Orange Township trustees have approved rezoning about 554 acres of land for the Evans Farm Town Center, a development which proponents say will “restore a sense of identity” to the area.
The township hall was packed for the hearing on Monday, with people steadily filing in as trustees determined routine matters such as soft drink and lawn maintenance vendor contracts.
After nearly 90 minutes, developers Daniel W. Griffin and Tony Eyerman of the Evans Farm Land Development Co. LLC showed slides, conceptual drawings, maps and photos of what the application said “is to be known as the Orange Township Town Center.”
The development would be bounded by Lewis Center Road on the south, the Berlin Township line to the north, Alum Creek State Park to the east, and North Road to the west. Griffin and Eyerman said it will be a walk-able neighborhood with homes, retail businesses, offices and a YMCA.
Griffin said the development has been six or seven years in the making, with 18 businesses expressing interest, including a bank, ice cream/soda shop and Mexican restaurant. Eyerman said the development would include four baseball diamonds, 35 percent open space, more than four miles of trail, a bridge over the railroad tracks, and 2.2 houses per acre.
The developers said they have had more than 100 public meetings about the project.
During the public comment portion of the hearing, 10 people praised Evans Farm. Among the comments were that people who currently live in Powell wanted to move to Evans Farm; that the community was reminiscent of Isle of Palms in South Carolina or Grandview Yard; that the Town Center would make a better township and a new Lewis Center; and that they’ve waited decades for something like this to come along.
No one spoke out against Evans Farm.
“It’s unusual to see so many people come in support of something,” said Trustee Deborah Taranto.
Griffin and Eyerman addressed stipulations and assured township fiscal officer Joel Spitzer that they were committed to the development, would maintain the amenities and wouldn’t impose extra costs to taxpayers.
“I know the Evans family (who sold the property to the developers) have nothing but our best interest in mind,” said Trustee Robert Quigley.
The vote was 2-0 on two applications, rezoning the property from Farm Residential District to Planned Commercial and Office District; and Single Family Planned Residential District. Trustee Lisa Knapp recused herself prior to the hearing, saying she was on the Economic Development Advisory Board, where she is a liaison.
“It’s a good thing for our district, a nice blend of development. The possibilities are endless,” said Olentangy Local Schools Superintendent Mark Raiff of Evans Farm, before the hearing. “We’re in some early negotiations about a centralized preschool, which is something that is sorely needed. It’s a good thing for our district.”
“It’s a landmark for Orange Township,” said Delaware County Commissioner Gary Merrell following the hearing, which he attended.
Trustees had previously approved the Evans Farm rezoning on Feb. 8, but there were concerns about whether discussions on the applications were in violation of the state’s Open Meetings Act. The hearing on March 21 was thus said to be reconvened to conclude the hearing from Feb. 8.