City planners have created the conceptual framework for a new zoning designation that would allow the Edwards Communities Development Co. to proceed with plans for a 596-bed student apartment complex on South Lincoln Street.
Kent Community Development Department Director Gary Locke presented the proposal this week during a joint meeting of the Kent Planning Commission, Kent Board of Zoning Appeals, Kent Sustainability Commission and members of Kent City Council.
An overlay district, in general, is a means to apply specific guidelines to an area within a set zoning district without actually changing the zoning classification.
Locke said the purpose of the overlay district is to promote residential development in designated areas adjacent to the Kent State University campus for larger projects primarily directed at student housing.
While the concept paperwork still needs adjustments, planning commission members agreed to place the zoning amendment proposal as it relates to the Edwards project on its April 5 agenda.
The Edwards company had requested the rezoning of parcels that, combined, total about 10 acres from R-3 to R-4, which permits denser residential construction. The R-3 zoning designation allows up to eight residential units per acre, while the proposed R-4 zoning allows a maximum 36 units per acre. The overlay district would allow up to 16 units per acre.
Neighboring property owners have been vocal in their opposition to rezoning the South Lincoln land to R-4. An overlay district is a compromise that “would serve as a supplemental option for certain types of projects while still maintaining the underlying zoning district regulations, in this case, R-3,” according to the draft of the overlay district concept.
Kent's R-3 standards regarding setbacks, open space, building height and parking requirements would still be applicable, but could be considered for minor reductions with the approval of the planning commission.
To be eligible for the overlay district designation, a housing project must have a minimum site size of seven acres and contain at least 100 dwelling units.
Developers seeking the new zoning designation would be required to conduct studies on the proposed impact of their project as determined by the city. Such studies could include sanitary sewer and storm sewer capacity, water pressure and volume and the analysis of traffic in and around the site. The Edwards company has already conducted such studies.
Developers also must agree to pay a one-time fee of $100 per bed into the residential redevelopment fund created by the overlay district proposal. The city would use the funds to “acquire, demolish, rehabilitate existing residential units or vacant land within the overlay district in which the fee was collected,” according to the proposal.
The funds also could be used to assist with the construction, reconstruction or maintenance of city utilities and infrastructure within the same overlay district.
A map Locke distributed Tuesday shows a proposed overlay district that extends beyond the boundaries of the 10-acre Edwards company project site. He said the additional, adjacent parcels on Lincoln and Summit Street were included because it “could encourage Edwards to buy up some more of those properties.”
If the firm wasn’t interested, Locke said, the city could eventually use its new residential redevelopment fund to purchase those “rundown properties on Lincoln” and renovate or demolish them.
Kent attorney Dave Williams, who represents the Edwards firm, said Tuesday his clients think the overlay district is “a good idea,” but that the proposal needs some minor language changes.
Williams added that the firm is prepared to accommodate the concerns of nearby property owners in regard to landscaping and fencing buffers during the site plan review process.