With a split vote Sept. 24, Delaware City Council approved a controversial plan to build 240 apartments on 24.2 acres north of U.S. Route 36/state Route 37 and south of Bowtown Road, across from Meijer.

Three ordinances authorizing Seattle House Apartments, planned by Metro Development LLC, passed despite dissenting votes from council members Lisa Keller, Chris Jones and George Hellinger. The trio criticized aspects of the plan during earlier meetings.

Council members Kent Shafer, Jim Browning, Kyle Rohrer and Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle voted to approve the ordinances.

Also on the agenda was a second Metro Development project -- Highpoint Place Apartments -- which would have 160 apartments on 16.7 acres on Bowtown Road, just west of Village Gate Apartments.

Council tabled Highpoint's three proposed ordinances to give Metro Development time to modify its plan.

Both projects have drawn repeated fire from council members and residents for the traffic they could create.

Keller has criticized the 3-story height of the proposed buildings.

She and Hellinger also have panned the proposed apartment sizes of 678 square feet for a single bedroom and 933 for two bedrooms, as well as the amount of natural materials the buildings would use.

Those aspects fail to meet requirements under the pre-existing multifamily residential district zoning at both locations.

Both projects call for planned mixed-use overlay district rezoning, which would allow the changes.

Another point of contention is Metro's expectation that both apartment projects will attract young professionals and empty-nesters. Joe Thomas of Metro Development on Aug. 27 said monthly rent at Seattle House would range from $900 to $1,200.

Residents spoke both for and against the plans Sept. 24, echoing similar audience remarks when council discussed the proposals Sept. 10 and Aug. 27.

The plans' proponents have said such housing is needed and would foster economic development.

Keller on Sept. 24 said, "I've given feedback about my concerns ... the number of variances involved. ... (They) significantly depart from what code states."

She repeated that theme later in the meeting, saying the proposals show "total disregard" for requirements in the pre-existing zoning.

During the Sept. 24 discussion of the Highpoint plan, Riggle said she was concerned about more traffic passing through the congested Point intersection of East William Street and East Central Avenue.

"It's a lot of apartments on that side" of town, she said.

Construction designed to improve the Point's traffic flow won't start until 2022, she said.

Metro Development CEO Tre Giller said Highpoint would bring significant tax revenue to the city, and "the Point is going to get fixed eventually. ... If we wait to do everything when the roads are fixed, someone's got to make that first step. ... This 160-unit complex isn't going to push the traffic over one way or the other."

"It's already pushed over," Riggle responded. "Before you can build the first apartment, it's loaded. ... They're also building on Houk Road. We have a lot of apartments before us at this time."

Among speakers from the audience Sept. 24 was Delaware attorney Mike Shade, who said he didn't represent anyone regarding Highpoint.

"Traffic is your problem, not the developer's problem," he told council.

Seattle House will have 10 buildings. Metro Development earlier showed council a map depicting Seattle House and Highpoint if both were built using pre-existing zoning.

Using only 2-story buildings, Seattle House would have had 15 buildings and less open space.

In addition to the Seattle House rezoning, council approved ordinances granting a conditional-use permit and approving the preliminary development plan.

The Highpoint plan also has been criticized because it fronts a narrow section of Bowtown Road.

City Planning Director Dave Efland earlier told council that was a leading consideration behind the city planning commission's earlier vote to recommend the Highpoint plan be rejected.

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