Council to consider Greenwood Commons proposal


Plans to rehabilitate the longstanding Greenwood Lake property in Delaware are now moving forward after the Delaware Planning Commission voted to recommend a trio of requests by T&R Properties for the proposed construction of the Greenwood Commons mixed-use development.

During its Wednesday meeting, the commission approved recommendations to the Delaware City Council for a zoning amendment, conditional use permit, and a preliminary development plan for the approximately 61.63-acre site, which is located at 340 Lake St., just east of Joy Avenue.

The site’s history dates back to the early 1800s when it was purchased by John G. Vergon in 1834 and maintained by his family for agricultural uses before eventually becoming a summer resort location. According to city documents, the Salvation Army purchased the property, likely sometime in the 1970s, and used it as a summer camp for disadvantaged children.

Redevelopment was set to come to the site in 2014 when the Delaware City Council approved a rezoning amendment, conditional use permit, and preliminary development plan to allow the property to be renovated to facilitate 24-hour supervised care short-term refuge clients of the Salvation Army. Those plans ultimately fell through due to economic restraints, however, and the site has remained largely vacant for nearly a decade.

In 2020, the Ohio Department of Transportation had to perform an emergency repair of the dam, which is located under U.S. Route 42 on the western boundary of the site, in order to prevent “catastrophic failure” of the dam and highway, according to documents for the proposal. As a result, Greenwood Lake had to be permanently drained, and the Salvation Army sold the property to T&R last year.

T&R Properties is proposing to construct a total of 528 apartment units, 64 townhomes, one single-family home, and a private clubhouse across three subareas on the site. Subarea A would span approximately 22.62 acres on the northern portion of the property and would contain 252 apartment units across seven three-story buildings as well as a clubhouse. A men’s shelter for short-term housing is also proposed for Subarea A, and the seven apartment buildings would be clustered around the shelter.

A percentage of the units in Subarea A would likely be studio or single-bedroom units targeted toward workforce housing.

Subarea B would span approximately 34.21 acres and would include 276 market-rate apartment units across three buildings, as well as 64 townhomes, the lone single-family home, and a clubhouse. The townhomes would be constructed as 16 four-unit single-family attached buildings located near the southernmost boundary of the site to provide a transition from the existing single-family homes to the south of the site to the proposed apartment buildings in Subarea A.

A 6-foot privacy fence would be constructed along the southern boundary of the site, and additional trees would also be planted to provide screening of the property for the existing residents on Joy Avenue.

T&R is proposing to renovate the former Greenwood Lake Lodge, which is located immediately south of the former lake and north of the proposed apartment buildings, to serve as the clubhouse for Subarea B. The preexisting amphitheater would also be renovated as an added amenity to the site.

The 4.8-acre Subarea C would be maintained as open space and a permanent tree reserve while also providing additional screening and buffering for the existing homes on Joy Avenue and Wilder Street.

“This type of development would significantly contribute to the tax base of the community while helping to provide a northern anchor to the emerging riverfront district,” city development planner Jordan Selmek said during Wednesday’s presentation. “This is one of the focus areas in the Delaware Together comprehensive plan, and by having permanent residents at this location, it will help generate a more walkable community, which is one of the main targets of the city’s comprehensive plan.”

Following the presentation by city staff, a public hearing was held to allow residents who live in the area of the proposed development to voice their concerns. Many of the concerns expressed by residents centered on the added traffic the development would cause on Lake Street and U.S. Route 42. Planning Commission Chairman Stacy Simpson called those concerns “valid” and asked Land Development Lead Engineer Carrie Fortman to speak further on the matter.

“We are already working with the applicant to do a traffic impact study. … It does have a scope identified of how to be sure their entrances into both areas are appropriate,” Fortman said. “The scope includes Lake Street itself, but the city has also acknowledged through the Public Works Department that Lake Street and Central Avenue are an intersection to be addressed. And that’s not solely the responsibility of this development.

“So, I have jotted down many of the concerns I have heard with respect to that. … It’s a busy intersection, and we know it. The developer will be required to make improvements as identified by the traffic impact study, but we just do not have those results at this time. You will see there’s a condition identified stating the developer is responsible for such. I will add that because U.S. 42 is a U.S. route, the Ohio Department of Transportation is also engaged as a participant in that study.”

Asked by Simpson at which point in the development process there would be a clear and defined picture of which traffic improvements will be required, Fortman said there are times when that information is available prior to a final development plan but also times when it isn’t known until a final development plan is proposed.

Speaking to residents’ concerns about some of the units being “low-income housing,” T&R CEO Ron Sabatino said the starting rates for the market-rate one-bedroom units would be around $1,200 per month, $1,600 per month for two-bedroom units, and around $2,000 per month for three-bedroom units. As for the workforce-focused units included in Subarea A, Sabatino said it’s “yet undecided” just how many units will be reduced-income housing, although he added the most recent discussions have involved 20-30% of the units having reduced rents.

As for the proposed men’s shelter, which area residents believe will invite nefarious activity to their neighborhoods, Sabatino stated, “We’re happy to work with St. Vincent’s to create some temporary housing for folks who are getting back on their feet again from falling down after some incidents in the past. And we’re happy to have that right next to the front door of these apartment buildings we’re building, which will be a mixture of similarly priced housing we would charge for anybody, and the 20-30% or whatever we agree to with council will be more at a workforce level with maximum rents.”

Selmek said the short-term residential housing proposed in the development is permissible on the site as it is currently zoned, noting it’s the market-rate housing component of the overall proposal that requires the zoning amendment. Sabatino went on to say he’d be equally happy to fetch market rates for all the units in the proposed development but recognizes “there’s a need (in Delaware) for workforce housing.”

Councilman Cory Hoffman expressed his confidence that given that all the units directly across from the existing homes will be market-rate units, there won’t be an influx of criminal activity in their neighborhoods as a result. He continued by addressing comments from residents regarding their perception that the city is allowing developers to do whatever they please in the city without offering any impediments, noting the developer has a right to develop the property within the parameters of what’s allowed for that area in the city’s comprehensive plan.

“The process, overall, just isn’t as simple as saying, ‘No, we’re going to disallow this, we’ll allow this.’ We have to have constitutionally sound, legally sound, and procedurally sound reasons for the decisions that we make,” Hoffman said.

The three requests will now go before Delaware City Council for a first reading at its next meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, May 8, at 7 p.m. A public hearing will likely be scheduled to be held at the second reading for the proposal. Should the preliminary development plan ultimately be approved by the council, the developer will still need to submit a final development plan for consideration before the development receives final approval.

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

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