Deliberations over a preliminary development plan for a proposed senior apartment community drew an overflow crowd to a public hearing in Pickerington City Hall Oct. 11.

Deliberations over a preliminary development plan for a proposed senior apartment community drew an overflow crowd to a public hearing in Pickerington City Hall on Oct. 11.

The development, called Morehead Farms, would be located on a now vacant 54-acre parcel of farmland west of Diley Road and south of Windmiller Drive.

The acreage is split-zoned commercial and agricultural. The developer, Treplus Communities, represented by attorney Glenn Dugger, were seeking to have the entire tract zoned Planned District.

After the nearly two-hour public hearing ended, the Pickerington Planning and Zoning Commission voted 6-0 to approve both the preliminary development plan, including the rezoning of the property to PD, and the preliminary plat for Morehead Farms.

About 26.7 acres of the development will be dedicated to the construction of 108 multifamily units, which will be required to be compliant with the Housing for Older Persons Act.

Dugger said that means at least 80 percent of the residents of the senior housing community would have to be at least 55 years of age or older. He said such a requirement would be enforced through a deed restriction on the property.

"It's the only way you can create an age-restricted community under federal law," Dugger said.

He said the apartments will be one- and two-bedroom ranch-style units.

He said a 7.5-acre portion of the site will be dedicated to the construction of a multiuse path adjacent to Georges Creek

Plans also call for a 88,000-square-foot, two-story skilled nursing facility called the Trilogy Health development to operate on 8.1 acres of the site.

Dugger said that facility would offer a range of senior care services including assisted living.

The senior care, to be managed by Trilogy Health Services, would contain 103 total units with 46 nursing units and have a projected payroll of $3.5 million with 110 employees.

"It's a substantial economic development component of this application," Dugger said.

Another 17.5 acres of the development would be designated for future commercial/ office development along Diley Road, he said.

Dugger stressed to the audience the senior housing development will not be "low-income housing."

Emotions ran high as about a dozen residents who live in proximity to the proposed development, particularly those in the Cherry Hill and Windmiller Farms subdivisions, took the podium to voice misgivings about the project.

Rob Flaugher of the Cherry Hill subdivision said such a large-scale project would negatively transform the landscape of the Diley Road corridor.

"You guys want to take Diley (Road) and make it another (Route) 256. You want a Brice Road or a Sawmill Road, this is how you get it," Flaugher said.

Commission member Doug Blake warned the parcel as it stands now is zoned C-3, meaning it could host a far more impactful use than a senior housing development and nursing center.

"You could have a Wal-mart in your front yard," Blake said. "That's the way it's been zoned since 1995. These folks are here with a less-nuisance use."

Nicole McKiernan of Windmiller Ponds said more development in the area will mean more headaches.

"I feel like I'm getting squeezed out of my community," McKiernan said.

"I don't quite understand the need for a nursing home," she said.

Trent Hillis said he was concerned about the environmental impact the project would have on wildlife.

"The wildlife in Pickerington is getting pushed out," said Hillis, adding the tract is home to nesting grounds for wood ducks, blue heron and river otters.

Pickerington resident Pat Smith said he worried about future commercial uses designated for the outer parcels.

"A restaurant could go out there," he said.

"If a restaurant goes in there that will impact everything in (the) Cherry Hill (subdivision)," said Smith.

Blake said the Planning and Zoning Commission has the ability to limit the commercial uses along Diley Road if the zoning is changed to Planned District.

"If it stays C-3 we don't have that ability," Blake said.

Now that it's passed at the zoning level, the Morehead Farms preliminary development plan is scheduled to move forward to City Council's Service Committee Oct. 19 and then to City Council for a public hearing Dec. 6.