Canal Winchester residents react to plans for apartment

It was standing-room-only and then some in Town Hall on Dec. 15 when Canal Winchester Village Council listened to residents voice opposition to a proposed apartment complex on the south side of Groveport Road.

Public comments were solicited on an appeal filed by Rockford Homes on a Nov. 10 denial by the Planning and Zoning Commission for a site development plan for an apartment complex on the south side of Groveport Road east of Thrush Drive. The Canal Crossing development would have a pair of access points, one on Groveport Road and another on Cormorant Drive, which would be directly across from the Eagle Ridge condominium access point.

About the proposed development

Situated on eight and a half acres, the proposed apartment development consists of 12 buildings at a density of 13 units per acre. The majority of the complex would be ranch-style structures, along with a pair of two-story structures, and bisects a stream within the 500-year floodplain.

The property is within the Villages at Westchester Planned Unit District, which was approved in August 1990 and previously owned by Virginia Homes. The PUD was amended in 2001 to allow multi-family development on the property. In 2003, Rockford received development plan approval for 112 apartments. However, in 2005, the owners requested an amendment from apartments to condominiums and planning and zoning approved the request on Dec. 12, 2005.

Since construction did not begin within two years of the commission’s approval, passage of a new development plan is required. Rockford is now asking to return to the original development plan use for the apartment complex, which is vehemently opposed by neighboring residents in the Villages at Westchester and Eagle Ridge Condominiums.

"The reason we’re here today is not for the rezoning of the land," said Rockford representative and attorney Catherine Cunningham, "but for the administrative process in determining if the site plan is in compliance. This is not a legislative process. We’re here today because there was a flaw in the process."

Cunningham said the commission made no specific findings as to why the development did not meet the code and therefore felt there was no reason to deny the appeal.

Reactions

Disgruntled condominium residents, homeowners, and citizens voiced several reasons why the denial should be upheld.

Villages at Westchester Homeowners Association President Steve Bowden said he agreed with the planning and zoning ruling and presented petitions from approximately 169 individuals opposing the appeal. He said having apartments so close to homes would have a negative impact on the community.

Homeowner Stacey Boumis urged  council to initiate a rezoning of the area so the village is not tied to 18-year-old development standards. She said Rockford would undoubtedly put up a fight, but the end result would be worth the battle.

"There’s already occupancy problems on this side of town. We have plenty of apartments," added Greg Johnson.

Terry Campbell said, "I’m appalled Rockford would betray this community. We were told there would be condominiums built on that site."

Vicki Russo was fearful potential renters would not be able to afford the cost and the company, in turn, would lower the rent and attract an undesirable clientele to the area. Sharan Boehme voiced concerns regarding an increase in traffic and Randy Smith said the village needs to take a serious look at potential safety issues with the proposed apartment entrance positioned so close to a driveway into Hanners Park.

Charles Sheets, past president of the Eagle Ridge Condominium Association, said trust is important and was a factor in his move to the community.

"I was very impressed with Canal Winchester, but I was more impressed with Rockford Homes," recalled Sheets. The guy I talked with was honest and trustworthy. I was told upgraded condominiums would be built (when he asked about the empty parcel). I relied on the Rockford representative, but trust is not what I’m seeing here today."

Council President Rick Deeds said the village has up to a month to make a decision regarding the appeal and assured more than 100 citizens attending the hearing that council will study all aspects of the issue before rendering a decision on Jan. 5.
 

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