Olentangy Valley News

Condo developer: We worked hard to please city, area's residents

Commission approves 22 downtown condos after months of compromises

By

Powell's Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved plans for a mixed-use condominium complex near the city's downtown last week.

The commission voted 6-0 to approve the final development plan for the Liberty Green development at its July 23 meeting. The approval follows months of discussion among Columbus-based developer Santer Communities, city of Powell officials and neighborhood residents about how to make the project more appropriate for its site.

Developer Chip Santer said his firm made a lot of concessions to the city and neighborhood residents in the planning of the complex. The project's 22 condo units and commercial building are planned for 3.7 acres of land at 110 S. Liberty St.

Santer said the final development plan features fewer units, more of a buffer zone between the site and neighbors to the east, and more trees than previous plans.

"We tried to really bend over backwards and listen to the issues and concerns of the town," he said.

Commission member Shawn Boysko agreed with Santer that the plan had "come a long way" since the board first considered it in December.

"I believe it will be a great enhancement to the community (and) a great enhancement to the downtown," he said.

Santer objected when commission member Bill Little attempted to add a condition to the plan's approval that would require the city, developer and neighbors to continue to work together "to find reasonable solutions to remaining issues."

David Betz, Powell's director of development, asked the commission to remove that language, which he said was ambiguous enough to cause problems as the project moves forward.

"It's hard for us to use that condition and figure out what you want," he said.

Betz said the commission already placed multiple conditions the project's landscaping and design that would accomplish a similar goal. The commission agreed and removed the contentious language.

Little said he saw a need in Powell for the project, which he said would appeal to multiple demographics.

"It seems that the millennials are waiting longer to buy a permanent home, and we've got empty-nesters ... and they're looking for alternative-style houses because they don't want to leave Powell," he said.

Future neighbors of the complex said they were not satisfied with plans for the site.

Tom Happensack, a resident of the Bartholomew Run neighborhood, said he wanted the developer to make sure the site's landscaping would be tall and dense enough to shield the site from neighbors.

Happensack said he agreed that plans for the Santer project had become more palatable over time thanks to the commission and Santer's efforts, but he still spoke out against the project.

"While I'm not in agreement with the development, I do commend (Santer) for the changes he has made," he said.

Janet Wartman, who lives directly south of the site, said she wanted the developer to install a fence between her property and the condominiums. She said a sidewalk proposed for Liberty Green would be an "invitation to trespass" on her property.

"I can see people going down that sidewalk and not wanting to stop," she said.

The complex will feature a private road running parallel to South Liberty Street on the east side of the property. City officials see this as the start of a potential north-south roadway that could ease traffic at the intersection of Olentangy and Liberty streets.

After the complex is built, the road would have stubs at the northern and southern property limits that could be connected to the future street.

Wartman reiterated her intention to never let the city build the road on her land at the meeting.

Comments