The developers of more than 1,000 proposed single-family residences and apartments in Columbus on the east side of Alton Darby Creek Road, south of Roberts Road and Hilliard, said they plan to consider feedback from residents opposed to the project.
The planning and zoning committee of the Cross Creek Village Civic Association on Feb. 6 issued a negative recommendation for the development plan by Pulte Homes of Ohio and Harmony Development Group and the rezoning of 369 acres required for the development to occur.
Columbus City Council on Jan. 28 had approved annexation of the land into the city from Brown and Norwich townships. The next step for the development, which has been referred to both as Sugar Farms and Renner South, would be a planned-unit-development rezoning recommendation to City Council from the Columbus Development Commission, according to city officials.
The Cross Creek Village Civic Association's recommendation is nonbinding but will be documented to the Columbus Development Commission and Columbus City Council, said Tom Hart, an attorney representing the developers.
The Columbus Development Commission will make its own recommendation, and both will be part of a final recommendation to Columbus City Council, which would vote on approval of the rezoning application, he said.
"Pulte plans to take the comments of the residents and the (Cross Creek Village) Civic Association into consideration as we move forward," Julie Pulliam, public-relations manager for PulteGroup Inc., said in response to a question of whether the developers would seek to present an amended plan to the civic association or proceed to the Columbus Development Commission with the negative recommendation attached.
Kelley Arnold, chairwoman of the civic association's planning and zoning committee, said the committee is "not anti-development."
"We know it's going to occur," Arnold said. "But how it looks is important to us as a community."
The three-member planning and zoning committee includes Arnold, Hampton and Kristen Hosni.
"Overall the plan in just not a good fit," Arnold said. "The articulation was not well developed and there was not enough details provided about the number of multifamily residences and apartments."
About 30 people attended a meeting Feb. 6 at Alton Darby Elementary School, where Hart outlined the proposal.
Matthew Callahan, vice president of land acquisition for PulteGroup, and Karl Billisits, a principal for Harmony Development Group, also spoke to residents.
Cross Creek is the designated and constituted civic association to which developers are required to present as part of the rezoning process, Hart said.
Although Cross Creek is several miles from the proposed development, the civic association had been acting on behalf of neighbors until the Far West Area Commission for Columbus became an official advisory commission to consider such matters, according to Debi Hampton, president of the Cross Creek Village Civic Association.
Columbus City Council on Feb. 4 instituted the Far West Area Commission as Columbus' 20th area commission, according to President Pro Tem Michael Stinziano.
The developers also will present the proposal to the Far West Area Commission, though a date has not been determined, Hart said.
The development has no official name but is being referred to as Sugar Farms, a reference to the family who owned most of the land that annexed Jan. 28, or Renner South, a geographic reference, Hart said.
The annexation will take 30 days, or until Feb. 27, to become effective, according to Christopher Lohr, a planning manager for Columbus.
The land would be zoned as rural when it takes effect but the developers then would seek to rezone the parcel as a planned-unit development, Lohr said.
The 369 acres were annexed from Brown and Norwich townships but are in the Hilliard City Schools boundaries, Hart said.
The land was in the Hilliard district's boundaries before Columbus and the district agreed in 2016 to end the Win-Win agreement after three decades, school board President Paul Lambert said.
In place since 1986, Win-Win called for suburban districts to pay Columbus City Schools 1 percent of new commercial- and industrial property-tax growth in areas of Columbus they served before 1986. Payments were capped at $1.15 million.
In exchange, the suburban districts kept territory annexed to Columbus before 1986.
The tax agreement was struck to halt a potential turf war.
Columbus had been annexing unincorporated areas for a few decades, but suburban school districts still served those territories.
Hilliard's separation from the Win-Win agreement is a five-year phaseout, with diminishing payments made to the Columbus district until the termination is final in 2021, Lambert said.
The school-district boundaries in place when the Win-Win agreement was ended "froze," leaving the 369 acres annexed into Columbus in the Hilliard district, he said.
Meanwhile, the land was annexed into Columbus, Lambert said, and it could not have been annexed into Hilliard. It is outside the boundaries of the water-and-sewer district Columbus negotiates with each suburb -- in this instance, Hilliard, he said.
The 369 acres mostly are on the east side of Alton Darby Creek Road, north of Interstate 70 and south of Roberts Road, all south of Hilliard. The development also would include 27 acres on the west side of Alton Darby Creek Road and south of Renner Road.
"Our hope as a school district is that the development proceeds in a manner that does not impact us financially," Lambert told the developers at the Feb. 6 meeting. "More houses mean more students."
According to the findings from Cooperative Strategies, a consulting firm the district uses to predict enrollment, the district can expect eight students per 10 new residences, Lambert said. The firm does not estimate new students generated by any specific subdivision but instead bases estimated figures on the nature of proposed developments, he said.
The property value of each new residence would need to be about $425,000 to generate the property tax equal to cost of educating one student, he said.
Hart has described the single-family residences in Sugar Farms as "move-up" housing, with list prices of $325,000 to $350,000.
Hart said he did not know how many students Sugar Farms would add to the district but a "significant majority" of the proposed 1,108 residents would be single-family residences, with a small number being apartments and empty-nester housing.
A mix of single-family residences and apartments are planned south of Renner Road, and single-family residences and "empty-nester" homes are planned north of Renner Road, Hart said.
Residents who attended the Feb. 6 meeting raised other concerns.
"It's too many people too close together," said Roger Kincaid of Cole Road.
He said the development would add too many vehicles on the network of two-lane rural roads in the area.
A "significant traffic study" has been completed as part of the rezoning and development proposal, Hart said.
The developers are expected to present to the Columbus Development Commission soon, he said.
"We hope to go before the development commission in March or April," Hart said.
The recommendation of the civic association should not be underestimated, according to Stinziano, who will step down when he is sworn in March 11 as the newly elected Franklin County auditor.
Area commissions are advisory in nature and offer nonbinding recommendations, but City Council views their input as "significant," he said.
"It's rare we wouldn't follow the recommendation of an area commission," Stinziano said.