Urban garden in Southern Orchards could be replaced by housing development

Gary Seman Jr.
ThisWeek group
Ten-year-old Dyaunia Denny stands in front of the entrance of Kossuth Street Garden, a communal greenspace in the Southern Orchards neighborhood east of German Village. Dyaunia and other supports of the garden are trying to save the greenspace, which is being targeted for a housing development.

A local place for growing vegetables and herbs, building community and healing social wounds could be in peril because a developer wants to build affordable housing on the land.

Kossuth Street Garden occupies roughly 11,700 square feet at the southwest corner of Kossuth and East 17th Street in the Southern Orchards neighborhood east of German Village and Schumacher Place.

In documents filed with the city of Columbus, East Kossuth LLC wants to build 10 affordable-housing units with detached garages on the entire 0.9-acre property that is bounded by Kossuth, East 17th, an alley and Ann Street.

The address of the lot is 641 E. Kossuth St.

The development effectively would wipe out the entire Kossuth Street Garden, established in 2008.

Dyaunia Denny, a 10-year-old who lives within a stone’s toss of the park, said she can’t imagine her neighborhood without it.

“I love being here,” said Dyaunia, a student a Watkins Elementary School. “We don’t want it all. We just want to keep part of it."

The new owner, East Kossuth LLC, purchased the lot for $100,000 on Aug. 28, 2018, according to the Franklin County Auditor’s Office website.

Garden founder Michael Doody said garden supporters proposed buying just the garden area for $20,000, but the offer was rejected.

Doody said the neighborhood and supporters are organizing and about to send 500 letters to neighbors and city leaders about their desire to keep the park open.

Architect Juliet A. Bullock, who is representing the developer, said Doody was informed that when the property switched hands he was eventually going to have to move the garden.

Bullock said the developer has been generous in letting the garden supporters maintain their greenspace for free until development work started.

The developer is looking to rezone the property from commercial to R2-F, a residential designation, said Anthony Celebrezze, assistant director of the Columbus Department of Building and Zoning Services.

However, the number of residential units per parcel is not permitted in the R2-F, so the developer needs to obtain a Columbus City Council variance to allow a normally prohibited 10 units on an R2-F parcel, Celebrezze said. Eventually, the larger parcel will be subdivided into 10 residential lots, he said.

Even at that point, each lot would not meet the zoning-code design requirements for R2-F, he said. Normally these design variances would go to the Columbus Board of Zoning Adjustment, but the applicant already is going to council for a rezoning and variance, he said.

Celebrezze said the developer would wrap the design-standard variances for the final residential lots into the variance. That way, once the units are built and subdivided, they would have approval for the design variances they will need going forward, he said.

Neither move has been scheduled with council, he said.

Meanwhile, Jordanne Renner, a member of the neighborhood group, said the park is home to a Little Free Library and the site for Earth Day activities, lessons in composting and preserving water with rain barrels and, of course, growing and harvesting natural foods.

Doody said the neighborhood has a lot of history; for example, it is one of the first Jewish neighborhoods in Columbus. The parcel up for development once was home to a butchering facility, part of it kosher, he said.

Fred Barnett remembers riding his bike in the neighborhood in the early 1970s when a cow got loose and roamed the streets. Barnett, who said he was about 13 at the time, chased the cow until it was cornered, and authorities took the animal away.

Neighbors find themselves reminiscing while they work at Kossuth Street Garden, said Barnett, who still lives in the area.

“It really brings all walks of life to this greenspace, which is what I like about it,” he said.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary