Worthington News

Senior housing may lead East Wilson Bridge redevelopment

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

An apartment building for those ages 55 and older might be the first project in the redevelopment of East Wilson Bridge Road.

Preliminary plans for the 42-unit, two-story senior housing facility were presented to the Municipal Planning Commission on Jan. 9.

Some commission members encouraged developer Joseph McCabe, representing the Westerville-based Woda Group.

They also heard several concerns from neighbors and made clear that approval of the plans would not come soon.

"Is it right? I don't know," commission chairman Richard Hunter said. "Does it need work? Yes."

The application is for a planned-use district, the first in the city's history.

Worthington City Council approved the zoning classification last June. It allows property to be rezoned based on specific plans and gives the city and the developer the ability to negotiate conditions that previously weren't included in a rezoning.

Procedurally, the commission is required to send with its recommendation a preliminary plan establishing uses and development standards to council. If council approves the planned-use district, a final plan is submitted to the commission for final approval.

The development also would be the first on East Wilson Bridge Road since the city, residents and consultants began working on -- but did not quite finish -- the Wilson Bridge corridor plan in 2011.

The plan presents recommendations for the development of Wilson Bridge Road, from the Olentangy Parklands to McCord Park. Much development has been approved on West Wilson Bridge Road since 2011, but this is the first application for development on East Wilson Bridge Road.

Final details should be finished before any plans are considered, Northigh Drive resident Grant Cochran said. He and other neighbors expressed concerns about setbacks and screening.

"My main point is, we're not ready to do this," he said.

Scott Myers, council's nonvoting representative on the commission, acknowledged that the city needs to finish the corridor plan before the apartment proposal moves forward.

"We got caught with our pants down because we didn't think this would happen so fast," he said.

Preliminary plans show the 42-unit, center-corridor elevator building on approximately 3 acres at 173 and 181 E. Wilson Bridge Road and the next lot to the east, referred to as "vacant lot #17." A vacant house would be demolished to make way for the apartments.

The corridor plan calls for the westernmost lot to be developed with offices and the other lot as multifamily housing.

McCabe told commission members he has an agreement to purchase the next lot to the east so the apartment building could be moved one lot west. The westernmost lot then could remain for office development.

Early plans call for the longest side of the building to run north-south, with shorter sections along East Wilson Bridge and at the rear, nearest the homes on Northigh. The parking lot would be on the west side, with such amenities as a garden, benches and a gazebo between the lot and the building.

The corridor plan requires a building entrance from East Wilson Bridge Road and a 5-foot-wide sidewalk in front.

Instead, the city could request that the developer build an 8-foot-wide recreation path, which eventually would connect to the path that will be built on West Wilson Bridge Road this year.

The corridor plan recommends a multiuse path connecting all of East and West Wilson Bridge roads, from the Parklands to McCord.

City planning coordinator Lynda Bitar said the path easement is an issue that would be settled with the developer before the plans could move forward.

Myers told McCabe everyone is wrestling with the question of the next step.

"It is going to be a slow and involved process with lots of feedback," he said. "I personally don't have a good answer for you."

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