Golf course plan survives zoning’s reconsideration

By Lenny C. Lepola -

During a May 16 special Sunbury Planning & Zoning Commission meeting, developer Vince Romanelli’s request to change the zoning on the former Sunbury Golf Course property from Planned Recreational District to Planned Residential District was denied.

The proposed 150-home development on 67.58 acres would be located on the west side of the village at 1349 Golf Course Road between South Galena Road and Cheshire Road. The density would be 1.93 dwelling units per acre, with 83 lots 80 feet wide, and 67 lots 70 feet wide. All lots would be at least 140 feet deep.

David Fisher, Kephart and Fisher, and Romanelli were in chambers during the May 23 regular zoning meeting asking if there was a way the project could move forward with modifications to the denied application.

At that meeting Village Solicitor David Brehm said the applicant had a window during which the application could be reconsidered. Commission members agreed to a reconsideration and Fisher, representing Romanelli, attended another special zoning meeting last Wednesday evening with several application changes.

One key item for the zoning change denial was the project’s divergence request from the village’s tree replacement policy.

The site contains 1,320 trees that fall under the umbrella of the tree replacement policy, with 1,005 of those trees being removed if the project were to move forward. The denied application would have replaced 450 trees and given the village $1,000 per home when each home’s building permit is acquired as part of the tree replacement divergence request. That $1,000 per home was rated as the equivalent of 750 trees.

Last Wednesday Fisher said additional trees would be added to the site, and the $1,000 per home would be retained in the application. The amended application includes 834 new trees and 315 existing trees that would not be impacted.

“Mr. Romanelli has agreed to install one additional yard tree per home for a total of two, install 150 trees throughout the open space areas, and install at least 84 evergreen trees across the Golf Course Road frontage,” Fisher said. “This increases the total tree installation commitment by 384 trees.”

Fisher said he believes the $1,000 a lot donation for tree or park use is a good precedent that’s a fair tradeoff; and that the site’s 23 ash trees should not be counted in the tree replacement equation because they will eventually die from Emerald Ash Borer.

The original application asked for a consistent side yard setback of seven feet (14 feet between buildings) regardless of lot width. The divergence request would have applied to 80-foot wide lots and corner lots. The application also asked for a rear yard setback divergence from code’s 40 feet to 30 feet to allow for later homeowner additions of decks, patios and four-season rooms.

Last Monday Fisher said the side yard setback divergence request as off the table.

“We’ll do away with the divergence we asked for on the side yard setback, but the developer would like to retain the rear yard divergence for non-conditioned rooms — porches, patios and three-season rooms,” Fisher said. “Historically, people want to add things to their homes. The rear divergence would be limited to non-conditioned rooms.”

Sunbury’s zoning code stipulates that a home not cover more than 25 percent of the lot. The modified application Fisher brought to zoning last Wednesday asked for 30 percent for one model only.

There was also a brief discussion about a possible land swap with a developer of the nearby Price property to allow a land donation to the Big Walnut Local School District. Fisher said if such a deal could be arranged during the next three months the land swap might happen, but beyond that the Romanelli property would be going through a costly engineering process, making a land swap less economically viable.

“We need your help on that,” Fisher said. “We want to do that, but there’s an issue of timing; we will reach a point where we will need to start our engineering, and right now we don’t have a contractor or developer bringing forth a plan – but we’ve still got a couple months.”

Brehm said any land swap would have to happen soon.

“That train is moving down the tracks,” Brehm said. “If we have until this fall we have a good chance of having that conversation.”

Commission members unanimously approved the Sunbury Golf Course zoning change request from Planned Recreational District to Planned Residential District with divergences and contingencies as outlined at the June 3 zoning meeting.

Following the vote, Fisher thanked commission members for the reconsideration of the denied request and the opportunity to submit an amended application.

“It was tough, but we ended up with a better product, and you ended up with a better product,” Fisher said. “Mr. Romanelli always strives for a top quality product that you can be proud of.”

Brehm noted that the approved zoning change request would require a public hearing and three readings at Sunbury Village Council to become effective. That public hearing and the zoning change request’s first reading would likely be held on Wednesday, July 20.

By Lenny C. Lepola

Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093

Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093