Gahanna council OKs zoning change for Crescent at Central Park apartments to move forward

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
The latest concept plan from applicant Larry Canini for the Crescent at Central Park shows 14.4 acres of garden apartments, 26.6 acres of future commercial and dedicated park land and open spaces.

CORRECTION: The zoning legislation was approved 6-1, with Brian Larick dissenting. The variance was approved unanimously. This story previously reported it the other way around.

Gahanna City Council approved legislation Feb. 15 to change the zoning district of a 14.4-acre parcel off Hamilton Road from select commercial planned district to limited multifamily residential development that opens the door for 240 apartments.

The vote on the zoning issue was 6-1, with Brian Larick, council president, voting no.

Those voting in favor were Nancy McGregor, Karen Angelou, Merisa Bowers, Jamie Leeseberg, Stephen Renner and Michael Schnetzer. 

Applicant Larry Canini proposed the legislation for what’s known as Crescent at Central Park.

The multifamily residential development is expected to be the initial component to a mixed-use development, according to the zoning-change application. 

Related legislation to grant a variance to reduce the public-area requirement for onsite recreation and open space was approved unanimously.

Rather than provide about 3 acres of open space within the boundaries of the multifamily development, Gahanna city planner and zoning administrator Michael Blackford said, a proposed 34-acre dedication of offsite recreation is desirable.

David Hodge, an attorney who represents Canini, the Buckles family and Casto Communities, said those residing at the site would have recreation opportunities.

“It’s being met by the park south of the road,” he said.

Larick said his question has been with regard to placing housing in an area that’s segregated from the community. 

“It’s carved off by a multilane highway on roughly two sides,” he said. 

The site is southeast of the South Hamilton Road interchange with Interstate 270 and north of Tech Center Drive.

“There’s no fundamental way to incorporate residential housing into the community as a whole, which has been my concern,” Larick said. “I do commend the developers for the work of resolving essentially any of the human-capable issues that have come up to the extent possible. One can’t ask for much more as far as effort put forward to accomplish that. But that doesn’t resolve for me the geographic problem that exists with this particular parcel and residential housing.”

Council also received two emails in opposition to the zoning proposal, and Highmeadow Drive resident Brenda Hoffman spoke against it, during a virtual public hearing.

She cited issues with noise, lighting and code enforcement at the Villages of Gahanna.

“Please do something seriously well thought out,” Hoffman said. “Please protect us (residents).”  

Hodge said the rezoning is one critical piece to a larger overall puzzle for the property. 

“We believe – my partner, Aaron Underhill, and I, and our clients, collectively, as well as professional planners, doctors who already have a significant investment in this area – believe that the development proposed in this legislation will be a catalyst to bring to fruition the overall development scheme that’s desired and has been identified in your comprehensive plan,” he said. “Exactly what is that? Quality family, of course, professional office, hotels, retail, restaurants and a community park to the south side of the road.”

Hodge said the project started with 17.5 acres and 312 homes and has been reduced by a little more than 3 acres and 240 multifamily units. 

“We made the modification with the reduction in acreage and number of units to allow other portions of the property to develop for some of those other uses,” he said. “We also agreed to use the deed-restriction tool to restrict the balance of the property ... so that a minimum of four of those acres will develop with professional office uses.”

Gahanna Mayor Laurie Jadwin said the multifaced project is 100-plus acres in total with office space, commercial, retail, residential and park land. 

“In this case, we’re working with a developer who has grown up in Gahanna,” she said. “Larry Lane is named after him. ... In all the years of my conversations with Mr. Canini, I know that he’s someone who has Gahanna’s best interest at heart and wants to see Gahanna move forward.”

Jadwin said Casto is a family-owned business that has been around for generations. 

“They have built all around the central Ohio area and beyond,” she said. “They are a project developer who holds their projects. They don’t simply build and sell off to the next person. They hold onto them. Casto builds a quality product.”

Jadwin said she understands Larick’s concerns about putting residential development on the property and concerns about a residential component being placed just outside John Glenn Columbus International Airport. 

“To that I would say this: ... Casto is a developer that’s been around for generations –generations of successful development,” she said. “They’re going to spend their own money, millions and millions of dollars, in building a residential component as part of this parcel because they believe that it’s a perfect fit for this overall comprehensive, campus-like transformative project that truly is a live-work-play environment that’s so like every other development that’s happening in communities all over central Ohio right now.”

If they see value in investing their own millions of dollars in constructing this residential project on this parcel for which they’re going to front their money, Jadwin said, then she believes they believe they will be able to sell those properties and that people will want to live there. 

“It’s a transformative project,” Jadwin said. “It’s one that is crucial to business attraction. If we truly are going to care about our residents, business attraction, i.e. job attraction, has to be at the forefront. We attract jobs, we generate income tax. We generate income tax, we invest that back in the city to provide the services our residents need and provide them with the amenities that they want.”

Angelou said it’s exciting to have a new development going forward.

“I’m really excited about this particular project,” she said. 

Jadwin said the city would begin in earnest discussions and negotiations regarding the development agreement that will come before council for review and discussion and approval in about a month.

“It would be my intention to have deed restrictions as part of the development agreement,” she said. “We would bring the development agreement before council within 30 days, and at that point it, would be up to council to discuss, review and approve and adopt the development agreement.”

Blackford said it will be 30 days before the rezoning is effective. 

The next step, from a permitting-process standpoint, would be the filing of two planning-commission applications: a final development plan and a design review that’s the site layout, building design, landscaping, lighting, parking and access.

“All those high-level details get refined for that process that goes before a public hearing, similar to the rezoning,” he said. “Planning Commission is the ultimate authority in approving those applications.

"If that is successful or could be done concurrently, with that would be engineering plans, which is the more refined utilities, infrastructure side of things. Then you also have building plans for the actual structures.”

If those applications were to start in earnest, Blackford said, it could be another six months before completing the additional development steps needed in order to break ground and start construction.

Check ThisWeekNEWS.com/Gahanna for updates.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla