Delaware council takes another look at Homeport housing plans for Channing Street

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

Delaware City Council on Jan. 11 gave second readings to ordinances that would allow 52 residential units at 50 Channing St., now home to the Delaware County Engineer's Office.

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."

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

The planning staff 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.

Homeport's planned mixed-use development text identifies monthly net rent ranges for the apartments as: one bedroom, $350-$725; two bedroom, $420-$1,000; and three bedroom, $495-$1,135.

City planning director David Efland told council city zoning doesn't address tenants' income and instead is limited to such topics as site design, number of units, landscaping, lighting, access points and other factors. 

He also said the approval for OHFA tax credits is competitive, with no guarantee Homeport's application would be approved.

Laura Comek, an attorney representing Homeport, told council OHFA tax credits are not the same as Section 8 low-income housing, a federal program that provides rental housing assistance. 

What Homeport proposes is "not the old concept of affordable housing or housing projects.”

These are equity-funded tax credits,” she said. “It's not a traditional Section 8 voucher program."

Efland said the Homeport project would include a broad range of incomes.

"I think this is a different kind of concept here," he said.

Homeport has a wealth of experience, and an important element of its plan is long-term management at the site, Efland said.

OHFA tax credits typically last 15 years, with the potential of renewal for another 15 years, he said.

The county engineer's office eventually will move to Delaware County's planned Byxbe Campus, a centralized location for a number of county departments, at 1610 state Route 521, a 63.6-acre site that previously housed the Delaware Area Career Center North Campus.

Delaware County facilities director Jon Melvin on Jan. 14 told the county commissioners completion of the campus is expected in 2022.

Council on Jan. 11 read ordinances that would add a planned mixed-use overlay allowing residential use, grant a conditional-use permit and approve a preliminary development plan.

Approval will require a third reading at a future meeting.

 The project also was the topic of a Jan. 11 public hearing, when one neighbor voiced objections to council during the meeting that was livestreamed on Facebook. Two others echoed his objections via email. 

Delaware resident Nancy Russell said although neighbors like elements of Homeport's proposal, "we don't want our property values to go down."

Increased traffic and speeding motorists also are of concern, she said, asking if an electric display showing motorists their speed could be placed in the area.

Although Homeport's plan doesn't require a traffic-impact study under the city's engineering guidelines, City Manager Tom Homan told Russell the city's public-works department still could do a traffic analysis for Channing Street. 

Council member Drew Farrell said he has talked to the Homeport site's neighbors, with some voicing concerns about crime, traffic and maintaining the character of the neighborhood.

Comek said Homeport held a Zoom meeting with neighbors who had voiced similar concerns.

Efland said the city worked with Roy Lowenstein, now a Homeport project developer, when he was with another company that developed Arthur Place off South Houk Road, "which I think has been very successful."

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