Granville village council members this week heard a proposal from Denison University to build up to 70 housing units for faculty on 31 acres of university land on New Burg Street across from Granville High School’s baseball field.
Council members also heard from a few residents who raised concerns about additional traffic on New Burg Street, which is heavily traveled twice a day as students are going to and from the intermediate, middle and high schools. The entrance to the Denison housing complex would be on New Burg, and neighbors asked that Denison consider other possibilities for the entrance.
David English, Denison’s Chief Financial Officer, told the council on Wednesday that the housing is needed because housing prices are out of reach for new faculty members, rental units are hard to find in the village and the university values having faculty members near campus.
He said mentoring relationships between faculty and students are part of a successful college experience for Denison’s 2,400 students, but that is challenging when faculty live far from campus, such as in Columbus, and don’t have time to come back for evening and weekend events, such as lectures, student concerts, performances and sporting events.
English told the council that in recent years, there has been a steady decline in the number of Denison professors living in Granville.
“In the 1990s and early 2000s, we averaged 40-50% of our employees living in ZIP Code 43023. In 2019-2010, that dropped down to 39%. In 2023, for the people we hired through April, it’s 28%,” he said.
Denison plans to build the housing units in phases, with up to 30 units coming in the first phase. Some will be townhomes and others will be single-family homes ranging from one to three bedrooms, depending on the needs of future residents. The units will front on a common green space with vehicle access in the rear, said Granville resident Keith Myers, who is a landscape architect working with Denison on the project.
The university’s website says all of the housing units will be built on 12 of the 31 acres. “The project is clustered centrally on the property to maintain forested areas,” it says. “The community and roadways will be sustainability designed.”
The university also says “the new houses are not meant to be a long-term solution for new faculty members seeking housing in Granville. They are designed to support employees joining Denison for a short time or while they identify other housing.”
Village Manager Herb Koehler said in a phone interview on Thursday that the presentation to the council was the first in a series of meetings and hearings on the annexation request alone, and that there also will be meetings specifically about the development plans.
“It’s a long process,” he said. “They will have three hearings with us and two with the county.”
The process could take up to 10 months, so the earliest construction could begin is in 2024. The first hearing on the annexation will be during the next village council meeting at 7:30 p.m. on May 3 at Village Hall, 141 E. Broadway. Action taken by the council on Wednesday “allows me as village manager to begin the process,” Koehler said.
“By being as transparent as they are,” Koehler said, Denison officials are trying to assure that the community is fully aware of the details of the development proposal. Annexation will allow Denison to receive water and sewer service, and other village services, at the development site.
Mayor Melissa Hartfield invited residents during the council meeting to join the ongoing discussion to “give people an idea of where this process is and what it takes to do this.”
A neighbor raised a question about the potential loss of trees on the development site, which was addressed by Myers. The development will be built to “work with the landscape not against it,” Myers said, noting that while some trees will be cut to build the entrance road, the rest of the existing trees will be left untouched and new trees will be planted within the development.
Koehler said Thursday that Denison will pay for a traffic study to consider while the village and county are working with Denison on the annexation and development plans.
Granville Township trustee Bryn Bird attended Wednesday’s council meeting and said “I don’t think that we can use roads and infrastructure as a reason not to allow things versus trying to find ways in which we can grow together.”
“So I think as the township, we can find ways in which we can work together, because some of these roads are part of the township area,” Bird said.
She also said the development will help bring a younger population to Granville, which she said is missing that important demographic that would benefit the community.
Jeff Brown, superintendent of Granville Exempted Village Schools, said that school district officials “are supportive of moving through this process and continuing to work with Denison and the village, and the township on this issue.”
Isabella Pereira writes for TheReportingProject.org, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University’s Journalism program, which is funded in part by the Mellon Foundation. Alan Miller, of The Reporting Project, contributed to this story. [email protected].
Rendering image courtesy of REALM Collaborative, The Kleingers Group and Jones Studio. Site location map courtesy of Denison University.