Upper Arlington City Council Approves Amended Zoning Standards for Lane Avenue Corridor

Despite calls from neighbors to delay action, Upper Arlington City Council approved changes to zoning standards for the Lane Avenue corridor on Dec. 13.

Council voted unanimously to approve new zoning standards along Lane Avenue that city officials say set a vision for how the corridor should be developed.

These officials also said the moves would promote better walking and protect established neighboring neighborhoods.

The move, however, was opposed by a number of residents, many of whom argued that new allowances for taller buildings in the hallway would have negative impacts on the quality of life on their residential streets.

Opponents included Mary Kate Francis, a resident of Berkshire Road, who said changes to Upper Arlington’s Unified Development Orders would result in “huge building heights” along Lane Avenue that “would completely change Lane Avenue such as we know her and, in the process, our neighborhood. “

Zoning changes to the corridor were requested as part of a $ 237,210 study by OHM Advisors, which was commissioned by council in July 2019.

The new standards focus on the lands on the 1600 block of Lane Avenue, the location of stores on Lane Avenue.

City officials said they had no proposals to redevelop the site, but needed to be forward thinking given trends in the economic health of malls.

“We wanted to create some certainty for city staff, for developers, for future (city) councils, for residents so that they know what to expect when a future project comes to fruition,” said Steve Schoeny, City Manager of Upper Arlington.

On December 13, Upper Arlington City Council approved changes to the zoning standards for the Lane Avenue corridor that could allow buildings 72 feet tall, or those 5 to 6 stories, in the occupied area. by the shops on Lane Avenue.

Existing zoning standards allowed buildings to be up to 48 feet in height and constructed within 6 feet of residential property lines. Schoeny said they were designed to support 1970s-style shopping malls.

In line with the findings of the Lane Avenue study, Chad Gibson, the city’s director of community development, initially proposed to allow the construction of buildings up to 84 feet in height in the corridor.

However, city officials lowered the proposed height to 72 feet in response to outcry from nearby residents.

According to Justin Milam, the city’s senior planner, 72-foot buildings are typically 5 to 6 stories tall.

“When you have higher height limits, you allow for a greater diversity of buildings along the streetscape, instead of just creating some sort of ceiling that runs through,” he said.

Although council has approved standards that almost double the allowable height of buildings at the location of stores on Lane Avenue, it has required those buildings to be at least 30 feet from houses on neighboring streets.

Schoeny said the new standards would not only provide residential areas with a larger buffer zone compared to commercial buildings, but also allow the addition of green space in the hallway.

Still, neighboring residents who opposed the changes said the city had not done enough to inform them of the proposals before they came to city council this month.

Berkshire Road resident John Leff said he was “completely caught off guard” by the proposal, despite the town having discussed it in eight public meetings since the start of 2020.

“I don’t know why we feel the need to rush,” Leff said. “It’s important. It’s our future.

“Don’t rush and do something that we are going to fight and undo in the future.”

Patricia Davidson, a resident of Ashdowne Road, said she was concerned residents were not given enough information about the changes before the council vote and was concerned that allowing taller buildings along Lane Avenue exacerbates traffic problems on residential streets.

“There is a constant flow of traffic from North Star (Road) down to Beaumont (Road) to go through the side entrance (Shops on Lane),” she said. “My street is dangerous and you are not offering me anything.

“You are not giving us on Berkshire and Ashdowne any protection, no compensation. You are not giving us anything.”

Supporting the changes, Vice-Chairman Kip Greenhill praised the city’s outreach and communication efforts over the eight years he served on the board, but said the city would continue to strive to better inform residents.

“We do more community engagement than any other community, but we are learning,” he said.

Before finally supporting a 72-foot building height limit, council member Jim Lynch indicated his support for allowing even larger projects.

He said he hoped the 72-foot restriction wouldn’t prevent the city from attracting quality development to Lane Avenue in the future.

“I want to keep him at 72 (feet), but it could be 10 years before someone shows up,” Lynch said. “At that point, people might be like, ‘Hey, (tallest buildings are) all over town. “

“I can’t hit the comfort level of 84 feet. Seventy-two (feet) makes sense, but in my gut I keep thinking, ‘Am I going to regret this at some point?'”

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