Vote on Lifestyle Communities' UMCH project delayed again

Stephen Borgna
ThisWeek group

Property-management company Lifestyle Communities’ application and development proposal to construct 730 residences on the site of the former United Methodist Children's Home residential facility at 1033 N. High St. still appears to be in a holding pattern.

The project was discussed at Worthington’s Architectural Review Board and Municipal Planning Commission meeting Jan. 14, but no vote was taken on making a recommendation to Worthington City Council to change the site's zoning to a planned-unit development. 

Lifestyle Communities had the opportunity to have a vote taken during the meeting, but representatives asked to table their ARB and MPC applications, according to planning and building director Lee Brown, surrounding board and commission concerns that reflected opposition from some residents. 

“The applicants wanted to table to take into account the comments and questions they heard from the board and commission of the community,” Brown said. 

No timetable has been set for the next meeting at which the project would be discussed. Brown said if the MPC were to make a recommendation, council would schedule a public hearing and put the project up to a vote.

The proposal has been in the public eye for a few months.

A 473-page document that included a plan to rezone the property to a planned-unit development was submitted to the city Oct. 5.

Lifestyle Communities has submitted a 473-page plan to build 730 residences on the United Methodist Children's Home property in the heart of Worthington.

But the development proposal’s review, which had been scheduled at the Nov. 12 meeting of the ARB and MPC, first was delayed to Dec. 10 and then delayed again until January, both times at the request of Lifestyle Communities.

Lifestyle Communities' proposal to the ARB and MPC said the project would bring economic benefits to Worthington and would address the need for more local housing. The plan calls for a mix of apartments, townhouses and single-family homes that would span nearly 40 acres on the site, in addition to commercial and medical offices and two parking garages.

In addition to adding homes and bringing investment opportunities in Worthington, Lifestyle Communities said in a PowerPoint that economic developments would include the generation of 801 construction jobs and 145 commercial and medical jobs, and the development would generate $11 million in property taxes and $12.5 million in income taxes to the city over 30 years.

But some ARB and MPC members shared concerns that the proposal in its current state does not reflect the architectural style, building density and character of Worthington. 

“Unfortunately, (the proposal is) just not good enough,’ ARB and MPC member Edwin Hoffman said during the Jan. 14 meeting. “I can’t even get to the architecture because the planning from my point of view is not as thoughtful as it absolutely needs to be. 

“I’m not the one that will say it has to look like everything else in Worthington, but it at least needs to acknowledge it. ... This is in the middle of our community, and I think you’ve heard loud and clear from everybody, you need to get your working team together and step back and think from that point of view: How do you make this poetry? And I think you’re going to get a lot farther with us.” 

ARB member Richard Schuster expressed concerns surrounding the architectural style of the development and the project’s building density.

“Architecturally, when I look at the drawings or the proposed different housing styles, I don’t believe they actually reflect the variety of the types of homes we have in Worthington,” Schuster said. “When I look at the renderings for the apartments, again, there’s no real defining architectural feature. I don’t mean to use a pejorative term, but it’s rather monotonous in its repetitiveness. 

“One of the things we have to do on the architectural-review board is to say, ‘how well does this fit in the general neighborhood?’ And this is too dense."

City Council member David Robinson said in an email to ThisWeek that he was concerned about the traffic, crowding and environmental implications of the proposal. 

“The Lifestyle project would heap tremendous costs upon us – heavy traffic (in a school zone), strained city budget, crowded schools and a lost, degraded natural environment,” he said. “Beyond that, I am struck by the mediocrity of the basic concept. We can do so much better.

“The public wants something good for the entire community, long-term. They clearly see that LC is not that."

Materials on the UMCH proposal, including an economic-development synopsis, applicant proposal and council questions to the applicant, are available at worthington.org.

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve