A proposed 62-unit "supportive housing" apartment complex for people with disabilities and the formerly homeless was given a recommendation of approval last week by members of the Northland Community Council development committee.

A proposed 62-unit "supportive housing" apartment complex for people with disabilities and the formerly homeless was given a recommendation of approval last week by members of the Northland Community Council development committee.

But construction on Commons at 161, 1700 E. Dublin-Granville Road, won't be starting any time soon.

Matt Bierlein is a development attorney with National Church Residences, which has proposed the apartment building and which operates the adjacent Center for Senior Health. He told the panel the project will be built with the help of low-income housing tax credits from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Commons at 161 didn't make the cut when the latest round of funding was announced in June, but National Church Residences will apply again in February, he said.

The matter before development committee members last week was a variance from a prohibition in the city code for ground-floor residential uses in a commercially zoned district.

To make the project work, Bierlein said, some of the units would have to be on the first floor.

"That one, we found, was pretty straightforward," committee Chairman Dave Paul said. "There wasn't really a whole lot of discussion."

The vote was 16-0 with one abstention to recommend approval, he added.

National Church Residences has been offering this kind of supportive housing for homeless people and those with disabilities for the last 15 years, said Amy Rosenthal, senior project leader for the nonprofit organization with headquarters on the Northwest Side. NCR operates five of the "service-enriched housing model" locations in Columbus, she added.

"It is permanent in nature," Rosenthal said in response to a question from Paul regarding how long renters can stay in these units. "It's an apartment community. You wouldn't know it was any different unless you walked in and asked how to rent an apartment."

The average stay, she said, is about two and a half years.

Rosenthal added that 98 percent of former supportive housing clients never go back on the streets after leaving the NCR communities.

Residents of Commons at 161 would be screened through what Rosenthal said is a "nationally renowned homeless and disabled management system in Columbus," which is operated by the Community Shelter Board.

Also at last week's development committee session, members heard a rezoning request from Borhan Musa and his father, Yasin. They now own the former Buckeye Drive-Thru at 2601 E. Dublin Granville Road. The current commercial planned development designation limits that site to drive-thru sales of beer, wine and pizza, but Borhan Musa said they want commercial zoning to expand the possible uses.

The one for which he has a potential client, however, is the one committee members eventually decided to include in a list of uses that would not be permitted under the rezoning, if it goes through.

Borhan Musa said the person interested in the site wants to be able to sell as well as rehabilitate cars, but committee members scoffed at the notion the 0.43-acre site could work as a used-car lot.

"I don't see how you could operate a used-car lot on that space," Paul said.

Yasin Musa said the potential renter would probably have only one or two cars for sale at any given time, but Paul noted that rezoning the property would not include any such limitation.

"The point is the zoning goes with the property, even if you sell the property," he added.

"There just isn't enough land there to do anything sensible in the way of auto sales," Paul said the day after the meeting.

He said the committee's vote was 16-0, with one abstention, to approve the rezoning request but to add automotive sales, leasing and rental, along with billboards to the list of prohibited uses.

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