April 11, 2022
On April 5, Pickerington City Council unanimously voted against rezoning property on Long Road from agricultural use to residential thus blocking American Homes 4 Rent from constructing 117 rental homes on 59 acres straddling the Franklin/Fairfield County line.
“I voted against it because our professional city staff and our citizen-led planning and zoning commission recommended against it,” said Councilman Kevin Kemper. “Additionally, I have concerns about the impact a development of that size will have on our already overcrowded schools, not to mention the long-term viability of that development’s business model.”
Councilman Brian Wisniewski said that Pickerington city code specifically sets aside areas close to the Columbus city limits to be used as buffer zones between the two cities.
“This gave us the legal opportunity to vote ‘no’ on this rezoning,” Wisniewski said.
Critics of the city anticipated a different outcome.
“It’s my impression from Facebook discussions and comments that residents assume we want residential construction for tax benefits or some ulterior motive. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Wisniewski said. “Houses are an income suck on services, that’s why we have impact fees to help offset the losses new houses bring to the community.”
Before serving on city council, Wisniewski walked neighborhoods gathering petition signatures to change zoning and to slow growth.
“To assume that I’ve somehow changed my opinion on residential construction and that now I’m on board with building houses as fast as we can is absurd,” Wisniewski said. “Housing is needed for a growing community so it’s not that we don’t want more houses, it’s just the speed at which they’re built I consider to be way too fast.”
Nearly all residential construction in Pickerington has either been on land zoned as residential for the last 20 years, or on land that, as part of a pre-annexation agreement, legally bound the city to residential zoning.
“Once the plat approvals are completed, we cannot limit the number of permits we issue. It’s at the discretion of the developer when permits are pulled,” Wisniewski said. “Personal property rights are ingrained into Ohio law and are very hard, if not impossible to overcome at the local level. If property is zoned residential there is next to nothing any local government can do to prevent it from occurring.
Complaining about housing growth in Pickerington isn’t anything new. It’s been going on for the last 25 years since it went from a small village to a city. We can’t change decisions made 20 years ago on zoning, but we do need to ensure our code is up to date to have the infrastructure in place to handle the growth.”
The proposed Long Road development was a unique situation for the current council as it was one of the few properties in the city that had not been already rezoned decades ago.
Kemper agreed that community members consider past decisions by the city and Violet Township as significant drivers for overcrowding in the schools, “so much so that many considered it a foregone conclusion that city council would grant rezoning approval.
However, there are many factors, both positive and negative, that have led us to the current overcrowding in our schools, from an unconstitutional state funding formula, to school district and board of education actions that have caused some voters to not support recent levies when they likely otherwise would have, to great teachers and staff at the schools that make Pickerington Local Schools District a place where parents want to send their kids, to the overall economic growth taking place in central Ohio, to the overall attractiveness of our community and, of course, past decisions at the city and township that have led to the current state of housing development – the list goes on. I hope city residents see that in this case, council listened to the community and took their wishes into account.”
Wisniewski said that he is “amazed that roughly 20 years ago school funding was found unconstitutional in the State of Ohio and the legislature has done nothing to fix it since then. However, they’re able to work at break-neck speed, working weekends and through the nights to get a $2 billion tax break together for Intel. It’s too bad our state legislature doesn’t put the same emphasis on school funding as they do on tax breaks for businesses.
I think it’s a disservice that the school systems don’t have a seat at the table in regard to residential construction but that’s a state issue which we can’t change locally, unfortunately. If we keep re-electing individuals at the state level who refuse to make school funding a priority, then we’re not going to see any real changes happen.”
Wisniewski believes that “schools should be able to implement impact fees on every single home and apartment complex that is built in their district. When new residential construction occurs, the taxes paid to the schools should not remain the same, they should be able to collect on the new houses and increase the funds going to the schools versus it remaining collected at the same amount when the bond was issued five, 10, 20 years ago.”
Overcrowding has been an issue for the Pickerington Local School District. Nine of the district’s fourteen buildings currently have reached greater than 85 percent capacity with Pickerington Central already exceeding its maximum by 300 students.
District officials say the overcrowding problem will not go away until a bond issue passes, and new buildings are constructed.
In November 2020 and again in May 2021, voters rejected a 2.9 mill bond issue which would have generated $95 million to build a new junior high school, add classrooms to both high schools and upgrade athletic facilities.
In a survey completed last summer, when asked “what is the biggest reason that you think that many voters voted against the bond issues?” – the top answer (by 30-percent of the respondents) was that property owners did not want an increase in taxes.
Had the voters approved the bond issue, the owner of a property with an appraised value of $300,000 (therefore an assessed value of $115,000) would have paid an additional $101.50 per year, or $8.46 per month.
The district is considering alternative methods to relieve the overcrowding such as hybrid learning and redistricting. For more information see: PLSD Considers How to Alleviate Overcrowding.
Plan for the NEW “LONG ROAD PARKWAY” first … that should help in many ways for a growing community … a second East – West corridor should help plan, pay, and develop a sensible growth without rental property…
Mr. Wisniewski is mistaken. ” Wisniewski said. “Houses are an income suck on services, that’s why we have impact fees to help offset the losses new houses bring to the community.”
1. Ohio is among the twenty-two states that have no enabling legislation for development impact fees. . Many states include Schools in their list of services funded with impact fees, Ohio does not.
2. An impact fee is typically a one-time payment imposed by a local government on a property developer. The fee is meant to offset the financial impact a new development places on public infrastructure. Public infrastructure includes roads, schools, parks, recreational facilities, water and sewerage, among other services.
3. Property Developers in Ohio make millions and