New zoning proposal in West Jeff

To ensure a planned development goes through smoothly, West Jefferson Village council was greeted with a presentation this week by Harmony Developments on changing existing zoning laws.

Karl Billisits of Harmony Developments and lawyer Thomas Hart presented to council the benefits of modifying the zoning to allow for a sort of multi-zoning area, citing convenience and prevention of urban sprawl for the development of “Sky Ranch” at the corner of U.S. Route 40 and Plain City-Georgesville Road Southeast, just east of the village.

Part of the deal will involve the village extending water and sewer to the area, but the cost will be recouped through extra usage fees given to the development over the next several years.

The new type of zoning, called “planned mixed use development” would allow for a blend of commercial and residential in a given area. Different areas in parcel are given individual regulations, approved by the zoning commission to limit uses. This would prevent a condominium unit popping up in the middle of housing or a liquor store to pop up next to a school.

Originally such zoning was to prevent urban sprawl in urban and suburban communities.

Billisits said the concept was promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency in hopes it would encourage people to drive less and walk around their communities.

“Our project is a little over 400 acres, you’ve probably never had one this large for a mixture of uses let alone one that was 400 acres,” he said. “But when you have this mixed use … [The EPA] is trying to incorporate areas to this so that fewer people jump into their car.”

If the zoning is approved, it will allow for bike paths to parks and stores, which is currently planned in the development.

He also added that less use of roads and fewer roads in general encouraged by their design would decrease paving costs for the area as well, plus it would be easier to set up a public park for residents in the new neighborhood.

Part of the company’s current plan calls for such a mixed use, specifically a new type of Kroger store close to the development.

Hart said that the code was currently strict on either commercial or residential, making more paperwork for the developers.

However, he said the goal wasn’t necessarily to loosen regulation.

“In these types of developments, the standards that are set are typically proposed as higher quality than the existing code,” said Hart. “The goal is to define not what will be built but how the uses that are attracted by the market are built and to try and get a higher level of quality.”

Billisits said he already presented the concept to the village’s planning committee and that a draft of an ordinance for council had been written.

“The draft of the ordinance is very similar to one in the city of Delaware, I believe, or Delaware County,” he said.

Council member Doug Eakins was concerned that people could use loopholes in the zoning law to use a structure outside of the original goal for use, using the example of a school closing and being replaced with a halfway house.

Hart said that could be prevented by limiting the use in the first place when setting up the sub areas.

In March, The Madison Press interviewed Russ Miller, the owner of the 440 acres for the development.

His plan is to bring a massive housing development for all sorts of people, condos, family homes, large estates and apartments while working with Harmony Developments, the land developing group based out of Columbus.

At the time, Miller estimated the project with take eight years and $350 million to complete.

This had the added benefit of encouraging Kroger to come in with a plan to open a grocery store near that area. It will be called “Fresh Eats,” a new type of store that is aimed at a community like West Jefferson.

The floor plan for the store included produce, deli, beer, wine and floral departments, as well as a drive-through pharmacy and a Starbucks with indoor and outdoor seating.

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Karl Billisits of Harmony Developments speaks to council on altering the village’s zoning ordinance for a new housing development. Billisits of Harmony Developments speaks to council on altering the village’s zoning ordinance for a new housing development. Maximilian Kwiatkowski | The Madison Press
Developers ask for changes for new community

By Maximilian Kwiatkowski

For The Madison Press

Maximilian Kwiatkowski can be reached on Twitter @msfkwiat.