Plans to build a new apartment complex in Liberty Township may lead to feelings of deja vu for local residents.
Columbus-based Lifestyle Communities brought a proposal for a mixed-use complex with 300 apartments and 55 condominiums at the corner of Sawmill Parkway and Seldom Seen Road to the township's zoning commission July 17. Board members took no action on the proposal, but all four members present said they would not likely approve a plan featuring that many units.
The company previously had proposed a complex with close to 500 units on the same site before annexation and zoning talks with the city of Powell fell apart in spring 2013. The almost-44-acre site is located southeast of Sawmill Drive, just outside city limits.
The developer is asking for the majority of the site's commercial and industrial zoning to be changed to a Planned Residence District.
Commission member Dan Schade said there was a lot to admire about the proposed project, which also would include a medical office building near the western edge of the site.
"I will say, from an architectural perspective, if I had to put apartments in Liberty Township, I'd want them to look like yours," he said.
Still, he said his concerns over the number of units planned and the development's potential effect on traffic would prevent him from backing the project as presented.
"At the current density, there's no way I could support it," he said.
Commission member Bonnie Goodson agreed the apartments had "a great look" but said a 355-unit development did not fit the site.
"It would be like sitting the city of Columbus smack dab in the middle of Powell," she said.
Township officials said plans for the project also included some inconsistent or missing information relating to dimensions and density.
Powell councilmen Jon Bennehoof and Brian Lorenz attended the meeting and told the board they had concerns about the project.
Bennehoof said he thought there were other undeveloped sites in Liberty Township that would better support a high-density development.
"I'm not sure this is the right place for that kind of density," he said.
Bennehoof and Lorenz were among the five council members who voted against an annexation agreement between Lifestyle Communities and Powell in April 2013 over issues including the project's density.
Asked if the developer would seek to have the site annexed into Powell again, attorney David Fisher, who spoke on behalf of Lifestyle Communities, said he could not imagine that happening.
Fisher said the company was not expecting a vote on the proposal last week, but wanted input from township officials and the community so it could refine its plans.
Fisher said the property, located near a significant crossroads, was ripe for development.
"The question is: If not this, what?" he said.
Fisher said a large retail development at the site likely would create more new traffic than an apartment complex.
Most residents who spoke at the meeting said they wanted something other than an apartment complex. They cited concerns about the project's density, the traffic it could create and the potential strain it could put on Olentangy schools.
Darlene Kelly, who lives just south of the proposed complex at the Woods at Big Bear Farms condominiums, said it's tough enough to turn out of her community onto Sawmill Parkway already. She said a new traffic signal that could be installed near the condo complex's entrance if the project is approved could make the situation even worse by backing up traffic.
"We could not get out of our community even to make a right-hand turn," she said. "I'm concerned about that. I really am."
Lifestyle Communities officials said they were hoping to attract two demographic groups to the proposed complex: young professionals and empty-nesters. The combination of apartments and condominiums was seen as a way to attract both.
Similar to other LC developments, the complex would feature a bar and restaurant, a resort-style pool and small businesses meant to serve residents.
The commission is expected to discuss the Lifestyle Communities project again at its Sept. 17 meeting.