Reed Parkway, currently closed to traffic, is the site of a proposed Berlin Business Park in Berlin Township.

Gary Budzak | The Gazette

The Berlin Township Zoning Commission met on Feb. 14 for a public hearing regarding a rezoning of 26.6 and 17.5 acres along state Route 37 East from Farm Residential to Planned Residential District for a multi-family development.

Dublin-based T & R Properties and Columbus-based Kontogiannis & Associates presented the application and were represented by R.J. Sabatino and Randal Woodings, respectively. “The application is on behalf of the Reed family,” the meeting minutes said. This is a mixed-use project since it is multi-family as well as industrial (the latter of which has been approved).

According to the minutes, Sabatino said “he is here because of what began as the Berlin Industrial Overlay District (BIO). He knows that the township wants good economic development, good growth, good new commercial and good housing. He noted that this property is able to follow the BIO’s requirements for the industrial portion.”

In terms of location, Sabatino said, “This project requires substantial public improvements, including to (routes) 36/37, Lackey Old State Road, and the most substantial, which is the extension of Reed Parkway. The extension will service the multifamily as well as the industrial developments. … It is difficult to know the total cost of the public improvements.”

Reed Parkway would be a public road with a speed limit of 35 mph. A Del-Co Water tower and sanitary lift station is also said to be built in the area.

To the west would be 87% two-story one-or-two-bedroom garden-style flat apartments (with up to 16 units per building) and 48 two-story three-bedroom townhomes, it was said. There would be 368 units, with a density of 7.2 units per acre. In comparison, nearby Northlake Summit has 11.5 units per acre, Seattle House 13.7, and Fourwinds 28.8, Sabatino said. Construction would begin next summer.

Woodings said tan and red brick and vinyl siding (which is prohibited the township for this zoning) would be used as exterior materials. Woodings said T & R would manage the project, and it would be similar in style to the Flats on Houk, near Delaware’s airport. Another property of theirs is the Dooley’s Orchard apartment complex. T & R has been in business more than 40 years, Sabatino said.

BZC members noted that Olentangy Local Schools, a major draw for any new subdivision in the township, is projected to add 1,000 more elementary students in the next school year. There was also discussion on the total acreage, buffering around the industrial park, extending the mound, connectivity and walkability, and the addition of fountains to the retention ponds.

“The township does want the tax revenue from the apartments,” the BZC said.

Eleven members of the public spoke. In response to a question, it was said that these were not government-subsidized apartments, “and they will all be paid by the renter.” Others were concerned about additional traffic in and out of driveways on Lackey Old State, preferred condominiums to apartments, light pollution, property line and water runoff issues, and the U-turn on 36/37.

Monica Conners, director of economic development for Delaware County, said, “Economic development in Central Ohio has been very busy with the Intel and other projects. There is a generational opportunity here in Delaware County with the Berlin business park to attract new, advanced scientific jobs to our area that will bring in young professionals, high wages, and help diversify the tax base for the community, which will have a positive impact on the schools as well. The multi-family development can help diversify the tax base as well.”

Conners said the Building Industry Association told her “There are over 80 people moving in to the Columbus metro area per day. This area is in the top 10 areas for growth in the nation, and there are a lot of young people moving in that area looking for opportunities like this to live in. This is a great community, and she thinks it would be attractive to a variety of people.”

Conners concluded by saying, “Delaware County has invested almost $10 million to the infrastructure in this park, and T & R Properties will be committing nearly that much if not more to the infrastructure itself. The first project is very important in order to kick off the momentum. She is fielding daily calls for the commercial and industrial portions of this park. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Berlin Township.”

After a recess and discussion, the applicants asked for and were granted a tabling to March 21.

At that March meeting, the minutes said, “The site plan looks very different. The north portion previously had a road with multi-family apartments along it. That has been eliminated in addition to the road, and 72 apartment units have been eliminated. That is more of a rural density as requested, and the density is now 5.9 units per acre. Open space: 20% open space is required, and this is 70% open space, which is substantial. Building elevations: renderings have been provided showing darkened colors, and the siding will be cementitious rather than vinyl. This is a much better building that fits better. Setbacks: As a result of the lowered density, the setback divergences have all been eliminated. There is at least 350’ setback from the neighbors along Lackey Old State Road. The landscaping buffer has been curved to hook around to the north. The PRD has an outdated parking requirement for multi-family; 3 spaces per unit would be 900 spaces. A substantial amount of guest parking has been added; 81 previously, there were 532 spaces, and 92 spaces have been added for guest parking, so the total is 624 spaces. This is closer in line with the industry standards for multi-family…”

There was then further consideration from the BZC for additional landscaping and benching in the clubhouse area. It was noted that the application needed to be corrected regarding acreage. There was then a question about the rezoning on the Berlin Industrial Overlay, and that the permitted use is “single-family detached residential homes.” That meant the BZC could not approve it. The applicant then asked for a variance, and the BZC asked its solicitor whether that was permitted.

“They are taking a square peg and trying to fit it into a round hole,” a BZC member said of the applicant, and recommended they start over.

The public then weighed in, with one resident saying it was a bad precedent to have apartments next to single-family homes in this area. They were told, “Ohio allows property owners to request any zoning that they want. It is the role of this board as well as the trustees to decide whether that will be approved.” In addition, developers are not required to use overlay maps.

Other residents were divided on whether to approve the rezoning, with some saying it would be an economic boon to the township.

The legal counsel “advised that the application that has been submitted is the one that the BZC must vote, that variances and modifications typically deal with much smaller items such as exteriors, amenities, etc. Sabatino asked for a vote, which included the requested variances.

The BZC motioned to consider the application as read, and unanimously voted no. The applicant was told if it had been submitted differently, “the process would have been different. … The BZC’s role is to make sure it complies, and they are not trying to be adversarial.”

Assistant Editor Gary Budzak covers the eastern half of Delaware County and surrounding areas. He may be reached at [email protected].