Homeport proposes housing at site of Delaware County Engineer's Office

Paul Comstock
ThisWeek
This rendering shows the proposed Homeport residential development looking from Channing Street.

The Delaware Planning Commission on Dec. 2 discussed a housing plan that a city planning staff's report said "could help provide additional market-rate, affordable and workforce housing in the community."

That plan was submitted by the nonprofit Homeport of Columbus, whose website says it has "established itself as the largest locally focused nonprofit producer of affordable housing and related services in the region."

Homeport proposes 52 units at 50 Channing St., now home to the Delaware County Engineer's Office.

The engineer's departure from the site is not imminent.

City planning director David Efland told the commission the county will move the engineer's office to the planned Delaware County Byxbe Campus – at the site of the former Delaware Area Career Center North on state Route 521 – over a period of several years.

The Delaware Planning Commission will consider a proposal by Homeport of Columbus that would replace the Delaware County Engineer's Office at 50 Channing St. with 52 residential units.

Homeport proposes 24 apartment units, 20 attached townhouse homes and eight single-family homes on the 5.38-acre site, according to the planning staff’s report. The single-family homes would be about 1,500 square feet each, with an attached garage.

The northeast portion of the building would be demolished, and the remainder would be renovated, according to the staff report. The storage-garage structure to the east of the building also would be demolished.

The planning staff’s report said Homeport would seek tax credits through the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, which would provide for a mix of incomes and on-site management for the apartments, if approved.

"Apartments of each size are set aside for rents at different income levels," the report says, with maximum incomes ranging from $47,150 for one person to $67,350 for four persons. 

The single-family homes would have no income restrictions.

Efland said the approval process for OHFA tax credits is highly competitive, and the project might not qualify even if council approves three ordinances, which the commission has endorsed.

Should that occur, he said, the site's use would be single-family homes.

The ordinances would add a planned mixed-use overlay allowing residential use, grant a conditional-use permit and approve a preliminary development plan.

"We're pleased to be here and appreciate the opportunity to do something that Delaware needs, certainly all over central Ohio, as prices go up. ... People who work down the street, we need to make sure they can afford nice, safe, new ... home investment in your community," Laura Comek of Homeport told the commission. 

Without such a project, Efland said, the county might have to auction the property, and its current zoning would allow a variety of commercial uses that would seem out of place in that location.

The planning staff’s report says the plan would require the addition of trees and perimeter buffering.

Comek said Homeport did a roughly 90-minute Zoom call with about 20 neighbors who had wanted assurances that Homeport wouldn't change the neighborhood’s character.

"I was pretty excited when I saw this proposal. I think this is a great way to adapt and reuse this existing site,” commission member Stacy Simpson said. “I wondered what would ever happen here, and I think this, is in my mind, a best-case scenario. So I hope all of the cards fall into place.”

Efland told the commission any consideration of residents' income on such a project is not in the domain of zoning, which, he said, is confined to such topics as site design, number of units, access and other factors.

A mix of housing types, including affordable housing, likely would be listed as priorities in a proposed revision of the city's comprehensive plan, he said.

Efland said the Homeport project likely will receive three readings by council, which next meets Dec. 14.

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