While many local residents continue to oppose a rezoning application in east Columbus, the Columbus City Council has given initial approval, albeit with certain stipulations.

On Tuesday, council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance rezoning 19 acres at 3272 Taylor Road from Residential: Single Family 2 (RS2) to Residential: Single Family 4 (RS4) with a number of commitments. Ordinances must pass two readings to be fully approved; the next board meeting is scheduled for July 19.

Joli Development applied for rezoning in order to develop a new subdivision known as Sunset Trails. The application has generated numerous comments and concerns from members of the public since it was originally presented to the Columbus Plan Commission in May. Several people attended Tuesday’s council meeting in person, and seven people took the floor during the time to comment, most expressing their opposition to the RS4 rezoning.

Their concerns included housing density, potential pressure on schools and municipal services, traffic, and impact on neighbours. Some also cited the number of people who signed petitions against the rezoning. An online campaign, created by neighboring resident Justin Albers, has attracted around 130 signatures.

Albers told The Republic he joined forces with leaders of local homeowners associations and together they had more than 265 signatures from neighboring residents. He added that while this group agrees there is a need for local housing, they oppose “building at an irresponsible density” and have created their own compromise proposal with less land and more green space.

Rafael Vasquez also told the city council that residents have done their own research and he thinks development is still possible at a lower density.

“If the developer thinks otherwise, I think we in the audience need to see that evidence in writing as well,” he said. “They are asking the city for relief from the current level of development in this area. And it is their responsibility to provide proof that the status quo is not working. I do not agree that they make concessions; it is the city and the inhabitants who make concessions.

Similarly, Ed Constant said that neighbors are not necessarily against development; they just think it should be done at RS2 or Residential: Single Family 3 (RS3).

“Live in our neighborhood tonight and at the second hearing, and help us keep our neighborhood the way we want it,” he said. “We welcome new neighbors. We wish we had new neighbours, we just wish we had fewer.

On the other hand, Joe Conner of Joli Development told the council that an RS4 zoning was essential to the viability of the project and said the project was necessary, given the “housing crisis” in Columbus and around the country. in general. He added that he believes that the commitments set by the plan commission are already a compromise on the part of the developer.

In June, the Columbus Plan Commission voted 10 to 1 to forward the rezoning request to the city council with a favorable recommendation. Councilman David Bush, who is the council’s liaison to the commission, was the only one to vote “no”. The subject property and surrounding neighborhoods are part of District 3, which he represents.

Commitments recommended by the commission included:

  • A minimum of 13,000 square feet of open space consisting primarily of preserved woods.
  • Limit development to a maximum of 90 single-family lots.
  • A 15 foot tree preservation easement where woods or a “vegetated fence line” are present along the south and west property lines (except where street and utility connections are to be made).
  • A public street connection to Taylor Road.

These commitments—along with an additional provision from Bush—were included in the board’s unanimous vote to approve the rezoning.

Bush’s addition was to require lots along the north, west and south perimeter of the development to be at least 60 feet wide, which is the minimum set by RS3. The board approved the addition and then approved the amended ordinance.

Bush said one of the main reasons he voted against rezoning was a concern about perimeter lot sizes.

When he originally offered the pledge, Conner said it would “significantly limit” the developer’s flexibility to design the area.

“But at the plan commission, it was — you yourself said your preference was to have a lot width of 60 feet so you could build a certain type of house,” Bush said.

“Yeah,” Conner said. “And again, it’s all part of a moving target with what the commission wants. We have to remove lots because of the Taylor Road connection. We must have a dedicated green space. So the only way to get that is if you don’t have all 60 for a batch. It’s a moving target until things are nailed down.

In discussing the rezoning ordinance, Councilman Frank Miller, R-District 4, said officials need to consider both the need for more homes in Columbus and the concerns of community members who are against the RS4 rezoning.

“We as council and mayor all know there’s a housing problem here in town, that we need more housing,” Miller said. “But as council representatives – and I use the word representative – we represent the people, not just the city government or the city.”

Conner responded that in addition to listening to residents who oppose change, council should also consider “the community as a whole” and who would benefit from the new housing.

“I believe it is our responsibility to think about the city as a whole and housing,” agreed Councilwoman Grace Kestler, D-at large. “There is literally nothing in the affordable range, and I personally believe that mixed-use housing, mixed-density housing, zoning housing can be for the good of our community. This allows people to expand, shrink, move around, all within the same area and not have to change school districts, for example. »

Resident Erica Schmidt, who also serves as assistant director of the Columbus Department of Human Rights, asked during the public comment period if the homes built in the subdivision would officially be considered affordable housing under the guidelines of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. .

Conner replied that when he mentioned affordable housing, he was speaking more broadly.

“Our goal is to provide a range of $275,000 to $325,000, which is certainly a viable range for many people,” he said.