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Southside residents attempt to block townhouse development

 

Kenny Frye requests a variance for his property on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Seventh Street South before the Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals at Trotter Convention Center on Tuesday in Columbus.

Kenny Frye requests a variance for his property on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Seventh Street South before the Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals at Trotter Convention Center on Tuesday in Columbus. Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff

 

Edwina Williams shares her concerns about a proposed townhouse project on the lot next to her home on Sixth Avenue South to the Zoning Board Adjustments and Appeals Tuesday at Trotter Convention Center in Columbus.

Edwina Williams shares her concerns about a proposed townhouse project on the lot next to her home on Sixth Avenue South to the Zoning Board Adjustments and Appeals Tuesday at Trotter Convention Center in Columbus.
Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff

 

 

Slim Smith

 

 

A group of about 60 Southside residents turned out for Tuesday's Columbus zoning board meeting to protest plans for a three-unit townhouse on a vacant lot, but they were quickly told their complaint could not be considered. 

 

The lone agenda item involved a request by the owner of the property, Kenny Frye, for a 10-foot variance in the city's set-back regulations, which the board granted by a 3-2 vote. That measure will now go forward as a recommendation for the city council's final approval. 

 

The lot is located on the northwest corner of Sixth Avenue South and Seventh Street. 

 

"If I could get 10 more feet behind this, that would give me enough room and would still be inside my footprint for 3,600 square feet," Frye told the board. "These townhouses are going to be very nice. I'm going to sell them. I'm not going to rent them. I would think a $500,000 investment would be something that's good for the city. When you look around and see what's being done in the area, this is much better than what's being done." 

 

According to zoning regulations, the maximum square footage of a building constructed on the 10,400 square foot lot is 3,867. 

 

"It looks to me with or without the variance, you would be well within the limit," said board chairman Chris Chain. 

 

The area in Ward 4 is zoned R-3 to allow for multi-family residences, such as Frye's proposed townhouse project, but some of the neighborhood residents are pushing for a rezone to R-1, which would only allow single-family housing.  

 

In order to change zoning, petitioners must prove an error in the original zoning or a substantial change in the character of the neighborhood and a public need for a change. 

 

Chain said the city first zoned the neighborhood as R-3 in the 1970s. Today, there are four apartment complexes located within a four-block radius of the Frye site. 

 

 

 

The opposition 

 

Before the committee's vote on the variance, a handful of residents rose to state their opposition to the plan and Chain attempted to clarify the purpose of the meeting. 

 

"I want to make sure this meeting is not confused with the existing zoning that we're dealing with," Chain said. "We're simply talking about a variance." 

 

Edwina Williams, who lives next door to the lot, said her primary objection was concern of how the building would affect her home's value and her privacy. 

 

"I understand that this meeting is purely on the requested variance," Williams said. "It would be very inappropriate for me to talk about other topics, such as protecting the integrity and value of our property, the historic character of our family-friendly neighborhood, porches that allow us to visit with our neighbors, traffic, parking and safety concerns, housing trends in this area and the revitalization of our neighborhood. 

 

"As much as it pains me, I'll stick to the point, and the point is the proposed construction is a multi-tenant property with three patios and three balconies that look down into my window and my yard," she added. "And I think this represents a serious invasion of my privacy. I seriously doubt that any of you would want this structure built on property next to your house. And, truthfully, I do not want the value of my property to be reduced when I get ready to sell."  

 

Board member Darren Leach said he understood residents' concerns but said they would have to petition the city council directly to have the property rezoned. 

 

 

 

Working with residents 

 

Frye, who purchased the lot two weeks ago, said he was caught off-guard by the opposition and said he's eager to work with residents about concerns over his project. 

 

"Look, I know these people and go to church with a lot of them," Frye said after the meeting. "Before tonight, I hadn't heard a single complaint. I want them to know that I'm really trying to do something good here that will improve the area and their property values. I'm certainly willing to listen to anything they have to say and answer their questions." 

 

City building inspector Kenny Wiegel said an attempt to change the zoning would be unusual. 

 

"In 22 years here, I've never had someone who didn't own the property try to change the zoning for a property," Wiegel said. "In every case, it's always the property owner who requests a zoning change. I'm not even sure there is a process for this situation."

 

Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is ssmith@cdispatch.com.

 

 

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