Orange Township: North Road apartments plan tabled after residents oppose
Residents near North Road site voice opposition
A contentious rezoning application for an apartment complex on North Road remains unresolved, as Orange Township trustees voted to continue an Oct. 19 public hearing on the matter.
Trustees are expected to resume the hearing at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16.
The rezoning request, which was filed by Westerville-based Metro Development, would allow for the construction of the Reserve at North Farms, a 144-unit multifamily development, on 25.4 acres at the southeast corner of North and Shanahan roads.
The township’s zoning commission on Sept. 1 voted 2-1 to recommend approval of the project.
Zoning director Michele Boni said this is a new plan for the site and initially was approved as a single-family development in 2013 as the last phase in the North Farms subdivision.
The proposed multifamily development has met with opposition from some residents throughout the process.
Numerous residents – most from the North Farms subdivision immediately across North Road from the proposed development – were active in the chat section of the livestreamed meeting on the township’s YouTube channel.
A handful spoke out via Zoom against the rezoning during the public-participation portion of the hearing, citing such concerns as traffic, impact on schools and crime.
Many residents said they oppose the development because they prefer the parcel be developed as single-family homes rather than multifamily.
“Please take our concerns as a community to heart,” resident Sarah Petrovich told trustees. “This is the same proposal we’ve given feedback on before (at the zoning commission level) – this is not the place for apartments.”
“I am sure there is a better place for multifamily (development) in our township,” resident Hareesh Reddy said.
“We’ve shown up for hearings and made comments and sent emails. I don’t think you’re hearing how opposed to this our residents are,” resident Mandi Dennis said.
“I assure you we are listening,” trustee chair Ryan Rivers said. “We appreciate your input. As a board, we extend a legal process to all applicants. (The proposal) received approval from (the Delaware County Regional Planning Commission). It received approval from our zoning commission. We have to consider those things.”
“There is a process we go through that involves commissions and applications,” trustee Ben Grumbles said. “It’s vetted each step along the way to arrive at our table … for consideration.”
Metro Development president and CEO Tre’ Giller spoke on the matter.
“I feel like we’re content to work with everybody to come up with solutions to concerns,” he said. “North Farms is there because we developed it, and people didn’t want that at the time either.”
Todd Faris of Columbus-based Faris Planning and Design spoke on behalf of the applicant, saying traffic had been reviewed by the Delaware County Engineer’s Office.
Faris also pointed to support for the project from Olentangy Schools Superintendent Mark Raiff, both in the form of a letter and in testimony to the zoning commission.
Throughout the district, Raiff told commissioners, the number of students from multifamily developments is significantly lower than from single-family, and multifamily developments typically yield more in tax revenue per student than single-family.
Faris also cited revisions to the project suggested by the commission, including adjusting the site plan to create a larger buffer between the units and North Road.
Attorney Steven Cuckler, also speaking on behalf of the applicant, mentioned the possibility of working with the schools and the township on “creative public financing” to widen Shanahan Road in front of Shanahan Middle School to improve traffic there, should the Reserve at North Farms development be approved.
Rivers suggested a continuance that would allow the developer additional time to affirm data involving school impact, as well as the possible tax plan for a Shanahan Road widening.
Giller ultimately requested the continuance, which was granted by a 2-1 vote, with trustee Debbie Taranto dissenting.
She told the other trustees she was prepared to vote.
“This application has been a long process with a lot of hard work by all,” Taranto told ThisWeek. “It is shown as single-family in both of our comprehensive land-use plans, as well as our latest (Route) 23 overlay plan. When these families purchased their homes (in North Farms), it was understood (this parcel) would be single-family. Therefore we have an obligation to keep it single-family.”
Grumbles said Metro Development still owns the land regardless of the trustees’ vote.
“We come up with comprehensive plans, and (developers) understand this. In this case, they’ve asked for an exception,” Grumbles said. “They have the property and a goal to do something with the land. There could be things that surface later that are less desirable than (this proposal).”
Boni said any further comments should be emailed to her at email@example.com or to zoning-enforcement officer Jeffrey Beard at firstname.lastname@example.org and that comments would be shared with trustees prior to the continued hearing.