Reynoldsburg City Council’s opposition to rezoning for the Bentley House apartment complex might turn out to be the impetus for pushing plans to widen Waggoner Road further up on the city’s to-do list.

After listening Feb. 11 to arguments for and against the rezoning and the project itself, Councilman Barth Cotner said Reynoldsburg needs to be “more creative” in finding a fix for Waggoner, a mostly two-lane road that runs between East Main and East Broad streets.

Statistics from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission indicate the average daily traffic count in 2018 for Waggoner Road just north of East Main Street was 12,408 vehicles.

“Waggoner Road is not the farm or county road it used to be,” Cotner said. “Everyone who (spoke) in favor of this tonight doesn’t have a Reynoldsburg address. This is a community issue – we’ve got to move this (road) to a priority on our list.”

“Roads before roofs” became the slogan for an online petition started by Reynoldsburg resident Michael Powers in opposition to Metro Development’s 120-unit project. Powers lives about a half-mile north of the Bentley House site.

“We haven’t talked about one thing – people,” Powers told council. “It’s all about the money, it’s all about stats and figures. We have numerous safety concerns about pedestrians who walk along Waggoner.

“Your fellow citizens - bipartisan and down the middle - say, ‘Not the right time. Roads before roofs and safety before structure.’”

Resident Sarah Reed said contrary to what some people may believe, her neighbors in the nearby Jordan Crossing community are not scared of progress.

“It’s not because we’re against development and we’re not against apartments,” Reed told council. “What we are for is the right kind of development in the right place at the right time.”

Before council members voted on the rezoning request, which was approved in December by the city’s planning commission, they heard from representatives of Metro Development and the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio.

MORPC estimates central Ohio will add more than 1 million new residents by 2050. That means the area will need at least 457,000 additional housing units, said John Melchi, executive director of the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio.

“There is a need for properties like the one being discussed,” he said. “The majority of those are multifamily. Many of those units … are not limited to one income bracket.

“Central Ohio has experienced rapid and significant growth over the last 20 years and Reynoldsburg has been a key part of that growth,” Melchi said. “Homes are where jobs go to at night. Over the last four or five years, (central Ohio is) verging on six new jobs per every housing permit. We are running out of space.”

Joe Thomas from Metro Development said concerns about density and traffic are “a matter of perception and personal opinion.”

“Though the traffic conditions are not ideal … the majority of the traffic exists from the pick-up and drop-off during Reynoldsburg City School hours,” he said.

Metro had agreed to install a turn lane from Waggoner Road into the complex, build a sidewalk extending to Main Street along the east side of the road and install a crosswalk with flashing lights on Waggoner.

According to city Development Director Andrew Bowsher, the 9-acre Bentley House site is part of an existing tax-increment-financing district that encompasses about 800 acres from Waggoner Road west to Brice Road.

A TIF is an economic-development mechanism available to local governments to finance public-infrastructure improvements. It locks in the taxable worth of real property at the value it holds at the time the authorizing legislation is approved, diverting resulting incremental revenue to designated uses, such as improvements or infrastructure to support a new development.

The city estimated the Bentley House project would have brought in more than $10 million in TIF funds over 30 years. About $4.3 million would have gone to the city, with the rest going to Reynoldsburg City Schools, Bowsher said.

Six council members voted to deny the rezoning request. Caleb Skinner cast the only dissenting vote.

Council members who opposed the rezoning said traffic and safety concerns outweighed the Bentley House benefits – including the TIF money that could have been used to help improve Waggoner Road.

“I think it’s a good product,” Councilman Stacie Baker said of the Bentley House proposal. “However, this cannot overtake safety concerns.

“We do need to prepare for growth. Whether we want it or not, it’s coming,” he said. “I wish Waggoner Road was addressed a while ago – but the fact is, it has not been.”

Council’s Feb. 11 rejection of the Bentley House rezoning marks the second time in less than a year that a Metro Development proposal has failed in Reynoldsburg.

In September, council overruled the planning commission and denied Metro Development’s plans for 192 apartments on 24 acres at Taylor Road and Main Street. That project went through months of planning-committee meetings and revisions before ultimately being denied by council in a 4-3 vote because of concerns about traffic and density.

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