GALENA — Two proposed developments along Wilson Road were tabled at the latest Berkshire Township Zoning Commission meeting.
Perhaps of most interest to readers was a proposed Camping World recreational vehicle sales and service center that would be above the Flying J truck stop and could be seen from Interstate 71. The 33,000-square-foot glass, steel and brick facility would be on about 16 acres and have two entry sites. A fire station would be buffered between the RV dealer and the Flying J, and more commercial development would be to the north of the site.
Bart Barok of Columbus-based Northstar Residential Development LLC told the commission he wanted to get some feedback and come back with a package at the next meeting. He noted that there was some discrepancy between the site use and divergences based on Berkshire’s zoning code.
“We think this is a very good use,” Barok said. “We want to go back and fix some of these things. We want you guys to be comfortable with what you’re voting on. Camping World looked at Marysville and Canal Winchester, but they wanted this site. You’ve got to start somewhere.”
He went on to say the Camping World would be an outdoor showroom, with some campers selling for $200,000.
Camping World was one of three applications the commission considered at a two and a half hour meeting that was livestreamed on July 1. Of most interest to residents and taking the bulk of the meeting were Northstar Apartments, a proposed 240-unit complex on Wilson Road.
Several representatives for D.C. Building Company spoke on behalf of the project. The zoning members were told the apartments would go on about 21 acres, include a clubhouse, mail kiosk, trash compactor (instead of dumpsters), dog park, raised-bed community gardens, 54 garages and 463 parking spaces, plus a secure package room for deliveries. A separate new roadway would be the main entrance. There would be a wet basin in the southwest corner of the site, horse fencing, and the existing trees on the north side of the property would be preserved.
The apartments would be available as one- or two-bedroom units, with rents ranging from $950 to $1,400 a month. They were meant for a variety of age groups, but their size tended to eliminate families.
Several residents spoke out against the apartments. They were opposed to the additional traffic on the three-lane Wilson Road, water runoff, the appearance of the apartments not maintaining the rural nature of the township, the high-density of the apartments, and transient nature of potential residents.
“I take exception to apartment dwellers being called inferior people. Some people want to be more mobile and prefer to rent smaller units,” said Bob Weiler, representing the developers. “The benefits are real estate and income taxes. There is no reason to keep it vacant. We’re not here to fight, we want to rent the units.”
One audience member said commercial development should go in first in the area, then condominiums before building apartments. He referred to state Route 605 in New Albany.
Zoning commission members each indicated they were against the two divergences being requested by the applicant. One was that the square footage of 594 (one-bedroom) and 873 (two-bedroom) were below the required minimums of 700 and 900 square feet. The second divergence was the use of vinyl on the exterior instead of natural materials. Some units would be 54% brick and 46% vinyl.
Members were also concerned about fire department approval, the appearance of the garages, handicap parking, play areas and lighting. Others said there were no examples of building material nor photos of similar builds by the company in Columbus, Whitehall and Hilliard. There was also concern about not having a current traffic study.
“I’m not in favor in either divergence,” said member Austin Slattery. “I’d like to see the complete plan before I even think about voting on it. This is the only stop. If you want me to vote on it tonight, you won’t like it.”
“It has to be in line with our community,” said member Damita Peery.
The developers agreed to continue the hearing at the next meeting.
The first application, a final development plan for sections 2-4 of the Hidden Creeks subdivision, was unanimously approved by the commission and will not have to go before the trustees. A Homewood Corporation representative said section 1 was first approved in 2006, and construction was cancelled the next year due to the market crash. Section 1 was revived in May and received approval from the Delaware County Regional Planning Commission.
Any unfinished business will carry over to the next zoning meeting on Aug. 5. There was also a special meeting this past Thursday for zoning code changes. The Berkshire Township Trustees will meet on Monday.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.