Capital request creating a quandary for council

For the second time, Bexley Council on Feb. 26 was schooled in the merits and demerits of turning 30 senior-living condominiums into apartments for Capital University students.

The city has received a request from Capital University for a zoning variance to turn condominiums on Astor Avenue, now restricted to ages 55 and over, into student housing, and has heard concerns from residents about hav ing more noise, traffic and trash around the development.

Don Plank, the attorney representing Capital, argued that a variance is actually not needed because the city’s Southwest Master Plan allows the campus use on the street.

That conclusion was disputed by attorney Joel Schwartz, who is advising the city on the matter.

Schwartz said that, for the variance to be granted, the applicant has to show that there will be no adverse effect on the surrounding neighborhood; that it is not contrary to the public interest; and that it will alleviate a hardship or difficulty for the applicant.

Bexley resident Jan Zupnik, who participated in the drafting of the Southwest Master Plan in 2002, stated that "having this discussion is not in the public interest" and granting the variance would violate an historic agreement between the city and the university.

Charles Finley, who lived on nearby Sheridan Avenue until 1980 and still owns properties in the area, complained that the student rentals already owned by Capital are "horrendous" neighbors, with noise and trespassing and littering.

He brought a box with some 40 beer cans picked up from lawns the past weekend.

He and other residents believed that the 55-and-over age restriction for the former Woodsview development would be "a firewall" against further student encroachment.

The age restriction is part of the condo association bylaws and not the zoning, and can be changed by new owners, the parties agreed.

Condo resident Anita O’Reilly, who has been unable to find another buyer besides Capital, cautioned that things could get worse if a private entity purchases the property.

"If you think it’s bad now, wait until it goes on the auction block," O’Reilly said.

Suzanne Marilley, the chairman of Capital’s political science department and a former Sheridan resident, pointed out that the housing would be limited to upperclass honors students, whom she assumed would be better behaved.

Marilley added that Capital is the largest employer in Bexley and its students contribute to the local economy by patronizing shops and restaurants.

City officials promised an immediate improvement in policing the area, and Chief Rinehart was asked to report on student violations at the next meeting.

Councilman Mark Masser observed that the sides are far enough apart that a compromise is probably not possible.

"This is not going to be a win-win situation," Masser predicted. "We’re going to have results in a couple of weeks, and some people are not going to be happy."

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