Westerville City Council voted unanimously last week to approve a resolution creating a Special Overlay District for the South State Street corridor.

Westerville City Council voted unanimously last week to approve a resolution creating a Special Overlay District for the South State Street corridor.

"The purpose of this is to give our community the best that we can give them," Mayor Anne Gonzales said. "The comments I hear over and over are that this corridor looks tired and what are we going to do about it. We're using this as an opportunity to address those goals."

The overlay separates South State into three smaller districts: the Gateway District, the State and Schrock District and the Old Town District leading into Uptown.

Several community members voiced concern about the plan, including Casto representative Charlie Fraas.

Fraas said that while the various aspects of the overlay are admirable, he believes adding them all together may make developing the area difficult. He cited various requirements such as irrigation, distance from the street, screening and others.

"This plan is very specific. There's very little flexibility for those looking to redevelop in the area," Fraas said. "Each is a lofty goal, but added all up this is going to create a disincentive to develop."

Erin Miller, representing the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) said that agency is in favor of the proposal.

"We're here to show our appreciation for this overlay district," Miller said. "The multi-use design is excellent. I think this is a great step forward for the city."

Council also heard the first reading of an ordinance to end a temporary moratorium on new zoning applications in the corridor. If the second ordinance is approved at council's next meeting, both actions will go into effect April 16.

City planner Lisa LaMantia said the South State Street overlay has several purposes: to enhance zoning in the area and to plan for pedestrian and bikeway amenities; to focus on urban form, scale and design; to create architectural requirements in the area and to set standards to incorporate environmentally friendly design and allow for a mix of uses on sites.

"I think we need this strong language (as written in the overlay plan) to let people know what our goals are for the area," Councilwoman Kathy Cocuzzi said.

LaMantia said an overlay district is used to distinguish an area that is important to the overall community image; in this case, it will be superimposed on existing zoning classifications and will modify or supplement underlying zoning requirements, she said.

lrice@thisweeknews.com