An overlay district that can pave the way for a 596-bed apartment complex on South Lincoln Street cleared the first of two hurdles at Tuesday's Kent Planning Commission meeting.
The commission voted to recommend Kent City Council approve the overlay concept, which came about after a Columbus-based development firm sought a rezoning request from R-3 to R-4 to build the complex on South Lincoln Street.
Kent council will discuss the issue tonight at 7 p.m. and decide whether or not to accept the planning commission's recommendation for approval and create the overlay district.
The commission recommended approving the overlay district as a new chapter, section 1125, in the city's zoning code. But they did amend it slightly to change the overlay district map and eliminate about 5 acres west of South Lincoln Street from the overlay district. Only the 10 acres owned by the firm east of South Lincoln Street will be included in the overlay district.
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. The overlay district creates 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.
The commission's vote took place at the end of a more than three-hour meeting — one of about half a dozen meetings on the issue — Tuesday night, at which several residents of the neighborhood again voiced their opposition to the project and the overlay concept.
"I certainly hope residents don't feel everything they've said has fallen on deaf ears," commission Chairman Sean Kaine said.
At the meeting, High Street resident Larry Andrews presented the commission with a petition with 85 signatures from surrounding residents who opposed the overlay and the apartment project.
Andrews said he understands the overlay concept was intended as a compromise between the existing R-3 zoning and the proposed R-4 zoning for the property.
"It still however seems hastily designed to accommodate that project,” he said.
The Edwards company initially requested the rezoning of parcels on the east side of South Lincoln Street 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 would allow a maximum 36 units per acre.
The overlay district would allow up to 16 units per acre.
Kent attorney Dave Williams, representing Edwards Communities, said they were OK with the commission's action because it still allows the firm to build the complex as proposed.
Even if council approves the overlay district, the apartment project would still have to come back to the planning commission for site plan review and approval.
Planning commission member Melissa Long said some of the residents' concerns can be addressed at that later meeting to review the site plan if council approves the overlay district. She said she understands the neighborhood residents' concerns and said change is not an easy thing in the face of progress.
"When it’s change for positive and when it’s change for progress and when it’s change that many people and the city is going to benefit from, and it’s not negative, then I think you have to consider it," Long said.