Columbus City Council has given initial approval for a subdivision northwest of Columbus, but residents who live near the proposed development continue to question how the city’s infrastructure will handle an influx of about 300 homes.

More than 40 people attended the meeting Tuesday, which was moved to City Hall’s Cal Brand meeting room to handle that size of crowd.

Council members unanimously voted on first reading to annex the land into the city, and then voted 4-3 vote in favor of an amended ordinance to rezone the property to allow a higher density of homes, but with a condition that the developer would have to meet certain requirements.

Council members Frank Miller, Frank Jerome and Laurie Booher voted against the rezoning.

Arbor Investments approached the city last fall seeking annexation for 154 acres for a proposed subdivision known as Abbey Place, between Indianapolis Road and Interstate 65 near the Princeton Park subdivision.

Neighbor concerns

Nearby residents, many in Princeton Park, raised concerns over increased traffic and whether fire protection, water and sewer services would be adequate for the additional housing. The residents also questioned the effect on Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. enrollment and school overcrowding. The arguments led the council last month to table the issue for three weeks to give members time to research residents’ claims.Among neighbors who returned Tuesday to reiterate their concerns, Elizabeth McIntosh asked the council to consider the infrastructure that would be in place. She cited concerns a month ago that she thought the area’s infrastructure was inadequate to handle the additional housing.

Vicky Gelfius, a Realtor with RE/MAX in Columbus, spoke on behalf of clients who recently bought their second home within the Princeton Park subdivision. Her clients, who she did not identify, are worried about the potential of reduced property values and pedestrian safety if the new homes are built, Gelfius said.

At the council’s request, city and school officials attended the meeting to answer residents’ questions.

Concerns were raised last month about what the fire department’s response time would be in the area.

Columbus Fire Chief Mike Compton told the council that the difference in the response time to the area from Fire Station 1 in downtown Columbus by going up Washington Street to National Road was affected by just a few minutes.

BCSC Superintendent Jim Roberts said the school corporation would likely see enrollment growth as a result of the proposed development. In an earlier letter to the council, Roberts assured the city that the school corporation was capable and prepared to handle the level of anticipated enrollment growth.

As for the concerns about traffic, Mike Campbell, Arbor Homes vice president of land acquisition and development, said the company plans to build a roundabout at County Road 200W and Lowell Road to ease traffic concerns.

Campbell reminded the council that the entire 300-home project would not be built at one time, but phased in with 40 homes being built in 2018, and then 50 homes added each year until 2023, according to a construction timeline.

The company believes Columbus has a need for increased housing, he said.

Stipulations

The amended ordinance for the rezoning came with the stipulation that Arbor Homes would not be rezoning 15 lots that are next to the Princeton Park subdivision, meaning the maximum number of homes per acre there would remain at 3.5, instead of the 5 allowed on the rezoned acreage.The amended ordinance requires the tree line and vegetation in the border between Princeton Park and the Arbor Homes property would also be preserved. The Arbor Homes project would be kept to a maximum of 312 lots under the amended ordinance.

Jerome, who voted against the rezoning, said the council proactively looked into the project to see how residents would be affected.

“Most of us drove the roads,” Jerome said.

“We’ve done a lot to answer your questions,” he told opponents.

In voting against the rezoming, Jerome said his only concern was with street connections in the area.

“We’re stopping the whole process of connectivity of neighborhoods,” Jerome said. “Every time the next development goes in, we don’t want to connect the substreets.”

Miller, who also voted against the amended ordinance, said while he believes it was a good compromise, safety remains a concern.

“I’m a little on the fence overall on the big picture,” Miller said after the meeting.

Bob Kasting, president of the Princeton Park Homeowners Association, said the homeowners are trying to cooperate with the compromise proposed by the city.

“There’s always the chance they vote it up or they vote it down,” he said.

Councilman Dascal Bunch, who represents the east side of Columbus, said he understood where the Princeton Park residents were coming from with their concerns, but the entire Arbor development was not going to happen overnight.

The annexation and rezoning proposals had come to the council with a recommendation for approval by the city’s planning board.

“Why have a planning board if you don’t listen to what they are telling you,” Bunch said.

Councilman Tim Shuffett, who voted in favor of the proposals, said the commitments outlined during Tuesday’s meeting were meant to ensure the developer would meet certain requirements. He added that the city makes every effort to ease burdens that come with such developments.

“It’s not going to be 100 percent to everyone’s satisfaction,” Shuffett said. “It’s a nod to the neighbors in Princeton Park.”

Campbell said Arbor Homes will comply with the amended ordinance and requirements. The council is expected to take a final vote on the annexation and zoning requests at its next meeting at 6 p.m. June 20.

“Arbor’s excited to be a part of this community,” Campbell said.

What's next

Columbus City Council will vote on ordinances tied to the annexation and rezoning requests from Arbor Homes during its 6 p.m. meeting on June 20 meeting.

Author photo
Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com