520-unit apartment complex
Plan again draws heat
In its second appearance before the Westerville Planning Commission, a proposed 520-unit apartment complex again drew concerns about density and design from commission members and the public.
Representatives of developers NP Limited and Trivium presented their plans to the Planning Commission before a public hearing on the case July 25.
The commission was being asked to review changes to a preliminary development plan approved in 2008 for NP Limited for the piece of land that spans Polaris Parkway west of Alum Creek and east of Worthington Road.
That plan showed a mix of office and retail development along Polaris with residential property on the southern end.
Since that plan was approved, NP Limited teamed with Trivium, which owns the tract of land immediately to the south, to create a larger multifamily development.
A vote on the plan was not requested at the July 25 meeting.
Westerville senior planner Bassem Bitar said the development would add housing options to Westerville, where 80 percent of residences are owner occupied.
Trends are showing that there is a need for rental housing, particularly for young professionals who are holding off buying homes in favor of renting, Bitar said.
"There's a definite change in demographics and a definite change in housing needs and demographics," Bitar said. "One of the key things we find lacking in Westerville right now is opportunities for young professionals."
Neighbors of the development, which would be on a planned extension of Worthington Road that would stretch to Polaris Parkway, with a southern leg connecting to County Line Road west of Alum Creek, expressed concerns about density, traffic and environmental impact.
"The statement that this project will diversify the housing stock is baloney," said Ron Dixon, whose home borders the proposed development. "(Young professionals) want the 'wow' factor. They won't get that. ... What we're talking about here isn't a residential property of quality; it's a commercial property."
The large development "will make it unbearable for anyone who lives near it," Dixon said.
County Line Road West resident Charles Mamula said the development would change the character of the neighborhood.
"We bought a house next to a house. My neighbors bought a house next to a house. We didn't buy a house next to an apartment complex," Mamula said. "This development is a game changer."
Mamula said a high-density apartment complex might draw some young professionals to Westerville in the short term, but they would be unlikely to stay long.
"Maybe young people will want to live there, but they'll want to live there for one, two years, and then they're going to want to move on," he said. "We've got to think about what this place is going to look like 20 years down the road. ... You get one chance to do this right."
Planning Commission members echoed concerns they expressed at their June meeting, saying the design and architecture of the development was not extraordinary enough to warrant its proposed high density.
"We've approved high densities for other areas, but we're looking for something special," said commission member Gerald Domanik. "What we've had didn't look special."
City Councilwoman Diane Fosselman, who represents council on the commission, said the city does need options for rental housing.
But she said this may be too much for one development.
"The numbers aren't as big of a concern to me as the community need," Fosselman said. "I do believe we need rental. We have a deficit there. If I look at the big picture of Westerville, and we are proposing 500 here, what does that do to the rest of the community? Should we have 500 here?"
Fosselman said she's also concerned that the quality of the proposed development isn't high enough to attract young professionals to it.
"I think what's important to young people is all the amenities that are available, and I don't really see -- other than the pool that you see at every other apartment complex -- any other amenities here," Fosselman said.