossing was important because it would help determine the board's path on similar proposals in the area.
"What we do here, in many ways, sets the precedent for the next (development) and the one after that," Little said.
If the board turned down the project over traffic concerns, he said, the precedent would be to turn down future projects until the city either dealt with traffic congestion more effectively or wrote a more-workable comprehensive plan.
"We're getting to the point where we haven't done a lot of the infrastructure improvements that are necessary to support the buildout and development of the community," he said.
Ultimately, Little was in favor of the project, noting that he hoped a workable revision of the city's comprehensive plan would follow.
"I think this is a very well-done (proposal)," he said. "I think it is the right thing for the community."