A 1,000-home development proposed just south of Hilliard's borders moved another step forward May 1 when the Columbus Development Commission approved a rezoning request for it.
However, Columbus City Council will have final consideration of the proposed development known as Sugar Farms, according to Tom Hart, a zoning attorney representing the developers, Pulte Homes of Ohio and Harmony Development Group.
Hart said the developers hope to present the proposal to City Council before the July recess.
"There are some requirements to be met before Columbus City Council will hear the case," Hart said.
The requirements include an agreement that details the amounts of impact fees and the terms of a community-development authority and a final traffic plan that includes 12 intersections under the purview of the Franklin County Engineer's Office and the cities of Columbus and Hilliard, Hart said.
The developers are seeking a planned-unit-development rezoning for the land.
The Columbus Development Commission approved the proposal 4-1, Hart said. The proposal had been tabled March 14.
Mike Fitzpatrick, chairman of the Columbus Development Commission, did not respond to inquiries for comment about the commission's decision.
The May 1 meeting, upon the recommendation of Fitzpatrick, was a specially scheduled meeting at which only the Sugar Farms proposal was considered, Hart said.
The Columbus commission's decision is contrary to negative recommendations issued in February from two neighborhood advisory groups: the Far West Area Commission on Feb. 26 and the Cross Creek Village Civic Association on Feb. 6.
The current proposal is for the construction of 1,108 single-family residences and apartments on 369 acres, annexed Jan. 28 from Brown and Norwich townships into the Columbus.
The land mostly is on the east side of Alton Darby Creek Road, south of Roberts Road and Hilliard.
It is within the Hilliard City Schools boundaries.
In the past, the proposed development has been referred to both as Sugar Farms, a reference to the family who owned most of the land that was annexed Jan. 28, and Renner South, a geographic reference, according to Hart.
In his presentation to the commission May 1, Hart said Sugar Farms will mitigate the new traffic it generates and even help alleviate existing traffic congestion that other sources generate.
Developers are responsible for all the traffic improvements required for direct access to the public-road system but for other area intersections typically are assigned a "fair share" percentage of traffic improvements based on new traffic in proportion to existing traffic, Hart said.
But the standard does not mean that new development is responsible for all traffic challenges that preexist or that existing traffic can be used as a legal reason to stop beneficial new development and reasonable land use, Hart told the commission.
"If new growth could be stopped based on existing traffic, it would stop the economy," he said.
Such traffic concerns previously were raised when Hart made similar presentations at the local neighborhood meetings.
"I'm tired of apartments," Shannon Johnston, of Hickory Hill Drive, said at a Feb. 26 meeting of the Far West Area Commission.
But Hart replied the apartments were required to make the development feasible.
"Density pays the bills," said Hart, reiterating that the traffic woes the area already experiences would be alleviated by the revenue the development will generate through a $2,500 impact fee levied on each dwelling unit and a continuing annual community-authority fee of $500 to $700 per unit.
Sugar Farms also will provide "move-up" housing in the Hilliard market while supporting "housing progression," Hart said.
The single-family component of Sugar Farms, including "empty nester" patio residences, will be priced at $325,000 to $350,000, Hart said.
The proposal to the commission May 1 included additional commitments in response to concerns voiced at the meetings in February, Hart said.
They included adjusting the maximum height for some residential dwelling units, lowering some but increasing others, such as those nearest I-70, to mitigate highway noise; and the placement of additional evergreen trees and mounding, Hart said.