Almost 5 months after it came into the public eye, Hilliard City Council on June 25 is poised to consider a rezoning proposal required for the Hill Farm residential development, even though members said they remain concerned about traffic it could generate.

After 90 minutes of discussion, the city-planning, projects and services committee agreed June 11 to advance the legislation out of committee to the full council for a first reading.

"But traffic remains a concern of ours," City Council President Albert Iosue, the chairman of the committee, told representatives of M/I Homes, the developer of Hill Farm.

M/I Homes wants to build 229 single-family residences on 207 acres on the north side of Scioto Darby Road, west of Elliott Road and east of Langton Road.

The land is next door to the Sid Griffith Equestrian Center at 7380 Scioto Darby Road in Brown Township.

The Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission on Feb. 8 issued a positive recommendation for the rezoning of 163 acres of the 207 acres from rural residential to a conservation district.

The development slightly exceeds the 1-unit-per acre recommended for the conservation district but "density bonuses" can be applied for developments that exceed minimum requirements such as those for green space and the Hill Farm development qualifies, said John Talentino, Hilliard's city planner.

The remaining 44 acres will remain in Brown Township as parkland, Talentino said.

The 44 acres also are outside boundaries of the water-and-sewer district for which Columbus provides services by contract, he said.

Councilman Les Carrier also asked law director Tracy Bradford for an opinion about whether Hilliard is obligated by law to provide the developer with the 229 water-and-sewer taps in the proposed rezoning.

Committee members first discussed the rezoning application May 14 with M/I representatives and that discussion continued June 11.

Josh Barkan, land-acquisition manager for M/I Homes, told committee members Hilliard needs the "move-up" housing that Hill Farm would provide.

This development represents "a tremendous opportunity to be in a good community," he said.

Hilliard has great schools and a strong economy, Barkan said.

"The one thing it is short on is move-up housing. ... High-achievers will move out to other communities," he said.

Using listings from the Columbus Board of Realtors, Barkan told committee members 63 residences in Hilliard are for sale for $400,000 or more; 168 such residences are listed in Dublin.

About half the houses in Hill Farm would sell in the mid-$400,000s and the other in the mid-$300,000s, Barkan said.

Tom Hart, an attorney representing M/I Homes, responded to council members' concerns about traffic, a criticism that Councilman Pete Marsh voiced May 14.

Hart told committee members it is "not lawful (or) reasonable" to reject rezoning based on concerns about off-site traffic congestion.

"(Rezoning) cannot be rejected because of existing conditions. ... It can't prevent code-complaint land use," he said.

Marsh said he remains concerned about additional traffic Hill Farm would generate, particularly at Alton Darby Creek and Scioto Darby roads, east of the proposed development.

"(People) might want (move-up housing) but they won't want to sit in their neighborhoods," Marsh said. "I'm not saying it is (M/I Homes') job to fix (congestion) but I don't see a reason (to) burden an already over-burdened intersection."

In addition to providing "move-up" housing, M/I Homes also would donate 3 acres to the city for Norwich Township's fourth fire station, provide 70 acres of green space to the city and assume the upfront risk of building a $1.2 million section of Audubon Avenue within the new neighborhood, Hart said. The road is part of the city's thoroughfare plan, he said, which calls for it eventually to connect with Audubon Avenue in the Heritage Preserve neighborhood to the south.

The developer would be reimbursed from impact fees and the creation of a community-development authority, according to Hart, both of which would be spelled out in a developers agreement.

Separate legislation establishing the developers agreement is scheduled for a first reading June 25 at City Council along with legislation to approve the rezoning.

Both ordinances are scheduled for a second reading and public hearing July 9.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

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