Pending further developments that could force interruption of public hearings because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Violet Township trustees said they plan to this spring rule on a rezoning request for a proposal to build 269 homes on Toll Gate Road.

On March 10, the Violet Township Zoning Commission voted 3-0 to deny a rezoning request by Rockford Homes Inc. and Palmieri Enterprise LLC, which are seeking to construct 269 single-family residences on 137.5 acres of undeveloped land east of Toll Gate Road Northwest, south of Mamie Drive and west of Saylor Road.

The companies have asked township officials to rezone land from R-2, single-family-residential classification to planned-district-residential classification.

"My primary concern was the density of the development," said John Biancamano, Violet Township Zoning Commission chairman.

Biancamano pointed to section 3V3-02A of the township's zoning provisions, which states, "The maximum net density shall be two living units per acre, average for the area in the Planned Residential District to be devoted to residential use, as hereinafter defined, and as shown on the Development Plan."

"(That section of zoning code) says that the maximum net density in a planned district shall be two living units per acre, but the Rockford plan had a net density of around 2.9," Biancamano said.

A representative of Rockford Homes did not return calls requesting comment about the proposal or the commission's ruling.

The rezoning request will now be decided by the Violet Township board of trustees.

As of March 19, trustees chairman Terry Dunlap said no hearing date for the rezoning request had been set because the trustees are waiting to receive a written notice of the zoning commission's ruling.

Once that occurs, he said, the trustees will set a hearing date for review of the request, provided such hearings aren't prohibited by Gov. Mike DeWine in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I look to get (the notice) at the first (trustees) meeting in April or the second meeting in April," Dunlap said. "Once we receive it, we'll schedule it if we're allowed to by the governor." The trustees regular meetings are scheduled for the first and third Wednesday of each month.

Dunlap said he expects the trustees would set a hearing as long after their notice of the zoning commission ruling as possible by law.

"We'll probably set it 30 to 45 days after we receive it," he said.

The developers' application states they intend the project be similar to what is currently allowed for the areas, "... but due to the unique natural features of the property, the desire to preserve greater open space than code requirements and changing consumer preferences, a planned district rezoning is proposed."

The application states the rezoning would provide greater flexibility and encourage development of pedestrian and bicycle facilities, as well as help to provide higher percentages of open space preservation.

The proposed development is less than a mile from the Pickerington Schools' Toll Gate Elementary School and Toll Gate Middle School.

School district treasurer Ryan Jenkins said the district "doesn't take a formal position on the support of or the discouragement of residential development in the district."

Jenkins also noted if the development is permitted to be constructed it would bring new property tax revenue to the district.

He said given projections that the development would bring approximately 269 new students to the district, the homes would, on average, need to be valued at $237,529.68 in order for the district to "break even," in terms of tax revenue generated vs. expenses for the new students and the requisite staff.

Additionally, Jenkins noted, enrollment at Toll Gate Elementary is 727 students, and it's capacity is listed at 775.

"So, this new complex would most certainly either trigger us to redraw boundaries, or build a new school, or both," he said.