Residents along what some call an "idyllic country road" are raising concerns over Reynoldsburg's proposed new zoning code before City Council votes on it.

Council on Nov. 25 held its first public hearing on repealing and replacing the city's zoning code, which was enacted in 1969 and has been "piecemealed" together since then.

Several residents living on or near Waggoner Road spoke on the proposed new zoning map, which would change about 30 nearby undeveloped acres to residential medium zone (RM).

Under the proposed code, RM zoning would allow townhouses and apartments and is intended to "complement single-family residential development through the introduction of a more diverse range of housing options, including two-family buildings, townhomes, row houses and apartments."

Residents pointed to council's 6-1 refusal in February to rezone about 9 acres on Waggoner Road for a 120-unit metro-development apartment complex known as the Bentley House.

"Your vote will be overturned with a keystroke," said Waggoner Road homeowner Mary Turner-Stoots. "That's a lot of property that's going to change."

A recent study by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission found that central Ohio is expected to add at least 1 million residents by 2050. City officials expect up to 15,000 new residents to move to Reynoldsburg in that time.

Residents who spoke Nov. 25 raised similar concerns as they did earlier this year, citing schools and churches on Waggoner Road and frequent traffic backups as reasons that higher-density housing isn't right for the road.

Sarah J. Reed, who lives off Waggoner Road on Jordan Crossing, said she understands the need for housing, but the zoning-code changes continue the "war against Waggoner Road residents."

"We'd hoped after the 6-1 no vote last winter ... that those involved in city planning and development realized that high-density housing was not what the residents wanted," Reed said. "I don't think apartment housing would be right for this area for Reynoldsburg as a whole. Why are we designating what little undeveloped residential space (we have) to be multifamily development?"

Using the 2018 Comprehensive Plan as a foundation, the city has spent much of the past year working to rewrite its zoning code.

Council in January approved a $135,000 contract with Cincinnati-based Calfee Zoning to help rewrite the code to support Reynoldsburg's "comprehensive plan for commercial, housing and mixed-use development; locations where the city should increase density, use redevelopment, or intervene in other ways; opportunities to extend and/or improve open space, recreational areas, and civic facilities; strategies for increasing economic development; environmental, historic and cultural resources that need conservation; and strategies for improving infrastructure issues," according to the Jan. 28 ordinance.

A steering committee comprising various city departments and representatives from the planning commission, school district and MORPC helped guide the rewriting process. An open house for community input was held in October.

The city hopes to use a new code to "drive economic growth into the community" by focusing on key areas, said Andrew Bowsher, development director.

Areas of focus include:

* Brice Road and Main Street corridor: Nearly 26 acres, including the former Kmart store, are expected to be part of a "gateway" area into the city with mixed-use commercial and residential spaces. Potential development could include a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line similar to COTA's CMAX bus line, launched along Cleveland Avenue in 2018.

* Former Kroger site on East Main Street: The city is in talks with a "major medical provider" to take over commercial space left vacant when Kroger moved its store down the street to a new, 100,000-square-foot location, Bowsher said.

* Olde Reynoldsburg: The "heart" of the city, Bowsher said efforts would be focused on adding greenspace, public parking and encouraging walkable retail that complements surrounding businesses and the community center YMCA, under construction on Davidson Drive.

Officials hope an updated zoning code will allow the city to demand more of developers and better control where and how growth occurs.

"No longer does Reynoldsburg need to sit back and let development happen," Bowsher said.

The planning commission is scheduled to review the zoning code at its Thursday, Dec. 5, meeting. City Council is expected to hear a second reading of the proposed ordinance to repeal and replace the code at its next meeting, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 9, at City Hall, 7232 E. Main St.

For more information on the proposed zoning code changes, go to reynoldsburgcode.com/.

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