The 240-unit Seattle House Apartments proposal went before Delaware City Council for a second reading Monday. It was the first chance for council members to share their thoughts on the development, and the sentiment among them was mostly filled with hesitancy.
Development plans for the apartments, which would sit on more than 24 acres north of U.S. Route 36/state Route 37 and south of Bowtown Road, include 10 three-story buildings that would feature 60 one-bedroom and 180 two-bedroom units. The cost to rent would range from $900-$1,200.
As part of the proposal, the developer is seeking to have the parcel rezoned to include a Planned Mixed Use Overlay District (PMU). Currently, the land is zoned R-6 (Multi-Family Residential District) and B-3 (Community Business District).
But the plan, as currently presented, fails to meet several of the minimum requirements as stipulated in the R-6 base district code. Among those requirements is a building height no taller than 35 feet, a maximum unit density of 10 units per acre, and minimum sizes of 800 square feet for one bedroom and 950 square feet for two bedrooms.
The current proposal has building heights set at 42 feet, with square footage ranging from 678 square feet for one bedroom and 933 square feet for two bedrooms.
Additionally, the code calls for 100 percent of the material to come from natural resources. The proposed plan includes less than 50 percent of the material coming from that of a natural resource.
Council members failed to see how the addition of a PMU would benefit the city or potential residents of the complex.
“My experience has been when we do a Planned Mixed Use-type development, we are looking for, basically, additional benefits to accrue to the city from that particular developer,” said Councilman George Hellinger. “When I look at this (proposal), I see negatives. I don’t see where we’re getting anything. In my opinion, we’re giving away the farm on this.”
Councilwoman Lisa Keller seconded Hellinger’s thoughts, adding, “678 square feet for an apartment does not seem like it’s good for people. 933 square feet for two bedrooms? We have minimums for a reason, and this is very concerning to me, that we would build it taller, shove more (units) in than our code allows, make the units even smaller than the minimums we have set, and then have less than 50 percent of natural materials. Like Mr. Hellinger, I am wondering who this is benefiting, other than the developer. Because I certainly can’t see it benefiting the people who would live there, and I can’t see this benefiting Delaware.”
Keller also challenged the stated density of the development, questioning why the density of the development was calculated to include all 24 acres of the parcel when approximately 2.5 acres of the land would be a commercial outlet that would not be a part of the units.
Calculating the density of just the land that will include units, which would be approximately 22 acres, would bring the density above the code’s maximum of 10 units per acre.
Local attorney Steve Cuckler, speaking on behalf of Metro Development (developer), told council the first benefit the development would add to Delaware would be the connection of US 36/SR 37 north to the development, as well as the extension of Biltmore Drive east to the property line. Cuckler said the road connections would be an almost $1 million expenditure for the developers.
He added the apartments would attract young professionals and more jobs to the community.
Metro Development Vice President Joe Thomas said the height of the buildings allowed for all of the infrastructures to be pulled in from the four corners of the property, away from and as a courtesy to the surrounding neighbors. Of the square footage concerns, Thomas said the apartments were very similar to the template he has used for the past five to seven years around Columbus and in line with what market studies have shown to be the suggested size.
Several community members spoke in favor of the development during the public hearing, including Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce President Holly Quaine. Reading from a prepared statement, she said, “The spirit of the chamber’s mission, which, in part, speaks to our ability to promote and advocate quality of life through orderly growth and development in our community, we believe has a champion in the Metro Development plans you’re considering this evening.”
Jim Gill, the owner of Chesrown Chevrolet, Buick and GMC, also voiced his support, speaking of his staff and the wish to add additional employees in the future, highlighting the need for affordable housing. He spoke highly of the developers, saying, “Metro (Development) is a well-established, very successful business that has been around for a long time. They won’t be successful if they don’t offer a quality product at a competitive price. It’s really that simple, and they have a long history of doing that.”
The proposed development will head to a third reading, which will take place at the next city council meeting on Monday, Sept. 10. Meetings begin at 7 p.m. and are held in the city council chambers located in Delaware City Hall.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.