Following months of discussion and concerns about an already-saturated housing market, Canal Winchester City Council rejected a plan to build 162 single-family homes at the south edge of the city.

Westport Homes wanted to build detached single-family homes on nearly 80 acres at the corner of Hayes and Lithopolis roads and along Oregon Road. The land is vacant farmland owned by the Dwight A. Imler Revocable Living Trust in Circleville.

Westport Homes was seeking council approval to establish one planned residential district zoning designation for the property, which is currently zoned PRD and exceptional use district.

The March 18 vote was split, with council members Bruce Jarvis, Mike Walker, Bob Clark and Mike Coolman voting against the rezoning and Patrick Lynch, Jill Amos and Will Bennett supporting it.

Westport representatives had worked with city officials to address concerns raised by the Canal Winchester Planning and Zoning Commission, which unanimously approved the request in October 2018.

The conditions for approval included maximum lot coverage and garage setbacks.

In the end, the majority of council had reservations about the style of houses, which ranged in price from $350,000 to $450,000 and would be as large as 2,100 square feet, and how they would fit into a community that already provides many traditional single-family homes.

"Our focus is on the future and what type of individual are we bringing into town, and that focus goes on what type of jobs are we bringing in and what type of pay grade are we coming in with?" Coolman said. "What I had envisioned was something a little more upscale.

"It's a nice steppingstone, but I don't view this as something for a person who's relocating here for a high-paying IT job," he said. "We don't have the $700,000 house here."

Before the vote, Westport Homes representatives provided data about Canal Winchester's housing market that showed the area is not saturated with similar housing.

Westport Homes Division President Jack Mautino and the company's legal counsel noted that Canal Winchester's housing market has grown by just 1 percent in 10 years and that approximately 600 platted lots are available for construction in and around the city, which the U.S. Census Bureau estimates had the fastest-growing population in the state at 4.4 percent in 2016-17.

Mautino also pointed to his discussions with Canal Winchester schools officials who said the district relies on inside millage as well as new construction for revenue moving forward.

"We just wanted an opportunity to show what we learned when we dug into your existing (housing) inventory," said Molly Gwin, an attorney with Isaac Wiles Burkholder & Teetor LLC representing Westport Homes.

"As you know, the fact that we aren't building fast enough to suit a growing job market is well-documented in and around the greater Columbus area," she said.

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission has noted the central Ohio region needs to be building homes two to three times faster to accommodate coming job growth, Gwin said.

"This does provide our community with something we currently don't have right now," Amos said.

Lynch pointed out that city codes have been revised and tightened and the Westport Homes proposal meets those standards.

"It sets a precedent for all other communities that get built here in Canal Winchester," he said. "Any other housing development -- they can't go below what we're proposing here.

"This is a steppingstone for this community to get good-quality housing. It's a step above what we already have."

The proposed development would create diversity in available housing and does provide an upgrade, Lynch said.

Like Coolman, Jarvis said he might have been more inclined to support the rezoning and the plan if the designs were in a higher price range.

As for the available housing data presented by Westport Homes, Jarvis said, "the truth is somewhere between those."

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