Olentangy Valley News

Apartment protests spur moratorium talk among Powell City Council


Powell City Council started a conversation last week about a moratorium on multifamily housing developments in response to public outcry over recent apartment and condo proposals.

Councilman Mike Crites said he recently asked city Law Director Gene Hollins to research whether such a moratorium would be legal and feasible. He said the concept occurred to him as he received public feedback during the city's comprehensive planning process, and he wondered if a moratorium could be enforced until the 20-year-old document's revision is completed.

Hollins told City Council at its Aug. 5 meeting that it has the authority to pass an ordinance creating a moratorium. Whether the temporary ban stands up to legal challenges hinges on two questions, he said: Is the moratorium limited in scope, and is its time period reasonable?

"There is certainly Ohio law and federal law that supports the possibility of some type of moratorium limited in scope and limited in time period," he said.

Crites suggested that, if council wanted to go forward with a moratorium on multifamily housing, it could be in place for 14 or 15 months to allow the city to complete its comprehensive plan.

Residents have criticized the plan as outdated because it suggested apartments as a possible use for the 8.3-acre site at 147 W. Olentangy St. Multiple council members cited the document when they voted 4-3 to approve the final development plan in June for a 64-unit, mixed-use apartment complex on that site.

Opponents of the Center at Powell Crossing's development hope an updated comprehensive plan would discourage future apartment developments due to concerns about school crowding, traffic and other issues.

If a moratorium is passed, Hollins said, development plans currently going through the city's planning and zoning process would be examined on a case-by-case basis. Some projects could be allowed to proceed if the developer had committed significant amounts of time and money to their proposal.

"In Ohio, really, I think the onus would be on the landowner themselves, making the case they have vested rights and showing that they had devoted substantial resources to (the project)," he said.

Vice Mayor Brian Lorenz, who voted against the Center at Powell Crossing's development, said he wanted council to continue talking about the moratorium.

"I think it's something that's very important to consider," he said.

Councilman Tom Counts said council had to heed Hollins' advice on the scope of the moratorium if it decided to move forward.

"A two-unit multifamily (project) is completely different than a 250-unit project," he said.

Crites said he hoped council's development committee would take up the issue of the moratorium and bring a recommendation back to council soon.

"I don't think we can sit back on our hands," he said. "The community's been pretty clear that it's really important to them."