Westerville News & Public Opinion

Ravines at Westar

504-unit apartment complex tabled

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Westerville City Council did not vote Nov. 6 on a 504-unit apartment complex planned between Polaris Parkway and County Line Road west of Alum Creek.

The decision on the somewhat controversial development was delayed to a special meeting Nov. 13 at the request of city staff and the developer, who said they needed more time to finalize some of the details.

Council was scheduled to hold a public hearing and vote on rezoning the property and its preliminary development plan.

The project covers nearly 130 acres spanning Polaris Parkway. The portion north of Polaris includes 5.6 acres that would be annexed from Orange Township to the city -- another action not taken last week when the plan was tabled.

The development combines 99 acres, which already had an approved development plan, with 27.4 acres to the south.

If approved, the plan would allow for the construction of the Ravines at Westar on 54 acres of the site, 8 of which would be given to the city as parkland.

The proposed development is a joint venture between NP Limited and Trivium.

As the development proposal has gone before the Westerville Planning Commission and City Council, it has drawn concerns about its density from commission members, council members and neighbors.

At just under 10 units per acre, including the 8 acres that are being given to the city for parkland, the development exceeds the 5-unit-per-acre allowance for a Planned District.

City code allows for the density to be increased to eight units per acre with the city's approval.

At the Nov. 6 meeting, city planning staff and the developer made a case for allowing a density that would exceed the city's standards.

"The intent of a Planned District is to develop development standards that make sense for that particular district," said Westerville Senior Planner Bassem Bitar. "It's up to the Planning Commission and City Council to decide what the ultimate development standards are."

The city's code for a standard multifamily development allows for up to eight units per acre, with the city being able to grant bonuses up to 12 units per acre, Bitar said.

A densely developed area also supports the mixed-use environment the city hopes to see created around the proposed apartment complex on the remaining portion of the land.

The developer plans retail and office development to the north of multifamily development, spanning Polaris Parkway.

"Five-hundred units is certainly a high number, but if you look at the context and if you look at studies that have been done repeatedly, (they) show that if you're trying to create a mixed-use environment, you need critical mass to create that," Bitar said.

David Fisher, the attorney representing the developers, said they have worked hard with the city, dedicated parkland to the city and worked with two different architects to make sure the design of the development was worthy of a "density bonus" from the city.

"We understand that we're asking for something special from you, and in return you should ask for something unique and special from us," Fisher said.

City Council members did not comment on the proposal at the Nov. 6 meeting, though two neighboring residents testified during the public hearing, asking the city to reject the proposal.

Both residents expressed concerns about the development's density.

Ron Dixon said he would like to see the retail component of the development built first to validate that such a dense residential development is needed in the area.

"In my mind, commercial should be first, not the residential," Dixon said. "I would really appreciate it if you would send this project back to the drawing board."

Other residents have spoken out against the proposal during previous council meetings and as the proposal was heard by the Planning Commission.

All of the residents have been against the proposal, said resident Charles Mamula.

"I haven't heard any of the residents of the County Line Road West area say anything good about it," Mamula said.

jnesbitt@thisweeknews.com

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