Informal zoning meeting ends in debate

Colin Morris

An informational hearing about zoning reform ended in a prolonged volley between Community Development Director Gary Locke and a private developer Monday night.

The center of their polite disagreement is a contentious bid by a Columbus company, Edwards Communities, to build an apartment complex on the east side of Lincoln Street, just south of Summit Street.

Tom Weise of Pentapoint Properties owns the 16 acres of undeveloped land that would house the complex and exchanged comments with Locke for 30 minutes at the end of Locke’s presentation.

“The purpose of the rezoning is to provide for the order of the development of vacant land or the redevelopment or existing properties,” Weise said. “You have in this case what I would think, if I were in the city’s shoes, would be the ideal situation, a single developer who has purchased control of basically all of the ground in that vicinity.

“So the city has the opportunity to work with a single party to control all of those pieces and craft a plan that makes sense, versus trying to institute a new code that then is dependent on multiple, individual parties like myself trying to develop it piecemeal.

“You never develop the master plan (like Edwards is trying to do).”

Weise argued in favor of the city planning commission conditionally approving Edwards’ application to change the property’s zoning to a high enough density for the apartment complex, but Locke said there’s no such thing as a conditional approval.

Edwards’ development plan is unpopular among neighborhood residents like Amanda Ennis, who lives on High Street and continued the debate with Weise in council chambers after the meeting adjourned at 9 p.m.

Five people attended the meeting, including planning commission member Melissa Long, assistant law director Eric Fink, two residents and Weise.

Locke, who presided over the meeting, explicitly stated at its beginning it would not address student housing.

The next hearing is Wednesday. Edwards Communities will meet with the planning commission again Dec. 7. The planning commission will hold a formal public hearing about zoning changes Dec. 14. All meetings are at 7 p.m. in council chambers.

Contact Colin Morris at [email protected].