Rezoning approved for 1,000-residence development south of Hilliard

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group

Almost two years after being annexed into Columbus, 369 acres on the east side of Alton Darby Creek Road and south of Roberts Road have been rezoned to a planned-unit development to allow for 1,098 single-family residences and apartments that could start being built in 2022.

Sugar Farms, named for the family that owned the land before it was annexed in January 2019 from Brown and Norwich townships into Columbus, is a $300 million development planned by Pulte Homes of Ohio LLC and the Harmony Development Group.

Columbus City Council on Nov. 16 approved the required rezoning for the Sugar Farms development on the east side of Alton Darby Creek Road, just south of Hilliard.

The land is in the Hilliard City Schools boundaries and south of Hilliard's city limits.

Both the Far West Side Area Commission and the Cross Creek Village Association in early 2019 had issued negative recommendations for the proposal before it was considered by the Columbus Development Commission, which recommended the rezoning in May 2019.

Previous story:Updated: Rezoning plan for 1,000 homes south of Hilliard advances to Columbus City Council

Columbus City Council on Nov. 16 unanimously approved the rezoning request.

Sharon Rastatter, chair of the Far West Side Area Commission, said the development "is just another example of urban sprawl."

Rastatter said she remains opposed to the development on several fronts, including the height of the apartment buildings, some as great as 50 feet, and the threat that the development might contaminate wells and septic tanks in adjacent unincorporated areas, such as the Timberbrook neighborhood.

At almost 3 units per acre, the density of Sugar Farms also is greater than the 1 unit per acre recommended by the Big Darby Accord Advisory Panel.

Hilliard is one of 10 local governments that created the Big Darby Accord in 2004 to preserve and protect the Big Darby Creek and its tributaries in western central Ohio, according to bigdarbyaccord.com.

"We also remain concerned about the impact on the environment," Rastatter said.

Sugar Farms will include single-family residences, patio homes, apartments and 81 acres of green space donated by the developer, as well as the relocation of the Clover Groff Run, a tributary of the Big Darby Creek, in coordination with the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, said Tom Hart, a zoning attorney representing Pulte Homes and Harmony Development Group.

"There will be a large, upfront cost borne by the developers of about $15 million," Hart said, and it would go toward stormwater, sewer and traffic-control improvements.

Council also approved the establishment of a community-development authority that would transfer some of the upfront costs for infrastructure improvements to the homebuyers, according to the legislation.

Homeowners would pay an annual assessment as part of the property tax for 30 years, according to the legislation.

Each lot in Sugar Farms will generate a one-time, $2,500 impact fee and an annual community-development-authority fee, Hart said.

The community-development-authority fee will be assessed at 5 mills, and based on the varying property value within the development, it would range from $400 to $700 annually, Hart said.

Sugar Farms will provide “move-up” housing in the Hilliard school district, he said. The single-family component of Sugar Farm will include residences in the mid-$300,000s, he said.

Matt Callahan, vice president of land acquisition for Pulte Homes, said Sugar Farms will be a "positive addition" that brings "much needed housing in a top-rated school district," as well as roadway improvements.

The development will also provide a revenue steam to improve infrastructure, particularly at Hilliard-Rome and Renner roads, Hart said.

In all, 12 intersections are part of a traffic study for the proposed development.

The next step in the development is "a large amount of final engineering," Hart said.

Although preliminary engineering was underway, developers typically wait until rezoning is approved to undertake final engineering, he said.

Construction of sewer and stormwater upgrades could begin in late 2021, with construction of residences slated for 2022, Hart said.

Stacie Raterman, director of communications for Hilliard City Schools, said the district had no comment on the number of students the development might generate.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo