How tall is too tall for commercial buildings in Pickerington?
With current Pickerington zoning guidelines capped at a height of 40 feet, members of the City Zoning Code Steering Committee met March 20 to discuss dispensing with a regulation that has limited the city's skyline, but perhaps development opportunities as well.
City Manager Bill Vance said the 40-foot restriction has its origins partly as a safety regulation because firefighting equipment needed to be able to reach the upper expanses of buildings.
He said modern fire protection technology, however, has now advanced.
"We don't need to be limited to three or four stories," Vance said.
"We can have a six- or seven-story building next to (Interstate 70)," he said.
"The fire department has the capacity," to handle taller structures, Vance said.
He said language in the zoning code can be more flexible to reflect the advances in fire prevention.
"We don't necessarily have to be limited to 35 to 40 feet unless Pickerington doesn't want anything over 40 feet," Vance said.
"Maybe we don't want to be limited to 40 feet," he said.
"Why limit it to 40 feet?" asked City Councilman Jeff Fix.
"Some places don't want a skyline," Vance said.
"We have a potential hospital development," he said.
"Who knows how many stories that can go up," said Vance, referring to the future OhioHealth complex planned for Refugee Road.
Fix said one mechanism to attract developers is to reduce the number of variances they need.
"If a hospital wants five stories, an office (wants) 10 stories, that would be a commercial development that (will) pay a lot of bills," Fix said.
"The less variances we have the better off we are," he said.
Committee member Chris Schweizer asked how to adopt a catch-all phrase or a specific zoning area "to allow for that type of development, (like) a commercial development corridor along the (I-70) freeway?"
Mitch Banchefsky, an attorney for the city and for Ice Miller, the firm retained by the city to help revise the code, recommended the flexibility of a "Planned Unit Development" or "PUD."
"It's a blank slate, the applicant comes in and basically writes their own zoning text for that property," said Banchefsky, who added the current application of PUD's in the city's zoning code "doesn't function very well."
Committee member Cristie Hammonds said aesthetics would still need to be taken into consideration.
"The main thing is to have a building that still is going to look pleasing in 20 years, not these faddish ones that go in a neighborhood they don't belong to," Hammonds said.
Fix said one need only to look to Reynoldsburg to see that loosening height restrictions can generate revenue.
"If you go up (state Route 256) in Reynoldsburg ... on the left side is a five- to six-story assisted living center, you don't really notice it," Fix said.
"They're building (another) six-story unit right next to it," he said.
"There's money in those buildings, there's tax revenue in those buildings we would love to have here."
Fix said Pickerington's historic reputation as a rural community has played a role in limiting its appeal for certain kinds of development as well.
"I'm concerned because of our (height) restrictions," Fix said.
"I understand the PUD, but wonder if we miss those opportunities off the top because Pickerington is rural in nature," he said.