Orange Township trustees reject apartments plan at North and Shanahan

Jim Fischer
ThisWeek

Orange Township trustees voted unanimously Nov. 16 to deny a requested rezoning application for an apartment complex at North and Shanahan roads.

The request filed by Westerville-based Metro Development would have allowed construction of the Reserve at North Farms, a 144-unit multifamily development, on 25.4 acres, with an entrance on North Road directly across from the North Farms subdivision.

This rendering shows the Reserve at North Farms, a 144-unit multifamily residential development proposed for North Road. Orange Township trustees tabled the proposal until Nov. 16 after nearby residents voiced opposition to the development. Trustees then rejected it unanimously.

The hearing was continued from Oct. 19, during which a handful of residents spoke out via Zoom against the rezoning and more were active in the chat section of the livestreamed meeting on the township’s YouTube channel.

The proposed multifamily development has been met with opposition from some residents throughout the process. Many said they oppose the development because they prefer the parcel be developed as single-family homes rather than multifamily. Others cited such concerns as traffic, impact on schools and crime.

More:Orange Township: North Road apartments plan tabled after residents oppose

More:Orange Township sets hearings for North Road development, Route 23 overlay

Trustees Debbie Taranto and Ben Grumbles both cited the project’s incompatibility with the township’s current comprehensive plan and strong opposition from nearby residents in denying the application, which had been recommended for approval by the township’s zoning commission by a 2-1 vote Sept. 1.

Taranto voiced concerns based on “the current comprehensive plan status and what these homeowners expected when they bought their homes,” she said.

“I am not against this developer or the work they’ve done in the township in the past or on this project,” she said. “But I feel like it’s my responsibility to listen to residents.”

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. Developers cited a changing housing market as one reason for the requested rezoning.

“As I hear resident feedback, it’s clear that they invested in something with an understanding of what was in place,” Grumbles said.

Joe Thomas, director of development for Metro Development, discussed the residents' concerns during the meeting. 

Metro Development's request would have rezoned the site from single-family planned residential district to multifamily planned residential district. 

Grumbles expressed a desire to revisit the township’s comprehensive plan in light of the recently approved 23 Overlay District, which includes provisions for multifamily development within the overlay, which centers on the U.S. Route 23 corridor through the township.

“The overlay has changed things. There is a need for multifamily (development in the township), but we need to get it in line with our comprehensive plan,” Grumbles said. “I still view developers as our partners in this process. We have to get this figured out as a community.

“In this case, the developers have brought us a good product, and I don’t doubt that multifamily development has potential tax benefits. But my decision is rooted in what are we doing collectively as a community and looking at this more holistically,” he said.

Boni said the most recent update to the township’s comprehensive plan was done in 2018, and included consideration of an overlay for the U.S. Route 23 corridor.

“With the overlay now in place, it seems the right time for an update to the comprehensive plan,” Boni said.

“This tract of land ... something’s going to go there, and it could be more or less desirable,” Grumbles said.

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