60-unit apartment complex coming to Gahanna after close rezoning vote

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Sixty apartments at 307-319 W. Johnstown Road are planned by Big Sky Realty LLC of Columbus.

Gahanna City Council on Dec. 7 narrowly approved the rezoning of 2.65 acres at 307-319 W. Johnstown Road from community commercial to multifamily residential to make way for 60 apartments. 

The request from applicant Mitchell Rubin, principal broker/owner of Big Sky Realty LLC of Columbus, to rezone the property and a variance to reduce the public-area requirement both were approved in a 4-3 vote.

Those voting in favor were council president Jamie Leeseberg, Karen Angelou, Brian Larick and Michael Schnetzer. Voting no were Nancy McGregor, Merisa Bowers and Stephen Renner.

Leeseberg said the issues at hand is a zoning-map change and concerns about different engineering aspects and said those would be worked out during engineering. So he favored the legislation.

Angelou said she lived in that residential area for 29 years.

"We do need having different kinds of housing in our areas," Angelous said. "I think that Mr. Rubin and Big Sky Realty, along with the attorney Mr. (David) Hodge, have brought out great reasons for doing this."

From a zoning perspective, Larick said, he didn't have any questions and didn't comment.

Schnetzer asked Donna Goss, Gahanna development director, to comment about the linkage between business development and housing.

“When businesses come and they start looking at a community for a possible business relocation or development, the first thing they ask is, typically, where their workforce is going to come from,” Goss said. “In terms of the diversity of housing stock that’s available in Gahanna now, we currently don’t have very much in terms of mixed-use development – and more recent, I would say – multifamily units.”

Goss said the housing stock in Gahanna is actually very outdated. 

“In order to encourage the workforce here that we would like to have to support new business development, this type of housing is something that would be really important and essential,” she said. “More multifamily housing is currently needed in Gahanna in terms of the percentage available now.”

Bowers said she had reviewed the development principles for the west gateway in the land-use plan.

“Really, our concept, when we were working through this project, was to create a sense of arrival, promote the community’s identity, with an emphasis on attractive streetscapes and orientation toward the street,” she said. “This parcel was specifically identified as sort of a transition parcel toward more of a mixed-use project to the east and low-density residential to the west along Johnstown.”

As defined in the land-use plan, she said, the density on this medium-density unit was looked at as five to 20 units per acre, with 20 units per acre being at the high end, she said.

“While this may be important to rezone to a multifamily, my concerns are, I suppose, with what happens next,” Bowers said.

Renner said the development is too dense, and that it’s outside the land-use plan.

“The land-use plan was a hard-earned plan,” he said. "In particular, in the West Johnstown corridor, we have a dream. We know about what the corridor can become, and we put it in the plan.”

McGregor said the proposal takes the parcel out of the income-generating category and parking is limited for the number of units, and there isn’t a good place for overflow parking.  

During a public hearing on the matter, several residents expressed concerns about the sanitary-sewer system being able to handle additional development. Traffic created by a new development also was a concern.

Rebecca Becker, 200 Brookhaven Drive, said her basement had flooded several times in the spring, and she doesn’t support any construction or development until the problem is resolved. 

“I don’t think we can support more units for people to live in,” she said. “We had to rip up all the flooring in the basement. ... I see no way construction or a development can be approved until we know it’s fine.”

City engineer John Moorehead said the city is aware of the sewer issue.

“We’re working hard to get that resolved in that entire district,” he said. “The backups that occurred here in March, and again in May, coincided with our initial contact with this developer. The city staff has been working with this developer to make sure they understand this problem in the region.”

Moorehead said the city is waiting to get results from a study that’s ongoing to help seek some resolution to the backups before moving forward with this project’s engineering approval to get a connection to the sanitary system. 

“We’re confident the results of this study are going to bear fruit, and we might end up resolving these backups that are ultimately wet weather events,” he said. 

Moorehead said West Johnstown Road can get congested and many intersections feed off West Johnstown and become problematic in the evening.

“The development itself is projected to produce enough trips in traffic that it wouldn’t require a turn lane, and its contribution, overall, to the traffic in the region wouldn’t constitute a significant change to what’s out there today,” he said. 

Moorehead said the city is working toward a number of capital projects to see if improvements could be made at Stygler Road and U.S. Route 62, as well as West Johnstown itself and surrounding intersections, to promote safety. 

“The developer is contributing right of way to this project that will help us to implement those capital projects and get this road improved to help our residents here,” he said.

The development will be a roughly $6.5 million investment for Big Sky Realty, said Carrin Wester, city communications manager. 

Rubin said the goal is to break ground on the project  in mid- to late 2021, with an anticipated 12-month construction period.

Gahanna's Planning Commission voted 5-2 on Oct. 28  to recommend the change to council.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla