Work underway on 186 apartments on Walcutt Road south of Hilliard

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group
This site plan shows Preferred Living's planned eight apartment buildings on the east side of Walcutt Road, south of Roberts Road, in Columbus. The site is near Hilliard's southern boundaries.

Work has started on what will become eight apartment buildings with 186 units on the east side of Walcutt Road, just south of Roberts Road, in Columbus.

Demolition of single-family residences is underway, as well as the start of the underground infrastructure needed to support the new development, said Kelley Arnold, zoning chair of the Far West Side Area Commission.

The site at 2450 Walcutt Road is on Hilliard's southern boundary and is immediately north of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4931.

A development of Preferred Living, it has fewer apartments than when first proposed and achieved the approval of the Far West Side Area Commission in February.

The commission recommended approval of the required rezoning from residential to L-AR-1 and several variances to allow for apartment buildings. Columbus City Council gave its final approval May 28.

The L-AR-1 is a limited zoning district with a density of 36 units per acre, according to a Columbus index of zoning districts. The limited designation establishes restrictions or additional development standards above the base zoning districts, according to the index.

“While the vote to approve (the rezoning) was unanimous, it is not without reservations (by the commission),” Arnold said.

The Far West Side Area Commission is one of several area commissions in central Ohio whose members consider rezoning applications and development plans before making recommendations to Columbus boards and commissions.

More:Columbus area commissions map

For the project, nine parcels were combined into a single parcel, and several residences are being demolished to clear the site, Arnold said.

But according to the Trabue/Roberts Area Plan, it is recommended that it be developed as "neighborhood commercial," not a residential development, Arnold said.

The Trabue/Roberts Area Plan was adopted in 2011 and covers the geography of both the Far West Side Area Commission and the West Scioto Area Commission, Arnold said.

To read the Trabue/Roberts Area Plan, go to columbus.gov/planning/documentlibrary.

The decision to allow apartments is an example of Columbus officials not following such a plan, Arnold said.

It demonstrates “a lack of willingness on the city’s part to adhere to area planning or partner with developers to create such an opportunity," she said.

"We have seen multiple instances in which the plan's recommendations or the prevailing zoning has not been followed," Arnold said. "Notable is the usage of 'extended-stay hotels,' which have been allowed in commercial zoning, and even manufacturing zoning until recently, in order create residential apartments in land-use areas better served by the intended commercial or manufacturing application.

“This vote (in February to recommend approval of the proposal) represents our efforts to mitigate the impact of unplanned growth via additional residential burdens placed on this community."

However, according to Columbus City Council member Emmanuel Remy, the proposed development fits within an interpretation of the plan's guidelines and was supported by the Far West Side Area Commission.

"The neighborhood plan for the Trabue/Roberts community calls for 'neighborhood commercial' developments, and the proposed development is a great candidate for a mixed-use development, meeting both commercial and housing needs," Remy said. "This is why both the city and Far West Side Area Commission ultimately approved the project.

"The growth that we are experiencing in Columbus is unprecedented, pushing us to be more creative and make hard decisions at times."

Remy said the proposed housing is needed.

"As past president of the Northland Community Council, I understand the concerns expressed by the Far West Side Area Commission," he said. "I applaud their efforts to speak out and advocate on behalf of our Far West residents.

"As chair of the economic-development committee, I also understand the growth that Columbus has experienced in recent years. Because of this growth, housing is in high demand and supply is dangerously low. Without an increase in housing today, especially affordable housing, the growth we experience over the next 30 years will leave us behind in providing safe and abundant housing, and that’s not what Columbus is about."

Arnold said the commission worked on behalf of concerned residents to reduce building heights and density and to increase green space when compared to the first proposal that called for 226 apartments.

“This is not the ideal situation for our community, but without a significant shift in the paradigm with respect to the city’s growth and management and planning positions, this is the least discommoding use we could expect to see,” Arnold said.

According to the development plan, the 186 apartments will include 68 one-bedroom units, 98 two-bedroom units and 20 two-bedroom units with dens.

Arnold said she is not aware of a name for the development.

Jared Smith, chief development officer for Preferred Living, did not return calls seeking comment about the project and its timeline for completion.

According to the Franklin County Auditor’s Office, the 8.5-acre site on Walcutt Road is in Hilliard City Schools and is owned by Wall & Rob LLC.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo