National Church Residences’ Stafford Village redevelopment will move forward after receiving approval from Worthington City Council on Feb. 18.

Council members voted 5-2 to approve a rezoning measure for the reimagined 85-unit senior-living complex at the northeast corner of Hartford Street and East Stafford Avenue.

Council members David Robinson and Doug Smith voted against the planned-unit-development rezoning.

The proposed plan now must return to the Worthington Architectural Review Board and Municipal Planning Commission for final PUD and architectural-review approval, according to The MPC had recommended approval of the PUD on Jan. 9.

A 60-day referendum period, which would allow anyone to file a petition to send the proposal to the ballot for a citywide vote, is in place before the proposal returns to the ARB and MPC for final plan approval, according to Worthington spokesperson Anne Brown.

No dates have been set, Brown said.

National Church Residences also does not have an immediate timeline for beginning construction because the project must return to the ARB and MPC, said Todd Hutchins, a spokesman for the company.

Council’s approval of the 135,000-square-foot facility came in two parts.

The first was council’s 5-2 decision to change the zoning designation from low-density residential, one- and two-family residential and low-density apartment to a planned-unit development, which, officials said, would give the city more control over the land.

The other measure, which was approved unanimously, allowed City Manager Matt Greeson to enter an agreement with the nonprofit National Church Residences for a guarantee to create 34 “affordable” units with the remainder at “market rate” for a term of 30 years, reduce the tree-replacement fee in connection with the development and a create tax-increment-financing agreement for such things as replacing and widening sidewalks and installing some decorative lighting, according to the city.

In terms of the cost for the “affordable” apartments, Hutchins previously explained the company follows the same approach as the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and others to determine their affordable rent.

“This means rent will be set at a level affordable to a senior household with an annual income (no more than) 60% of the central Ohio median,” he said in December.

That figure – an annual income no more than 60% of the central Ohio median – is $37,440 per year, George Tabit, vice president of senior-housing development for National Church Residences, previously told ThisWeek.

National Church Residences had proposed a plan that would include a mix of 1- and 2-story apartments, lower the height of several roof fixtures, agree to save two historic trees, refurbish a house on the property and create some modern design elements.

“The proposed facility is a replacement facility for seven 1-story apartment structures located on approximately 3 acres,” according to the project description on the application submitted to the city.

Many who had opposed it have said the facility was too big for the city and didn’t fit in with the surrounding neighborhood.

"We can develop more housing options – for seniors and others – without harming the places and character of the city we love,” Robinson said. “This massive structure in a quiet neighborhood fails that basic test for me.

"The city’s review process was deeply flawed, failing to provide key information to the public about both the scale of the project and the standards used to assess its appropriateness."

Supporters have said the development would provide much-needed senior-living options, provide seniors the ability to walk to several destinations in the historic district and refresh the Stafford Village community that had been constructed in the 1970s at 814 Hartford St. in conjunction with Worthington Presbyterian Church. In 2016, National Church Residences acquired the portion the church owned.

Council President Bonnie Michael called it the “right facility at the right place at the right time.”

Michael also said it pointed to a growing need for retirement housing in the city.

“When I walked door to door this past year, I cannot tell you the number of people I talked to in the whole city, that they want to downsize and stay in the city of Worthington, and there’s no place they can go,” she said.

Meanwhile, National Church Residences has had some discussions with the property owners of the I Am Boundless site, formerly the Harding Hospital campus at 445 E. Dublin-Granville Road, for another senior-living complex.

“We have talked to them,” Hutchins said. “There is nothing planned at this point.”

National Church Residences, headquartered in Upper Arlington, is a “not-for-profit provider of affordable senior housing options, with 340 communities around the country and Puerto Rico,” according to its website.

“We have talked to them,” he said. “There is nothing planned at this point.”