Grove City Council OKs Pulte Homes' preliminary plan by 3-2 vote

Traffic is concern for 399-home development near Routes 665, 104

Alan Froman
ThisWeek group

A residential development proposed by Pulte Homes of Ohio will move toward a final development plan, but the developer will work with the city to address traffic and other issues.

Grove City Council narrowly approved the preliminary development plan June 7 by a 3-2 vote.

Pulte Homes of Ohio is proposing a 145-acre residential development at the northeast corner of London Groveport Road and Jackson Pike. This rendering of the initial concept plan for the development shows how an existing stream would bisect and divide the development into subareas.

Pulte is proposing a total of 399 homes on a 145-acre site north of London Groveport Road (state Route 665) and east of Jackson Pike (state Route 104.)

As with other developments that have been approved for the area, the question of whether the 665/104 corridor safely and adequately could handle the expected increase in traffic was a major topic of discussion.

Council president Christine Houk and Ted Berry voted against approving the preliminary development plan as submitted by Pulte.

The planning commission on May 4 recommended approval of the preliminary plan but with three stipulations.

One requirement is that the developer complete a traffic study to consider potential road improvements, including deceleration and turn lanes on London Groveport Road or Jackson Pike and reconfiguring the "S" bend on London Groveport Road at the southeast corner of the site.

The other stipulations are for a 70-foot minimum width for the single-family lots in the development to be consistent with the Scioto Meadows subdivision to the north and that the applicant work with the city to determine how the central open space could be activated to make it accessible and an amenity to area residents.

The applicant is agreeable to all three stipulations, said Tom Hart, a zoning attorney for Pulte.

Regarding the lot-width stipulation, "we want to work with staff on finding the right combination of lot sizes because we want some diversity in lot sizes," Hart said.

Having some flexibility in lot sizes would help achieve the largest amount of open space in the development, he said, and home buyers want more common open space in their neighborhoods, he said.

Houk said her concerns about this proposal are similar to the ones she has raised about other developments proposed for the 665/104 area over the past few years.

"These roadways can't support the amount of traffic we have utilizing them today, let alone what we have coming our way," she said. 

That issue needs to be addressed "before we sign off on any more housing," Houk said.

Pulte Homes can be expected "to build a great project," Berry said.

"Just not here," he said.

The traffic concern is an issue for him, too, but a housing development would mar land that could be maintained as green wilderness, Berry said.

His vision for the Pulte project site always has been that funding from a Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks levy could allow the land to be purchased and used as an extension of Scioto Grove Metro Park, he said.

Although council member Roby Schottke voted in favor of the preliminary development plan, he said he is concerned about the potential impact on traffic should the "S" curve be straightened out.

A large number of trucks already travel the roadway and take the curve, and that type of traffic would only increase if anticipated warehouse development in and to the south of the corridor comes to fruition, he said.

The "S" curve serves as "a traffic-calming device" to slow truck traffic down, Schottke said.

"If we straighten that up, the trucks will be humming through there," he said. "I do believe we need to look closely at what we do to keep that curve there."

Brian McDaniel, who lives on West River Road, said his backyard is at the curve, "so I know what everybody is talking about. There is a lot of traffic there."

Last summer, a soybean truck tipped over at the curve, "and the soybeans are still there," McDaniel said. "There's about a foot of mush that stinks.

"These are the problems we run into," he said.

The guardrail at the "S" curve "gets busted up about once a month," McDaniel said. "It's busted up now."

The truck traffic will only get worse, he said, and the city should consider the traffic issues, including what to do with the curve, before allowing another major development to start building in the corridor.

As a son of a semitruck driver, council member Aaron Schlabach said, he understands that truck traffic can cause issues along the curve. 

The roadway is not designed to handle large semis, and trucks often have to cross the double line to stay on the road, he said.

"I'm not a big fan of traffic, either," Schlabach said. 

But it seems that any type of residential development in Grove City brings a common refrain that something needs to be done about traffic and increasing green space, but nothing ever seems to move forward to address the issue, he said.

Pulte is proposing that about 30% of the development area should be green or open space, "which is fantastic," Schlabach said.

With jobs being added to Grove City and the region, "we can't not have housing," he said. "If we choke off housing, then we could end up with the same problem that large metro areas have where you have homelessness and joblessness and all the nightmares that go along with that."

It's important for Grove City to offer more housing "to make sure we can maintain some positive changes to accompany the job creation the city has been working on," Schlabach said.

Pulte is proposing to build 307 single-family lots on the north side of the development area and 92 patio homes on the south side.

The two subareas would be separated  by a stream corridor that runs through the site.

The development would offer several benefits to the community, Hart said. 

"We will try to permanently protect an outstanding natural area that exists on the site (the stream corridor), and we will try to connect (the development) to the regional trail system, including the Metro Park, to activate it for use by all residents in the region," he said.

The development also would add diversify and update the city's housing stock to support the job creation that is occurring, Hart said.

The project also would provide the opportunity for the city "to take a deeper dive" into the traffic issue that this and other developments have raised, he said.

Now that the preliminary development concept has been approved, a more detailed development plan and zoning application will come later from Pulte.

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