Olentangy Valley News

Powell condos move forward despite anxious residents

Commission members say condo complex among best possibilities for Liberty Street site

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A mixed-use condominium development near downtown Powell is one step closer to reality.

Powell's Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved the preliminary development plan for 22 condos and a commercial building on about 3.7 acres of land at the board's May 14 meeting.

Columbus-based developer Santer Communities showed board members a revised plan with more green space between the condos and the neighborhood to the east of the site, 110 S. Liberty St.

"We have a buffer on the east way beyond any typical setback requirements," developer Chip Santer said.

Santer said his firm also had attempted to set up a meeting with residents of the Bartholomew Run subdivision to discuss the new development but received no reply.

At last week's meeting, as in prior meetings, nearby residents expressed their concerns about the possibility that the project will lead to increased traffic and light pollution in the area.

Greg Britt, who lives on Glen Abbey Court just east of the planned development, said he thought the site's design had improved in the last few months. He said he still didn't want the condominiums as a neighbor.

"I think we've come a long way from the first one, but my (reaction) is still the same as the first day. I really don't want a parking lot or a road in back of my house," he said.

Commission member Richard Fusch said he appreciated the residents' concerns, but he said the site's zoning could allow for something more intrusive than a condo complex.

He said because the site is zoned as part of the downtown business district, a future developer could plan a three-story office building that takes up 45 percent of the site. He said it would be hard for the city to reject the project as long as it met zoning guidelines.

"My concern is that a developer will come along and put something in there that will have a far greater effect on Powell's downtown than a development like this," he said.

Commission member Trent Hartranft said he liked the changes the developer has made to the project over the past few months, including a decrease in the number of units.

He said people cutting through the city to get to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium or other destinations are the main cause of congestion in the city, not residential development.

"I understand that traffic's always a concern," he said. "It's a concern anywhere we put (a development) in Powell."

City officials see the development as a potential link in a planned pathway that could ease congestion in the area. A road that runs through the development could later be connected to East Olentangy Street to the north and Liberty Street to the south.

The hope is that the proposed road would give city residents a way to avoid the busy intersection of Olentangy and Liberty streets.

Upon approving the preliminary development plan, the board inserted a requirement that Santer Communities inform potential condo owners of the city's plans to construct the road through the property.

Commission member Joe Jester said he still had a lot of concerns about the proposed development. He said he was especially disappointed with the design of the two-story commercial building planned for the front of the site.

"That looks to me like it's just a big box," he said.

Fusch disagreed, saying he thought the building blended in well with the architecture of Powell's historic downtown. He said it's not unusual for developers to try to use architectural themes present in nearby historic buildings when designing new structures.

"This building fits this model perfectly," he said.

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