Northland Community Council development committee members reached a split decision Aug. 29 regarding a proposed 240-unit apartment complex at 3721 Cherry Bottom Road.

They voted to support the rezoning needed for the project to be built on the 13.3-acre site by Oxford Circle LLC, said Dave Paul, the advisory panel's chairman.

On the other hand, committee members opted to recommend denial of a variance that would go directly to Columbus City Council that would allow the apartment buildings fronting Cherry Bottom Road to be set back 25 feet, rather than the required 50, Paul said.

"We decided, and I'll have to check with the city to see how it works, but basically, the vote was to support the rezoning but not to support the concurrent council variance," Paul said. "We didn't have a problem with the development ... but we really didn't like the reduced setback from Cherry Bottom Road."

Instead, Paul said committee members favored moving a parking area on the site to the frontage along the road and the apartments behind that, even though attorney David Hodge, representing Oxford Circle LLC, said during his presentation that city staff members recommended the reverse of that for aesthetic reasons.

Paul said development committee representatives believe any future possible widening of Cherry Bottom Road would bring traffic noise to tenants in the building on the east side of the property.

"Folks' bedroom windows would be that close to what by that time would likely be a major thoroughfare," he said. "You could say that's the applicant's problem if they can't find renters for the units, but nevertheless, we didn't think that was a good design."

During his presentation, Hodge said the density for Oxford Circle's proposal is listed at 18 units an acre, higher than the apartment complex just north of the site.

However, he said a wooded area west of the proposal, at 5721 Cherry Bottom Road which is mostly owned by the developer, would be given at no charge to the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department to help extend the Big Walnut Trail. If that part of the property were figured into the equation, the density would be more like 10 or 11 units to an acre, Hodge said.

Filing fees with the city are based on the acreage covered by the application, Hodge said, so he was saving his client money by opting for the 18-unit density proposal.

Nearby property owner Fred Varsanyi scoffed at the notion that the proposed donation was worth anything, since it's under water much of the year.

"I don't understand why the city of Columbus would accept something like that," Varsanyi said. "Developers do it all the time."

Paul, who is chairman of the Recreation and Parks Commission, said city officials have been hoping to acquire the property for some time, in spite of Varsanyi's characterization.

Hodge concurred.

"This gets it to the city of Columbus and it gets to them for nothing," he said.