Westerville Planning Commission members once again questioned a proposal for "courtyard" homes and apartments sandwiched between two established single-family developments on North State Street.

Westerville Planning Commission members once again questioned a proposal for "courtyard" homes and apartments sandwiched between two established single-family developments on North State Street.

Romanelli and Hughes and Mayfair Homes presented the proposal to the commission for the second time Oct. 23, requesting a rezoning for the 23.6-acre parcel at 645 and 655 N. State St. and the approval of a preliminary development plan.

The proposal was tabled at the request of the developer after commission members took issue with the development's high density, impact on traffic and appropriateness for the area.

Based on feedback received from the commission in August, developers reduced the number of buildings on the site, but maintained the 160 apartment units.

The setbacks for the "courtyard" homes, which come on small lots, also were increased by 5 feet to create more of a buffer, and architectural details were added to the rear elevations of the homes that back up to State Street.

However, the proposed development's density totaled 9.3 units per net acre, or 8.5 per gross acre, while the code for Planned Neighborhood District calls for 5 units per acre, with the Planning Commission being allowed to allow up to 8 units per acre under certain conditions.

The staff report recommended that the commission approve the proposal, with the high density, under the conditions that all eight lots backing up to State Street have improvements, the developer dedicates additional right of way for the potential extension of Hoff Road to Africa Road, the public sidewalk along North State Street between Hoff Road and bike path is widened to 10 feet, and the conceptual landscape plan meets code requirements.

Regardless, members of the commission took issue with the high density and expressed concerns about how the development would affect traffic in an already congested area.

"Our code for (Planned Neighborhood District) very specifically says the density is 5. If you meet the additional and provide something different, we can go up to 8, net," said Councilwoman Diane Fosselman, who represents City Council on the commission.

"The road improvement might get you from the 5 to 8 (per) net (acre), but then my other concern would be the appropriateness of putting apartments next to large-lot single family."

Commission Chairman Paul Johnson agreed that 8 units per acre was a hard number in the city's code, and he said he was concerned about adding a high number of cars to North State Street traffic.

However, Johnson said his biggest concern was the location of a multi-family apartment development on the site, as the city's plan for the area discourages multi-family uses on the west side of State Street and encourages the use of apartments as a buffer between developments of single-family homes and other uses, such as retail or office complexes.

"This is what I can't get around, and this is where I was two months ago. ... Is the use appropriate?" Johnson said. "Multi-family has to be a buffer."