The concerns of a number of Brown Township residents about a proposed housing development slated for construction on the Big Darby Creek watershed dominated Monday's public hearing of the Hilliard City Council.
The Heritage Preserve neighborhood of over 700 homes would encompass over 400 acres in the environmentally sensitive area, which has been the focal point of battles between developers and environmentalists for decades.
"This is just too many homes in too small of an area," said township resident Bill Toomer. "There is no way to protect the watershed from pollution and runoff from a development of this size."
Although Toomer's concerns were echoed by many other area residents, it appears that Hilliard city officials are satisfied with the developers' intention to include wooded areas, preserve streams, wetlands and bike paths in their building plans.
Monday's meeting follows months of debate over the proposed development, which would be the first neighborhood built in the wetland. In August, the Big Darby Accord Advisory Panel voted 9-0 against Heritage Preserve, citing specifics of the accord, which call for no more than one dwelling per acre in the protected area. Heritage Preserve would average roughly 1 2/3 dwellings per acre.
In addition to environmental concerns, increased traffic in the area was a potential problem raised by other residents.
"This is a very large development," said homeowner Rob Purvis. "In addition to the pollution and runoff to the Darby, there are going to be hundreds and hundreds of cars coming in and out daily. It certainly changes the quality of life, not to mention air."
In November, Hilliard's Planning and Zoning Commission voted 5-0 to recommend that the council approve the project.
Hilliard is one of 10 communities that agreed to the terms of the Big Darby Accord, and has tried for years to balance the development needs of the community with the protection of this environmentally sensitive area. City Planner John Talentino stressed that point on Monday, pointing out that the construction of Heritage Preserve would not exceed the city's allotted development area of 2,000 acres.
Neither the opinion of the Darby Advisory Panel or the Planning and Zoning Commission is binding, and both the township and city have agreed to future meetings to try and work out a solution.