Jefferson Township trustees voted unanimously Aug. 15 to approve a controversial 40-unit housing development on Havens Corners Road in an effort to "keep the township whole."

There was no comment from the public, property owners or developers, but trustees said denying the application would put the property at risk for annexation to another entity, a possibility trustee Claire Yoder called "scary."

"You just have to look down the road to see what's happening to understand that Columbus is growing and it's growing out here," she said. "We want to be prepared to continue to be this wonderful place to live, and we all make compromises in every relationship we have in our lives. Nothing is perfect."

The trustees held a special meeting at New Horizons Community Church, 2100 Reynoldsburg-New Albany Road, to render a decision on the development proposal. Public hearings on the proposal took up much of two previous trustees meetings, with residents voicing concerns about density and increased traffic.

The 17-acre site at 6020 Havens Corners Road is owned by Christy Lynn Stratton, trustee of the Mary Ellen Stratton Trust.

Dublin-based developer Gioffre Cos. requested that the property be rezoned from restricted suburban residential district to a planned residential district to allow "empty-nester patio homes on private streets."

The site is on the north side of Havens Corners Road, west of Mann Road, near the intersection of Havens Corners and Taylor Station roads.

"We're between a rock and hard place," trustees chairman Mike Rowan said. "This plan is consistent with our comprehensive plan. It's on the perimeter, where we afford ourselves the opportunity to increase density to protect ourselves from annexation. In my heart of hearts, I feel that the right thing to do, not only for this particular property but for all of us in Jefferson Township, is to keep this property in the township and develop it under our standards and our control."

Rowan said projections show the residences would generate about $70,000 annually in property tax revenue for the township. The roadways would be private, meaning the township would not have to pay to maintain or plow them, and it's expected to have a minimal impact on school enrollment, he said.

The Franklin County Engineer's Office projects a less-than 1% increase in the traffic that is accessing Havens Corners Road, Rowan said.

"The biggest threat to Jefferson Township and our way of life is not 40 empty-nester units," Rowan said. "The biggest threat to our way of life is annexation -- the loss of our land, the loss of our tax base and our core. That's what I'm most concerned about."

Vice chairman Rich Courter said the houses are expected to start in the $450,000 range, allowing the township to diversify its housing stock.

"A community has to have multiple types of housing. It can't be one house size or one lot size fits all," Courter said. "Yes, we're fighting density. Every jurisdiction in this county does the same thing. We have to give up a little bit on the edges to keep the township whole."

The trustees stressed that keeping the property in the township would keep densities lower than if it were annexed, and the building standards would be higher.

In voting, the trustees modified the plan to require developers to increase evergreen buffers, install fencing behind lots abutting open space and add landscaping along Havens Corners Road.

The Jefferson Township Zoning Commission voted 3-0 on May 9 to recommend approval of the rezoning request to the trustees.

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