MOUNT VERNON — Rockford Construction cleared the first step last week when the Mount Vernon Municipal Planning Commission approved rezoning 38 acres on Coshocton Road for a multi-family housing development.
The acreage is part of the 84-acre parcel fronting on Coshocton and Upper Gilchrist roads. Formally listed as Casey’s Way, local residents might know it as the Beckett Annexation.
The city annexed the land in June 2014. Later that year, the city accepted the planning commission’s recommendation to rezone the parcel from agricultural to a mixed use of single-family residential (R1), general business, and planned neighborhood development (PND).
Bob Yoakam, president and CEO of Rockford Construction, and Corey Theuerkauf, vice president of land, asked the planning commission on March 10 to rezone 38 acres to R3, a higher density, multi-family development.
The commission approved the request by a 4 to 1 vote. Commission member Austin Swallow cast the dissenting vote.
Although the issue before the commission was the rezoning, Yoakam and Theuerkauf shared preliminary plans and potential renderings for the development. Plans might change as Rockford works through the approval process.
For now, plans call for 496 units in a complex called The Retreat at Mount Vernon: 332 two-bedroom units and 164 one-bedroom units. There are 26 residential buildings: 20 two-story and six three-story.
“Our idea was to transition from commercial use to more residential use,” Theuerkauf said. “The idea with the three-story buildings backing up against the commercial area is to screen residents from commercial use.”
The complex will include a fully staffed clubhouse with a pool, fitness center, and entertainment space; recreation areas such as basketball or volleyball courts and a dog park; and sidewalks and walking trails.
Three full-time leasing agents and two maintenance personnel will be onsite.
The 800-square-foot one-bedroom units will rent for $800 a month. The 1,000-square-foot two-bedroom units will rent for $1,000.
“That’s slightly over the current market rate, but there has been nothing new for 20 years, and the amenities are much better,” Yoakam said, adding that the target market is the younger workers, 20s to mid-30s, who are out of school and working.
The complex will have three entrances: two on Upper Gilchrist Road and one on Coshocton Road.
Rockford will build the complex in four phases over four years. Phase 1 (11.47 acres, 152 units) is on the southwestern side, entering off of Upper Gilchrist Road. Phase 2 is the center “Central Park” section consisting of 8.9 acres and 112 units.
Phase 3 is 7.19 acres in the northwestern section comprising 120 units. Phase 4 is the 7.93-acre, 128-unit eastern section entering off of Coshocton Road.
Rockford will maintain the roadways and landscaping.
In response to whether Knox County can sustain such a complex, Yoakam said, “I wouldn’t be looking to take a $62 million risk if I didn’t think so.”
Yoakam noted that in addition to existing apartment complexes having a wait list, 40% of the county’s working base commutes to work.
“With [apartments] not just being full but having a wait list, we do feel there is a market,” he said.
Commission member Swallow asked about response time for fire and EMS. Safety-service Director Richard Dzik said the city has discussed a satellite station on the city’s east side, noting that was also the recommendation of a 2020 analysis by the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association.
“This goes in line with what our plans already are,” Dzik said. “The mayor and I’s goal is to have that land purchased by the end of this year.”
Acknowledging that traffic is not the purview of municipal planning, Swallow noted that during annexation discussions, traffic patterns, volume, and who maintains Upper Gilchrist were topics of discussion.
Councilman Mike Hillier voiced those same concerns.
“We do need housing, but I want to make sure we talk about traffic,” he told commission members. “I don’t want this to be a burden to citizens of Mount Vernon.”
To support the complex — as well as Schlabach’s developing Gilchrist Estates, Colonial Woods Condominiums, Knox Public Health, and Knox County Board of Developmental Disabilities — road widening and turn lanes are probabilities.
TIF money (Tax Increment Financing District) can cover some of that road cost. However, the TIF ends in 2025.
City Engineer Brian Ball said the city used TIF money on the intersection of Coshocton Road and Upper Gilchrist for paving, crosswalks, and the traffic light.
“As we go north and south, that is something we have to review,” he said.
Other than Hillier, Coshocton Road resident Kenneth Young was the only one to speak about the rezoning.
“I like the idea of what you are putting in out there,” he said. “I do think you will have a bottleneck because of the narrow road.”
City council has to approve the commission’s rezoning recommendation. Additionally, Rockford Construction wants to split off its 38 acres from the remaining acreage. The current owner will retain the northern section (33.7 acres) off of Upper Gilchrist Road and 12 acres (general business) fronting on Coshocton.
Throughout the process, the city will hold public hearings to allow for community input.
Rockford Construction is a general contracting, multi-family company that has built three to nine projects a year over the last decade. It is a subsidiary of the Delaware County-based Rockford Homes founded in 1985.