Upper Arlington News

BZAP says no to city-requested rezoning

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The Upper Arlington Board of Zoning and Planning this week rejected the city's request to rezone the Municipal Services Center property, but the issue of whether the site will be developed is far from being resolved.

Saying its members needed more information as to how the city intends to develop the 7.43-acre Upper Arlington MSC property, BZAP members voted unanimously May 5 to deny the city's call to rezone the parcel from a Residential Community Development District to an Office and Research District (ORC).

"It's too loose," BZAP Chairman Robert Tullet said. "I'm not used to seeing issues come to us that are not put together. I feel like (city officials) should bring the plan to us, not us bringing the plan to them."

The matter was to be addressed Monday evening by Upper Arlington City Council, but council members chose to delay a vote on the rezoning until June 9.

All of the comments, the BZAP vote and council's delay of its decision came after the BZAP meeting was delayed by about 15 minutes because the approximately 200 people who turned out overflowed a downstairs MSC conference room where the meeting was to be held.

Maximum capacity for that room was approximately 80 people, and some of those who made it inside took seats on the floor before the venue was changed.

Council's decision to delay a vote came after William Loveland, an attorney for residents of the Trouville condominium community next to the MSC at 3600 Tremont Road, balked at Council President Don Leach's offer of a "compromise," that Leach said would include his recommendation that council maintain residential zoning for the 2 acres at the MSC property's southern edge, as well as a 20-foot "no-build" buffer between Trouville and the MSC site.

In exchange for the concessions, Leach said, council would seek to pass the rezoning on Monday by emergency vote.

However, the Trouville residents rejected the deal -- in part, Loveland said, because an emergency passage would strip them of the right to strike down the rezoning or a future development by referendum vote.

After the council meeting, Loveland said he was "delighted that folks are going to take some time to think about" the rezoning, but said holding a vote this week wouldn't have given him or his clients time to discuss issues or offers that might come out of negotiations.

He added that the city hasn't responded to his public records request, which seeks more information about proposals for the site, including communications regarding a pending development deal.

"We've asked for a lot of information we haven't gotten," he said.

The city of Upper Arlington sought the rezoning and in March, released a "request for interest" (RFI) to developers for 1.34 acres of the currently undeveloped northern tip of the MSC property.

The city's RFI said the site could accommodate 30,000 square feet or more with the expansion of surface parking.

As of last month, city officials said they'd received two responses to the RFI from Trivium Development and Daimler/Kohr Royer Griffith Development Co. LLC.

At that time, UA Community Affairs Director Emma Speight said both developers proposed "a general office project" for the site, but added, "The city has not made the decision to pursue a project at this location."

At Monday night's meetings, City Attorney Jeanine Hummer and UA Senior Planning Officer Chad Gibson said the city needs to develop the MSC site to bring in added income tax revenue.

According to city officials, only 4.7 percent of Upper Arlington's usable land is zoned for retail and office uses, and Gibson noted that approximately 1 percent of the city is zoned for ORC.

"This (rezoning to ORC) involves bringing in our top-level jobs," Gibson said. "It's our bread and butter."

Hummer said the parcel in question, "produces no income to the city. This is a parcel of land that, over the years, entities have looked at. That income tax helps the city, it helps residents. It is better than a front yard."

The assertion drew scorn from many in the audience, including one unidentified woman who said, "Let's rezone the parks while we're at it."

Most of those who came to Monday's meetings opposed the rezoning, with the majority living in Trouville.

Some, like Johanna DeStefano, said she worried that the rezoning would permit anything from offices to hotels and restaurants to be developed on the MSC site. Such uses would not be "harmonious" with the existing neighborhood, she said.

Ann Snyder, a Realtor, said her father developed what now is Riverside Methodist Hospital, and she lauded the late Bill Sheaf, who developed Trouville.

"I'm for development," Snyder said. "I understand it.

"(Sheaf) gave us a jewel in this city. There'll never be another one. Please don't destroy it."

Former UA Planning Commissioner and Councilwoman Priscilla Mead also called on city officials to slow down the process so that all residents have a better picture of what the city plans for the site.

"You have the opportunity to recommend to council to start over when a plan is presented," Mead said. "All parties will be at the table and the city will not be a proponent.

"Let the idea come forth and then deal with it when the plan comes forward comprehensively."

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