The Delaware General Health District (DGHD) could soon upgrade its base of operations pending approval from the City of Delaware.
During Wednesday’s meeting of the Delaware Planning Commission, a Preliminary Development Plan was reviewed for a new office building, which would provide a substantial increase in space for the district.
Currently located downtown at 3 W. Winter St., the proposal would see the district relocate to 470 S. Sandusky St., between Birch Bend and English Terrace. The site, which spans nearly 9.4 acres, formerly belonged to famed evangelist Leroy Jenkins, who passed away in 2017.
Jenkins sold the property for $1.35 million in 2003, and it was owned by Yogi Divine until last year when DGHD made the purchase. The main building on the site was razed in 2014.
DGHD is proposing a one-story, 30,000-square-foot building to be constructed on the site, which will serve as the district’s main office location. The site allows for a 10,000-square-foot expansion to be made at some point in the future. The drive leading from South Sandusky Street would extend into a 214-space parking lot.
There is an existing home that sits on the western portion of the site. The home will remain with the construction of the new DGHD building and could be used as storage for the district.
However, the home is currently approved for residential use only and would have to achieve compliance with the Ohio Building Code in order for it to be utilized as a storage space. Bill Souders, of Moody Nolan — the architects of the project — said they are not prepared to bring the home up to code at this time as there is a limited budget associated with the project.
Pat Blayney, vice chairman of the DGHD board, said there have bee discussions among the board about what to do with the home moving forward if there isn’t any intention to renovate it. He said there have been some recommendations to demolish the home, but they have estimated removing the home would cost upwards of $90,000.
Blayney said the goal is to begin construction on the building somewhere in the early summer timeframe, preferably June if possible. Asked how long he anticipates the construction would take, Blayney estimated a year with the building ready for operation the following summer.
One of the conditions placed on the Preliminary Development Plan is the inclusion of landscaping as a perimeter buffer to the homes existing to the north, south, and west of the site. Souders said they would submit a landscaping plan as part of the Final Development Plan but would not be able to implement that plan “until after the building is completed and we’re in another year, for cash flow reasons.”
“The problem is that we, the City of Delaware, have constituents that expect us to play by the same rules with everybody,” Commissioner Jim Halter said of delaying the landscaping. “Anything else that would have gone in (this site), we would have required them to put up the landscaping around the exterior as a buffer between them and the houses.”
Halter said he understands where the DGHD is coming from in wanting to delay the landscaping until after construction of the building, but he added, “I think the neighbors have a right to expect that no matter who goes in there, that certain codes will not be changed.”
Blayney said he would like to discuss a plan with the city to have the landscaping done over a 12-month period following occupancy of the building, to which Halter pointed out the city has rarely ever allowed for landscaping to be put off that long.
Ultimately, the commission said it wouldn’t support allowing the developers to prolong the landscaping near the neighboring homes, which the DGHD team said provides a major roadblock in their plans moving forward.
Planning Commission Chairman Stacy Simpson recommended meeting with the neighbors to perhaps work out some type of agreement with them on delaying the landscaping, among other alternatives.
Following the discussion, Janette Haag, who lives on English Terrace with her backyard facing the site, issued her thoughts on the proposal. Haag was far less concerned with the landscaping and buffering than she was with the building itself that she would be looking at just beyond her backyard.
Haag said she attended DGHD’s first meeting with neighbors to make their building plans known. While Haag said she is happy for DGHD to be looking at the site as their new location, she added that she was “surprised” and “a little offended” to hear during Wednesday’s meeting that the proposed building would be made out of metal.
Earlier in the discussion, commissioners discussed the material of the building included in the proposal. The developers said the metal would make for a faster and significantly less expensive build for a public agency that is limited in the funds it can put into the build.
Because the site is already zoned for office and industrial use, metal is allowed for the site per the city’s zoning code, and commissioners said they have no issue with the metal building.
“I don’t want to look at the back of a metal building,” Haag said. “The whole area around it is an old neighborhood. It’s not a modern neighborhood. It’s going to look like an airplane hangar sitting in our backyard. It’s not going to fit with the neighborhood.”
Haag went on to say she isn’t nearly as concerned with the landscape buffering. In fact, Haag said she prefers the existing chainlink fencing that currently separates her backyard from the site to any trees or shrubbery, because it serves as a physical barrier to keep people out of her yard.
Because the review was simply for a Preliminary Development Plan, the planning commission approved the plan with the idea that discussions will continue with the applicant to address the city’s concerns and conditions before the Final Development Plan is submitted.
The Preliminary Development Plan will now go before Delaware City Council, which will hold the first reading at its meeting on Monday, Feb. 10.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.