Worthington News

Columbus council OKs 326-unit apartment complex in Linworth

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It was disappointing but not unexpected.

That was the assessment offered by Northwest Civic Association president John Ehlers after last week's decision by Columbus City Council to rezone acreage along the south side of the 2300 block of West Dublin-Granville Road, paving the way for a 326-unit apartment complex.

"First of all, I'm not surprised," Ehlers said. "I think everyone knew going into the vote ... what the outcome of the vote was going to be. The outcome was driven by legal issues surrounding the right of the property owner to develop the property in accordance with current zoning.

"We certainly appreciate being part of the process, and we feel we were successful in raising awareness in the community and especially in city departments of the urgency of roadway improvements in that (state Route) 161 corridor."

The civic association's board of directors voted unanimously March 6 to recommend denial of the requested rezoning, which developers said would generate less traffic on the congested stretch of two-lane road than the existing zoning, which would allow for a shopping center, light industrial, office complex and fast-food restaurants.

The Columbus Development Commission split 3-2 on April 11 in also recommending that the rezoning be rejected.

Despite those recommendations, Columbus City Council's vote June 24 was 5-1 in favor of the request. Councilwoman Michelle M. Mills did not attend the meeting. Councilwoman Priscilla R. Tyson cast the dissenting vote.

It was indeed a case of property rights trumping traffic concerns, City Council spokes-man John Ivanic said last week.

"If you look at the Development Commission report, each one of the people who voted against it said land use was appropriate," Ivanic said. "They were voting against it based on traffic concerns."

Council members are required to make their decisions based on land use, Ivanic said.

In making repeated appearances before the Northwest Civic Association on behalf of Vision Development of Upper Arlington, attorney Connie Klema frequently said the possibility existed that adding still more traffic to the stressed stretch of a state route might just be what finally gets various governmental jurisdictions to address the problem.

And she might be right, according to Ivanic.

"Hopefully, this will indeed be the catalyst for some real movement and cooperation between the many jurisdictions involved there along 161," Ivanic said.

"I understand why Connie took that position," Ehlers said. "That argument is certainly in her favor, in her interest. However, there are other issues that I think are more important. I think we could have had that conversation without that development."

In some cases, existing zoning for sites like the 20-plus acres that's to become an apartment complex dates back decades to when it truly was a rural road, Ehlers said.

"The real crux of the matter is, if the community evolves over time, the zoning is never changed," Ehlers said. "The site and other sites along the south side of 161, as we got more and more problems along 161, the zoning on that road should have been changed."

As a result of the time lag between infrastructure improvements catching up with development, Ehlers said, the burden of council's ruling will fall on existing residents who already find themselves in frequent traffic backups on West Dublin-Granville Road, between Linworth and Sawmill roads.

"I look at the process that we went through as a three-legged stool," Ehlers said. "(The) Development Department creates aspirations well into the future. Zoning basically enforces that plan and Transportation and Services creates the infrastructure. Two of the three legs had a problem in this particular case."

In his opinion, Ehlers said, this is an instance where the right of a single property owner "usurps the rights" of the people who get caught in traffic jams.

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