A proposed M/I development off Darling and Reynoldsburg-New Albany roads has brought various plans before Jefferson Township and Gahanna over almost two years, but the process ended where it started: in the township.

A proposed M/I development off Darling and Reynoldsburg-New Albany roads has brought various plans before Jefferson Township and Gahanna over almost two years, but the process ended where it started: in the township.

The Jefferson Township board of trustees unanimously approved a request Nov. 30 to rezone property from restricted suburban residential district to planned suburban residential district, opening the door to a development called Weldon by M/I Homes of Central Ohio LLC for 78 homes on 62 acres.

David Hodge, attorney for the applicant, said he doesn't think anyone who has been paying attention the last couple of years would say it's been a smooth journey.

"It started with 126 homes," he said. "M/I Homes loves Jefferson Township and prefers to do this project here as opposed to an adjacent municipality, so the project is back here."

He said the project is superior to when the property was considered for annexation to Gahanna for 93 homes in December 2015 to July of this year.

"Though the road has been rocky, it's my experience in the zoning process that it's necessary to travel a rocky road to arrive at the right place," Hodge said.

Since the M/I plan was before Jefferson Township's Zoning Commission on Oct. 20, it was modified to move lots further off Darling Road and the revised plan also added three lots, said Charles McCroskey, township zoning administrator.

The commission had made a negative recommendation to the board of trustees.

M/I also agreed to the township's request for fencing to be installed along the north side of the entry drive and the perimeter of all lots abutting open space.

One-and-a-half inches of asphalt overlay will be added to Darling Road from Clark State to the north side curve and south side of Rovilla Road. The same amount of asphalt will be added to Havens and Rovilla roads during the first phase of construction.

Hodge said M/I wanted to to mitigate as many concerns as possible from everyone concerned, including neighbors and township officials.

Many of the neighbors who spoke during the pubic hearing voiced concerns about the impact the additional homes will have on traffic congestion during morning and evening rush hours.

John Clark said he has lived in the area for 48 years and traffic has become a major problem.

"Something has to be done at Havens and Reynoldsburg-New Albany roads," he said. "I'm neutral on the development itself."

Darling Road resident Rob Sander said he thinks the development still has far too many homes.

He said significant drainage issues exist where the homes will be built.

Sander said lots of people walk on Darling Road for exercise, and he suggested a trail along the back of the development to improve the neighborhood.

Hodge said the Franklin County Planning Commission recommended approval of the plan in October with 10 conditions.

The township's zoning commission was concerned about condition No. 8 by Franklin County, dealing with the lots along Darling Road.

"The condition asked that 16 lots be omitted from the development or lots must be reconfigured to meet (scenic) byways recommended setbacks," Hodge said.

With lots set further back off Darling Road, he said, all 10 recommendations have been met.

Hodge said the township's comprehensive plan also promotes land-use planning that discourages annexation.

"The comprehensive plan contemplated this situation," he said. "It happens the property proposed is adjacent to a municipality and the property is farmland right smack in the middle of two single-family subdivisions."

He said Weldon would complement the area in terms of value and land use.

Hodge said the home values will start at $480,000 and go up to $575,000.

Trustee Chairman Rich Courter said he is "darn happy" the development is staying in the township.

"It started at 126 (homes) and it's 78," he said. "It matches (developments) in between, the home values are up higher and there's a split-rail fence along the perimeter. We wanted to keep the buffer around and M/I agreed to that."

Courter said he thinks it's an excellent plan.

Trustee Mike Rowan said it has been a long, exhausting process for everyone.

"There were some basic principles I found myself stuck between -- a potential annexation and loss of this property and residents saying it wasn't the appropriate plan," he said. "Certain things I couldn't compromise on. The density was too high. Now it's more appropriate."

Rowan said the prices of the homes originally were lower, and now they've increased.

"The main concern we had was the annexation," he said. "This will allow us to keep it in the township and do needed repairs to Darling Road."

The development is scheduled in two phases of 35 to 40 lots with the first phase to begin within six months.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla