The developer proposing the Sugar Maple Commons apartment development finally cleared one hurdle with the Grove City Planning Commission.

The commission voted 3-2 Sept. 3 to approve Treplus Communities' request to rezone the 21-acre project site south of Holton Road and west of Jackson Pike (state Route 104) from single-family residential to planned-unit-development residential.

A preliminary-development plan for the project was rejected by the planning commission in March and Grove City Council in April.

City code allows an applicant to move ahead with a rezoning request even if its preliminary development plan is not approved.

The rezoning request will move on to city council and the planning commission is expected to consider a detailed development plan for the project at its Oct. 8 meeting.

Treplus is proposing a 105-unit luxury apartment development that would be restricted to residents age 55 and older.

The zoning text included as part of the rezoning application stipulates the development will be age-restricted to comply with the Housing for Older Persons Exemption to the federal Fair Housing Act, said Aaron Underhill, an attorney representing Treplus.

Under the exemption, at least 80% of the units must be occupied by at least one resident age 55 or older, he said.

After the preliminary-development plan was defeated, the developer agreed to hold a town hall-type meeting with residents who live near the project site, Underhill said.

More than a dozen residents attended the June 6 meeting. The development plan that will be presented to the planning commission in October has been revised to address the concerns that both city officials and residents have previously raised, he said.

"We've updated and enhanced the architecture providing more windows and more stone," Underhill said. "We believe our architecture now fits more with what is appropriate for the neighborhood."

The apartment units would be designed to be compatible and comparable with the style of the lodge building in Scioto Grove Metro Park, he said.

More landscaping has been added to the plan, especially along the perimeter of the project, "so we can buffer ourselves from the neighbors and the right of way," Underhill said.

The developer has agreed to donate more than 2 acres of rights of way that would accommodate a potential realignment of Holton Road the city is considering, he said.

The proposed realignment, which has not been finalized, would create a new signalized intersection with Jackson Pike and a new entrance into Scioto Grove, said Kendra Spergel, a development planner with the city.

The Grove City 2050 plan recommended the project site be used as a conservation neighborhood in the north portion and a park, open space or preservation area in the south portion, she said.

The city's Southeast Area Study also recommended the site "step down in character from suburban to rural as it goes further east and south," Spergel said.

While the proposed multifamily development "does not exactly fit into those two recommendations, staff believes the development can meet the intent of the conservation district recommendation through the agrarian design and extensive landscaping and screening from the neighboring sites," she said.

The development staff recommended approval of the rezoning request with some stipulations, indicating metal be used only as accents in the building designs, that entrance signs be illuminated externally and that the zoning text be updated to reflect the developer's intention for street widths to be at least 22 feet, Spergel said

Residents are expected to pay $1,900 to $2,600 monthly rent for the apartment units at Sugar Maple, Underhill said.

That's well above the average market-rate rents of $783 for one bedroom and $938 for two bedrooms in December 2018 for the Grove City area according to the most recent available data, he said.

"That speaks to the quality of the product," Underhill said. "You can imagine the type of interior amenities that will come along with units at that price.

"We're trying to get residents who want to live in a high-class, very well done community with all the amenities they are used to having in their homes," he said.

The 21-acre project site was originally part of a larger 205-acre parcel approved for multifamily use and earmarked for the Riverwalk development in 2006. The larger site had been rezoned to PUD-R.

The Riverwalk project stalled and the land now within the park subsequently was donated to Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks.

The remaining land, now proposed for the Sugar Maple project, reverted to single-family zoning.

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