Hilliard City Council will have the final say on a rezoning application that would pave the way for 229 single-family residences on the north side of Scioto Darby Road, west of Elliott Road and east of Langton Road, in a development known as Hill Farm.
The decision also could involve a site for Norwich Township's fourth fire station, according to city leaders.
Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission members on Feb. 8 unanimously issued a positive recommendation for the rezoning of 207 acres for the development by M/I Homes. The land is next door to the Sid Griffith Equestrian Center at 7380 Scioto Darby Road in Brown Township; the riding academy also is on the north side of Scioto Darby.
City Council could either accept or overturn the commission's recommendation.
City planner John Talentino said legislation approving the rezoning should be introduced to City Council in March and could be approved in April.
A mandatory 60-day waiting period would be necessary for any referendum, he said.
The mandatory waiting period is in place after voters two years ago approved Issue 9, a charter amendment that established the 60-day period and prohibited the application of tax-increment-financing districts to any residential developments or residential components of developments.
Council members Les Carrier and Andy Teater attended the Feb. 8 meeting.
Speaking after the meeting, Teater said "taxes and traffic were the issues that people were most concerned about in the recent City Council campaign and I need to understand how approval of this project addresses those concerns."
Commission members rendered their decision after almost an hour of discussion, during which several residents raised concerns about the project's place in the city of almost 35,000. Several other residents have shared opinions about the development on the ThisWeek Hilliard Facebook page.
Nancy Rhynard, a real-estate agent and Langton Road resident, said at the Feb. 8 meeting she is concerned about the lot splits within Hill Farm and the planned opening of Norwich Township's fourth fire station that would serve the western part of Hilliard.
A fire station would reduce neighboring property values because of activity and noise, Rhynard said.
According to an email from Josh Barkan, a land-acquisition manager for M/I Homes, to Mayor Don Schonhardt, M/I Homes would dedicate 3 acres to Hilliard to be "used at the city's discretion for civic purposes."
The 3-acre donation would be at the northeast corner of Scioto Darby and Langton, Barkan said. The land is not contiguous to the 207 acres to be rezoned for Hill Farm development.
The city would convey the 3 acres to Norwich Township for the fire station, said city law director Tracy Bradford.
Schonhardt said nothing "is in stone" but public safety is important and emergency vehicles currently run along that section of Scioto Darby Road.
The construction of a fourth fire station could require the township to seek a levy but that has not been determined, said Tim Roberts, a Norwich trustee.
However, an impact fee of $250 for each household built in Hill Farm would be paid to the township, Roberts said.
Melissa Brinkerhoff, who lives on Langton, said she is concerned about flooding from stormwater runoff, adverse effects on water wells, traffic congestion and the addition of more students to Hilliard City Schools.
Current attendance boundaries for the area show students would attend Heritage Middle School and Darby High School, according to hilliardschools.org.
District officials project single-family homes result in 0.8 student per household, according to district spokeswoman Stacie Raterman, but she emphasized "it's just an estimate." Applying that rate to 229 residences, at least 183 new students would be expected.
Schonhardt, who is a member of the commission along with Brett Bergefurd, Chris J. Lewie, Scott Movshin, Jay Muether, Tracey Nixon and Bill Uttley, called Hill Farm "a true asset for the community" and told residents no other developments nearby are likely "in the foreseeable future" because Hilliard has no agreement with Columbus to extend water and sewer services.
"What you see now is everything that is possible today and the foreseeable future," he said.
As part of the developer's agreement, M/I Homes would contribute an amount equal to 3.68 percent of the cost to improve the intersection of Hayden Run and Elliott roads to the north at a future date, according to Tom Hart, an attorney representing M/I Homes.
The cost of the improvement, to be undertaken by the Franklin County Engineer's Office, is not yet known, Hart said.
The developer's required contribution is based on the amount of traffic that Hill Farm is expected to generate in accordance with a traffic study, Hart said
Homes at Hill Farm would be priced from $375,000 to $450,000 and represent "move-up housing" for the Hilliard market and fills a niche that is needed, Hart said.