The atmosphere was once again tense among members of the Northwest Civic Association board of trustees at a Sept. 6 meeting when former board of directors President John Ehlers sought to pin down the others on how they would decide zoning matters.
President Nick Cipiti, who replaced Ehlers after deep divisions among board members came to the fore at the NWCA's June 7 annual meeting, had asked Ehlers to provide an update on a rezoning request for a proposed apartment complex at 3100 Bethel Road.
The actual case is not scheduled to come before the NWCA board until its October meeting.
Instead, Ehlers noted 9 of 15 board members who were voted in at the August meeting have never before participated in a zoning matter. He called handling such cases "the only real official business we do."
Ehlers went on to say the NWCA trustees have traditionally followed a policy of routinely opposing proposals for billboards, electronic signs, higher-density development and apartments.
"We oppose apartments because they are rather transient and not owned (by the dwellers)," Ehlers added.
New trustee Marilyn Goodman, who is scheduled to take over as chairwoman of the graphics and zoning committee, said she didn't favor a blanket rejection of any kind of housing.
"I think we have to look at the details of each proposal and not announce at a public meeting that we automatically oppose this," she said.
Ehlers responded that previous boards have not only publicly stated an opposition to apartments, but even put it in writing.
Ehlers then described the types of zoning "transactions" likely to come before the board for a recommendation, including straight rezoning of a parcel, variance requests that go directly to city council, Columbus Board of Zoning Adjustment applications regarding development standards on a specific site and graphics issues.
"Let me quiz you," Ehlers said to the other trustees.
He then demanded they say whose position they would favor in a controversial zoning matter, whether it would be the property owner, the would-be developer, surrounding residents, civic association members or the other members of the board.
"I don't like to be lectured to," John Fortkamp said to Ehlers.
Alyson Miles, who agreed to take over as board secretary at the meeting, asked Cipiti to request that Ehlers get back to the agenda item of the Bethel Road proposal update.
"I need an answer from the members of the board as to what their priorities are in voting on zoning matters," Ehlers said.
Cipiti again asked Ehlers to finish his presentation about zoning.
"I'm not finishing anything up," Ehlers said. "My time in zoning is over."
He did finally say that what's being suggested for the 2.43-acre site is a mixed-use development that would include apartments at 56 units per acre, far in excess of the 24 units an acre in the neighborhood plan for that area.
Ehlers, however, was not done.
"Nick, there's so much hostility on this board," Ehlers said, complaining at being seated at one end of the board's three tables while a "faction" was seated at the other.
"I'm not agreeing with that," Goodman said.
"You've got to stop this, John," Kit Logsdon, another new trustee, told Ehlers.