Westerville News & Public Opinion

504-unit apartment complex gets green light

An extension of Worthington Road from Polaris to County Line will service the development


Westerville City Council approved a lineup of legislation Nov. 13 that will allow for a 504-unit apartment complex, despite complaints that the development exceeds the city's code for density.

Council approved a series of legislation to:

* rezone the property west of Alum Creek, from Rural Residential to Planned District;

* approve a preliminary development plan for the project;

* annex 5.6 acres from Orange Township that makes up part of the parcel; and

* spend funds to construct an extension of Worthington Road between Polaris Parkway and County Line Road, and a connector to Old Worthington Road, to service the apartment complex and future development in the area.

Dubbed the Ravines at Westar, the apartment project is a collaboration between developers NP Limited and Trivium.

The multi-building complex would be constructed between Polaris Parkway and County Line Road west of Alum Creek on about 54 acres, not including the right-of-way given for the roadway and 8 acres donated to the city for parkland.

That gives the development a density of just under 10 units per gross acre. City code for a planned district allows for five units per net acre, with the city being able to grant up to eight units per net acre.

Nevertheless, legislation approving the preliminary development plan for the site passed with a 6-1 vote, with Councilwoman Diane Fosselman casting the lone no vote.

Fosselman didn't comment on the matter at the Nov. 13 meeting, but she previously expressed concerns over the plan's density.

Several residents of homes neighboring the proposed development spoke against the plan before council Nov. 6 and Nov. 13, mostly citing density as their primary concern.

Initial plans for the site, which date back to the early 2000s, showed smaller-scale multifamily housing, which made more sense for the area, said resident Joel Allen.

"It's grown into a massive apartment complex," Allen said. "When the city gets in bed with the developer, it's a slippery slope. You have created your own Frankenstein project."

Councilman Larry Jenkins, however, said the preliminary plan for the development addresses multiple needs for the city: It would come with the construction of a new north-south connector between Polaris Parkway and County Line Road, and with an east-west connection to Old Worthington Road, and would provide apartment housing that studies have shown the city needs.

"We now have one project that deals with both of those issues and the roadway that needs to be built, that we knew would have to be built," Jenkins said. "We are greatly underserved on apartments in general. ... We won't address that with one development, but we do understand a need for that."

Jenkins said the proposed development also respects the topography of the land, something the city long worried would be lost to development.

"This development manages to nestle up to that ravine and retain its character," Jenkins said.

Council Chairman Mike Heyeck agreed that the development would be a positive.

"I think it will be a benefit to the city of Westerville," Heyeck said.

As plans for the development move forward, the city will have to pass additional measures, mostly surrounding the construction of the roadway.

At its Dec. 4 meeting, council is expected to vote on a tax-increment-financing agreement under which the developers would pay the city back over time for the construction of the roadway.

The city also will have to look at appropriating money and financing the roadway next year, and would have to approve a final development plan for the site before the apartments could be constructed, Heyeck said.