Several plans have come up over the years for a 6.73-acre tract of vacant land, surrounded by neighborhoods, at 433 Cherrington Road.
The latest proposal came before the Westerville Planning Commission July 24 and was criticized by planning commission members and about a dozen residents whose homes neighbor the land.
Developer John C. Wicks presented a request to change the parcel's zoning from R-1, a single-family-residential designation, to that of Planned Neighborhood District.
The proposed development would include 25 homes. A few homes would front Cherrington; the remainder would follow an L-shaped roadway through the property, ending in a cul-de-sac.
The proposed houses would be built solely by Ryan Homes, Wicks said.
The development would feature large, higher-priced homes on small lots, some as narrow as 50 feet, but that would appeal to the demographic Wicks is aiming at, he said.
"Who we're marketing to is people who want to have less lot to maintain and a bigger home to enjoy," he said.
The small lots also would allow the developer to configure a neighborhood on a difficult-to-develop parcel, Wicks said.
"It's a tricky site. It's a challenging site. It's been looked at by developers over the last 10 or 15 years, and obviously, people have passed on it," he said.
City staff, the planning commission and residents weren't sold on those points, however.
City Planner Jeff Buehler said the staff is concerned about a lack of four-sided architecture and about the size of the lots in the development.
By seeking the Planned Neighborhood District designation, the developer would be able to have narrower lots than typically allowed in a single-family residential neighborhood, Buehler said.
Members of the planning commission echoed those concerns, with member Amy Koorn pointing out that while the developer is seeking to zone the property as a Planned Neighborhood District, there is nothing in the plan that generally is included in such a district, such as a private pool or clubhouse.
"I overall have not understood from the time I read the application and read the code how this truly meets the definition of a Planned Neighborhood District," Koorn said. "I struggle with rezoning this a Planned Neighborhood District."
Councilwoman Diane Fosselman, who also has a seat on the commission, agreed.
"Doing something creative like that is the purpose of a Planned Neighborhood District," Fosselman said.
Other commission members said the large homes on small lots differed too much from the surrounding neighborhoods, which feature more moderately priced homes on larger lots.
"You are putting in intentionally a different style. I'm not seeing the benefit from that," commission member David Samuelson said.
The residents who spoke focused on the small lot size, which they said was inconsistent with their neighborhoods.
They also commented on the damage to the wildlife that now finds refuge on the vacant lot, on stormwater runoff and on building homes on soil that the city knows is saturated with water and is prone to sinkage.
"In this area, for 27 homes, that small of property, that takes away the look of what Westerville is about," said resident Judy Reuter.
Commission members chose to table the rezoning application.