By Noell Wolfgram Evans
The future of North Wheatland Avenue was the topic that packed the room for the Greater Hilltop Area Commissions final meeting of 2017.
The commission met to consider a proposal of three zoning variances by The Woda Group for a proposed housing development at 158 North Wheatland Avenue.
Joseph McCabe represented Woda at the Dec. 5 meeting and while he addressed the commissioners directly, his words attempted to dispel the nervous concerns of the many residents in attendance.
McCabe said that Woda wanted to build a three-story, 60-unit complex under a multi-generational concept. This would be near the existing senior-only apartment building that Woda recently developed and opened.
“What would make this a unique campus,” McCabe said, “is the ability to eventually move from one housing unit to the other without leaving the community. We want to make a change here.”
To this point, he discussed the partnership that Woda had entered into with the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.
“This would be a hub for them to provide services at,” McCabe said.
One of the things that Mid-Ohio would bring was the further development of their urban farm concept. This would see the growth of the traditional farm while also taking advantage of other on-site opportunities.
“Mid-Ohio requires that every code-mandated tree be a fruit bearing tree,” said McCabe.
Matt Habash, president of the Mid-Ohio Foodbank commented further on the opportunity by saying, “I’m excited about the possibility of this. It’s a signature site. We have two urban farms, this one and one on the south side. We hope to really create a farm village out of this.”
Residents were invited to share their opinions on the project. They spoke passionately about their disapproval and urged commissioners to vote against the zoning change that is needed for the approval to continue.
Some in attendance voiced their concerns over what the building would mean in regards to increases in traffic and parking problems, others were worried about a potentially negative effect on property costs.
The commission was not at full strength as commissioner Greg Large was unable to attend. His presence was missed as the vote came down to a tie with six commissioners voting for the zoning change and six voting against it. This prompted a discussion on whether the split decision could be sent to the city as the commission’s official recommendation or if some alternative action needed to be taken. The city of Columbus will make the final zoning determination but takes into account the recommendations of area commissions when doing so.
Commission chairman Jay McCallister pledged to investigate next steps with the city.
The requests for zoning variances on the property (for landscape and parking) were both voted down.
Alex Avdakov the assistant to director of Homes On The Hill next addressed the commission on his request to utilize 101 South Eureka Avenue.
“We want to take this vacant property and put it to good use,” Avdakov said.
For this request, approval was unanimous.
In other news, commissioners filled two empty seats. Five members of the audience announced their desire to fill those seats and after one round of voting, Scott Stockton and Nicole Madison were appointed to terms ending in August 2018 (Stockton) and August 2020 (Madison).