If you drive in and around Hilliard long enough, you likely will see the construction of apartments.

If you drive in and around Hilliard long enough, you likely will see the construction of apartments.

According to the Hilliard City Schools, as many as 2,000 apartments are under construction or blueprinted throughout the school district. They would join the roughly 4,600 rental units the district already has on record within its boundaries. The latter figure includes only large rental complexes and not the numerous houses or small multiunit buildings throughout the city and school district that might be available for rent.

Hilliard City Council President Nathan Painter said city officials have kept track of how many apartments are being added and have no plans to "overbuild" the area with rental units. In fact, he said last week, the city is close to the "common-sense" number of apartments for the area.

Even so, the proliferation of apartments and the application of tax incentives applied to some have divided many local leaders, with city officials mostly in support and opposition coming from some of their counterparts in Norwich Township and the school district.

"I just don't see the benefit of so many apartments," said school board member Andy Teater, who with City Councilman Les Carrier, Norwich Township Trustee Larry Earman and fellow board member Paul Lambert led a successful campaign this spring to amend the city charter to prohibit the use of tax incentives for residential developments and rezonings approved by emergency action of City Council.

Overwhelmingly approved by voters in March as Issue 9, the charter amendment was a reaction to City Council's emergency rezoning and tax-increment-financing deal in August 2015 for Vision Development's the Pointe, a 2-acre commercial and 218-unit residential development.

But Mayor Don Schonhardt and Painter said the high-quality apartments under construction are necessary to attract the workforce needed to provide the quality-of-life amenities that Hilliard residents have come to enjoy and expect.

Hilliard's Station Park also has been a success by any definition, according to city officials. The $5 million interactive park was made possible from the city's growing income-tax revenue and the city wants to ensure such employees have desirable housing options, Painter said.

"The type of housing demand has changed," Painter said, adding that both millennials and empty-nesters desire low-maintenance, high-quality apartments or condominiums as opposed to the single-family residences that a previous generation invested in at the first opportunity.

"Lifestyle Communities (with its LC Brooklands development on Britton Parkway) has been the success we hoped for," Schonhardt said.

He said the apartments have attracted millennials and generated few new students for the school district.

"No guarantee" from apartments

Teater isn't sold on the idea.

"There is no guarantee that the people who live in these new apartments will work in Hilliard," he said.

Furthermore, Teater said he was concerned about the quality of the apartments in the future.

"What will these places be like in 20 years? Apartments are hot now but that might not always, and probably will not, be the case," Teater said.

He said as a board members and a resident, the number of apartments in Hilliard is a concern.

"As a board member, I'm concerned about TIFs because whenever there is a TIF, it means we are getting kids without any additional money and that is a lose-lose proposition for the district," said Teater, who cited the Pointe as an example.

The administration and most City Council members said the TIF was necessary for the Pointe because it provided the city with an extension of Trueman Boulevard north to Hayden Run Road; the extension has been on the city's thoroughfare plan for a decade.

Teater also cited concerns about how many apartments are being built on local land.

"As a resident, I remain concerned about the density of the apartments Hilliard is building," he said.

Carrier said he is concerned about the amount of traffic and demand on city services too many apartments would create.

"The administration has been all about high-density and mixed-use developments," he said. "We need to step back from that now and work on incentivizing commercial development. ... It's been lopsided too long."

High-density, multifamily apartments have an effect on Norwich Township, too, particularly on the increased service from the fire department, trustees have said.

"It puts up a red flag," Trustee Tim Roberts said.

He said he thinks Hilliard has an adequate number of apartments.

Roberts said while township leaders anticipate growth in the service area, that which will occur from the projects under construction is greater than expected.

"We do everything we can to extend our levy," he said, but admitted the possibility that increased demand for services from a large number of new apartment developments could result in consideration of a fire levy sooner rather than later.

Township voters last approved a 4.12-mill fire levy in 2013.

Crunching the numbers

According to the Hilliard school district, the nearly 2,000 apartments under construction or blueprinted include: 218 at the Pointe on Edwards Farms Road at Davidson Road; 204 at Landmark Lofts at Cemetery Road and Franklin Street; 492 multifamily units at Hickory Chase at the southeast corner of Davidson and Leap roads; 174 at the Square at Latham Park at Scioto Darby and Alton Darby roads; 300 multifamily units at the Heritage Preserve at Alton Darby and Davis roads; and 466 units at the Hilliard 30 complex on Riggins Road between Britton Parkway and Wilcox Road.

Construction is underway at all the projects except Hilliard 30 because developer has yet to obtain a building permit, said city planner John Talentino.

According to the district, until some of the newest apartments in Hilliard begin leasing, those with the largest number of rental units are in the Columbus portion of the school district. They include Hilliard Commons (978), Bayside Commons (296), Cabot Cove (200), the Residences at Breckenridge (208), Hilliard Heights condos (374), Hilliard Park (201), Arlington Park (284), River Oaks (288) and Dublin Commons (232).

Among the existing apartment complexes in Hilliard with the highest number of units are the LC Brooklands (450), Heritage Green (360), Hilliard Grand (314), Hilliard Summit (208) and Crystal Lake (210).

Effects on the district

The Hilliard school district had 16,330 students when classes began last week.

The district uses DeJong-Richter to forecast projections and according to the firm, Hilliard's enrollment is expected to increase to 16,657 for the 2017-18 school year, said Stacie Raterman, a spokeswoman for the district.

The projected enrollment increases over the ensuing four years are 16,893 in 2018-19, to 17,028 in 2019-20, to 17,152 in 2020-21 and to 17,275 in 2021-22, according to Raterman.

The district could accept increased enrollments as long as it is balanced with commercial growth, Superintendent John Marschhausen said.

"From an educational perspective, both in regards to finances and planning, the key is balance," he said. "The schools benefit from a balance between apartments to bring professional millennials into the community with traditional homes for families to live and grow.

"Financially, the community benefits from a balance between residential development and commercial development to offset residential revenue with commercial taxes."

Painter said last week he believes the city has reached, for now, its ceiling for the construction of apartments.

"That isn't to say we wouldn't look at a great project or opportunity if it comes along," he said, "but I don't anticipate (apartment projects in the near future). I think a common-sense approach is to pause and see where we are. (The demand for apartments) is market-driven.

"There are enough projects (in process) right now. We are cognizant of the number and look at it (as a whole). If we overbuild, we will defeat the entire purpose of what we have done so far."