It took almost two hours, but plans for "The Province at Kent" 596-bed student apartment complex on South Lincoln Street were approved Tuesday night by the Kent Planning Commission.
Approval of the site plan represents the last public obstacle for the project, which has been the subject of more than a dozen public meetings in the past 10 months.
Construction is expected to start in July with the project open in time for the fall 2012 semester at nearby Kent State University.
Much of the discussion Tuesday night revolved around open space and landscaping in the project and how it will act as a buffer for surrounding single-family neighborhoods.
The commission approved the site plans with nine conditions, which included a requirement for a green space buffer surrounding about 4.5 acres of open space between the project and the residential neighborhoods on its western border.
The buffer condition, specifically, requires that a 50-foot landscape buffer of existing trees and added evergreen trees line the western property lines along the open space area west of South Lincoln Street. In addition, either the same natural buffer or a 4-foot-tall privacy fence — to be determined by residents on Marigold Lane, the city and the developer — must line the southern edge of that open space area.
The commission left the specific details of the buffers up to the city and the developer to hash out during technical review of the plans.
The buffer came about partially at the request of High Street resident Walt Adams, who submitted the signatures of 29 residents neighboring the project who supported such a buffer.
"I don’t think we’re finished discussing the whole idea of what kind of buffer it ought to be," Adams told the commission. "You understand what our objective is, to cut down on the foot traffic and noise."
The overall project includes nine, three-story buildings plus a cluhouse and pool on about 10 acres on the east side of South Lincoln Street. On the west side, the company plans to build seven cottage-style rental units with parking and the open space area.
Last month, Kent City Council approved an overlay zoning district created specifically for this project. Monday the Kent Board of Zoning Appeals granted two variances allowing the clubhouse.
Cassandra Pegg-Kirby, a nearby resident who has attended many of the meetings about the project, said she still opposed the complex but at least wanted a buffer for the surrounding neighborhoods "to minimize the impact of this type of encroachment."
Along with the buffer, another condition of the approval includes an agreement that would link the roughly 10 acres east of South Lincoln Street with the cottages and open space across the street so if the project is sold in the future, neither property can be sold without the other without approval of the planning commission.
"That would tie the open space to the project," Kent Assistant Law Director Eric Fink said.
Other conditions of the approval included a one-time parks fee of $139,950 and a $59,600 payment to the city's residential development fund.
Also, the planning commission voted to suggest Kent City Council consider the city vacate an unpaved portion of High Street near South Lincoln Street as further means of trying to prevent late-night foot traffic on the residential street. That move also came at Adams' suggestion.
"I think you know very well that the people who signed this petition almost unanimously recommended this project not go forward ... That battle was fought and decisions made," Adams said. "What we’re doing at this point is trying to make the best of this and reduce the intrusion of this development into our neighborhood."
Other elements of the project approved Tuesday include:
- 37 of the project's parking spaces will be "banked" and not built unless deemed necessary later in the project's life. The apartment complex will have 597 total spaces but only 560 will be built initially.
- A courtesy office or site manager must be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- The developer will build a sidwalk on the east side of South Lincoln Street from the apartment complex north to Summit Street.