Westerville planning commission
Members aren't keen on plan's density
Developers presented a proposal to the Westerville Planning Commission Aug. 28 for a multifamily and single-family development to be sandwiched between two longstanding single-family neighborhoods on North State Street at Hoff Road.
Romanelli and Hughes, along with Mayfair Homes, requested a rezoning of the 23.6-acre properties at 645 and 655 N. State St. from Rural Residential to Planned Neighborhood District.
The preliminary plan showed 41 single-family "courtyard homes" to the south and a 160-unit apartment complex, featuring one- and two-bedroom spaces, to the north.
The "courtyard homes" would be on small lots that would be cared for by an association rather than by homeowners. Because of the small size of the lots, any backyard additions, such as patios or gardens, would be prohibited.
The apartment portion would include multiple two-story units and single-story garages with a large, brick clubhouse and pool fronting on North State Street.
As part of the development, the developers would extend Hoff Road through the property and hand it over to the city after construction.
The proposal brought out several neighboring property owners and was questioned by planning commission members both for its density and for its location between two established single-family-home neighborhoods.
The plan, as presented, included 9.3 units per acre, Westerville Planner Lisa LaMantia said.
A Planned Neighborhood District under Westerville city code allows for only five units per net acre, with the planning commission being allowed to grant up to eight if the property is adjacent to a thoroughfare, if it includes a bike path attaching to the city's existing bikeways and if it consists of high-quality architecture, LaMantia said.
The development would meet all of those criteria, LaMantia said.
Regardless, planning commission members said the development would be too dense, and some members said they would not be willing to break with city code.
"I can't support a plan that doesn't even come close to the code," said commission member Amy Koorn.
Commission member David Berger agreed.
"That's a hard number," Berger said of the proposed density. "(Eight) is as far as I'm willing to go, and I'm not sure yet that I see the quality and design that will allow me to go to eight units per acre."
Commission members also said the North Westerville Plan, which governs the area, calls for multifamily developments that serve as buffers between single-family residential and commercial areas, which this development would not do.
"These apartments right now are a buffer between residential and residential," said commission Chairman Paul Johnson. "Why is what's proposed being proposed? The apartments might be very pretty buildings, and I'm sure they would be, could be, but why there? I don't see it fitting.
"I'm going to have to be convinced before I think it's appropriate to see apartments here, especially of that density."
At the request of the applicants, the commission tabled the proposal.
David Fisher, the lawyer representing the developers, said they would continue to work hard in collaborating with city staff, as they have been doing, to create a development the city could back.
"It's our hope through those efforts that we've showed to you our willingness to work with you on earning the density bonus," Fisher said.