Jul 13, 2022 - Politics

Apartments get city's OK amid dispute with MetroParks

An overhead look at a new apartment complex development site plan.
An overhead view of the Whittier Peninsula development site plan bordering Scioto Audubon MetroPark. Traffic is expected to enter via a one-way access road from the south, then exit onto Maier Place cutting through the park. Photo courtesy the City of Columbus

The city granted zoning permits to a new apartment complex site on the Whittier Peninsula despite vocal concerns about traffic congestion impacting Scioto Audubon MetroPark next door.

Why it matters: The project pits Columbus and Franklin County MetroParks against the city and developers in a coveted piece of land near the Scioto River.

What's happening: Zimmer Development Co. plans to turn a 17-acre former industrial site into 780 units across three seven-story buildings.

  • Zimmer, which is not receiving tax benefits for the project, is setting aside 10% of apartment units for affordable housing.

State of play: At issue is how to deal with the influx in traffic. MetroParks wants to keep the estimated 1.5 million additional yearly car trips off Maier Place, the public road cutting through the park.

  • After MetroParks rejected Zimmer's proposal to build a separate access road on park land, the developer now plans to build a one-lane road into the complex ā€” with outbound traffic pouring onto Maier Place.

What they're saying: Managing partner Landon Zimmer tells Axios the firm has negotiated with MetroParks for months to find a fair solution.

  • "We want to be good neighbors," he says.
  • "It's not the best solution, but it's the one that we have when we have to go alone," Jeffrey Brown, a lawyer representing Zimmer, told Columbus City Council on Monday.

The other side: Tim Moloney, executive director of MetroParks, told the Council he fears increased traffic will be unsafe for park visitors and wildlife.

  • He described being amenable to development on other park properties in cases of "public good," but not for private use.
  • "I don't want to paint the picture that we're anti-development. In fact, we're not."

The big picture: Council members took Zimmer's side, contending the project will help alleviate the local housing shortage without using tax incentives.

What's next: Zimmer will first clean up the contaminated site before construction can begin.

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