A 180-house development in eastern Violet Township that features multi-use paths and six ponds is entering its final phase, and township officials said they are optimistic it could boost local future economic options.

In August 2015, the Violet Township trustees approved M/I Homes' plans to build 180 single-family homes on a 109-acre tract on the north side of a Refugee Road, just west of the Tollgate Elementary School and Tollgate Middle School campus.

Three years later, about half of the houses have been built, and M/I officials said they're selling two to four residences per month.

The final phase of the project is expected to begin this fall, putting the rest of the subdivision's 1,500-square-foot to 2,800-square-foot houses on the market soon. They're being marketed for $300,000 to $350,000.

"We love the area and the school system, the amenities nearby and the access to the highway," said Josh Barkan, land-acquisition manager for M/I Homes. "There's other growth around it, and we think it's a tremendous looking community."

The area that's now Heron Crossing originally was zoned in 2004 as the Eastern Lakes Planned District, a subdivision that would provide for 145 single-family residences.

Some residents opposed M/I's plans to increase the density in 2015 from 1.56 units per acre to 1.8 units per acre. However, township officials at the time said the new plans increased the greenspace in the subdivision, and multi-use paths and ponds were incorporated into the project.

Violet Township Development Director Holly Mattei said the revised project not only bolsters the township's housing stock but also will make the area more marketable to businesses.

"Quality of life is important in attracting and retaining businesses," Mattei said.

"Developments, such as Heron Crossing, with the unique amount of open space and walking trails, increases the quality of life of the township and helps to market our community for future development opportunities."

Barkan said the subdivision would be built out "over the next couple of years."

In the meantime, Mattei said portions of the project that have been completed already offer opportunities to feed into the Pickerington Local School District's Toll Gate Elementary and Middle schools, Lakeview Junior High and Pickerington High School North.

Additionally, she said Heron Crossing includes an internal multi-use path that connects to a path constructed along the Heron Crossing frontage on Refugee Road and to the two Toll Gate schools.

"The township is long a supporter of active transportation and pedestrian connection," Mattei said. "So this path was an important component in the planning phases of this subdivision.

"It allows children to walk or ride their bikes to school and helps to recreate the sense of community within the subdivision.

"All of these paths are consistent with the long-term plans of the township and county to help create a more comprehensive bikeway network throughout the township."

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