The city of Powell has given a developer another shot at building a new neighborhood on the site of the former Powder Room shooting range.
Powell City Council on June 6 voted 6-1 to approve Arlington Homes' final development plan for the site, which calls for the construction of 47 houses on the property of about 9 acres off East Olentangy Street between Beech Ridge and Grace drives.
The vote on the development, dubbed Harper's Pointe, follows years of legal and political wrangling over the site.
A referendum effort by city residents in November 2015 successfully overturned council's previous vote to approve the same developer's plan to build 47 standalone condos on the site. Arlington Homes' Len Pivar returned to the city in 2016 to seek new zoning for the site to build a similar 47-house neighborhood with a homeowners association instead of a condo association.
Powell resident Brian Ebersole -- one of the leaders of the referendum effort -- then filed suit with the Supreme Court of Ohio to force council to put the issue back on the ballot for voters to decide. He argued council was prevented by Powell's city charter from re-enacting legislation overturned by voters and was required to put the issue back on the ballot.
The high court unanimously rejected Ebersole's argument, with a majority opinion stating he erred by not seeking to challenge the legislation in a Delaware County courtroom.
Ebersole said June 6 council's approval of the plan nevertheless represents an improper re-enactment of a plan rejected by city residents.
"(Council has) a duty to the people of this community to not overturn our vote," he said.
Proponents of the project said a small group is opposing what would be a positive step for the city's downtown.
Liberty Township resident Suzanne Jacobs said a few city residents are waging a battle against progress by trying to block a project many people view favorably.
"If people don't want this town to grow, they probably should move to the country, because growth is inevitable," she said.
Vice Mayor Jon Bennehoof said a few "misguided" individuals provided "bad information" to fellow residents ahead of the 2015 vote. He said anti-development efforts have opened the city up to costly legal challenges from developers and property owners.
"Our city is being held hostage by representations of a few individuals that feel that they know what is best for the city," he said.
Bennehoof said the Harper's Pointe plan is a good fit for land between a shopping center and a residential neighborhood. He said the developer's pledge to remove lead-contaminated soil from the site also led him to support the effort.
Councilman Jim Hrivnak said he supports the project because potential commercial uses for the site would have drawbacks, including more traffic.
"We've looked at a lot of other possible uses and in my opinion this is going to be the best use -- the best for traffic (and) the best for the downtown," he said.
Brendan Newcomb was the lone member of council to vote against the project's approval.
"I don't think that our comprehensive plan supports a private, gated community (at the site)," he said.