Referendum hot topic in Genoa


Genoa Township Residents for Responsible Development are asking voters in the general election on Nov. 6 to overturn a decision by trustees to rezone approximately 43 acres of land from Rural Residential to Planned Residential near the Hoover Reservoir.

The township’s zoning commission voted 4-0 against rezoning the land on March 12. The commission said the proposed 64-home development would exceed the Genoa Township Comprehensive Plan density restrictions as it is written, and members recommended that the trustees deny the rezoning.

The Genoa Township Board of Trustees, however, voted 2-1 to approve the measure during a rezoning meeting on April 9. The majority view was that there were no divergences, and the township’s zoning resolution takes precedence over the comprehensive plan.

Jim Carter, a member of Genoa Township Residents for Responsible Development, said he has spoken with an attorney about the township’s comprehensive plan. Carter stated he received some advice: “There is nothing that says our comprehensive plan doesn’t count.”

“The zoning resolution says specifically all development ‘shall’ be done in accordance with the comprehensive plan,” he added. “The Ohio Revised Code even says it ‘shall’ be in accordance with the comprehensive plan. Why are those words in there if we don’t have to follow them?”

As noted in previous stories published by The Gazette, Benton and Katherine Benalcazar — owners of the property in question — bought the land in 2001. The proposed development plan for the property, which would be named The Ravines at Hoover, calls for 64 single-family homes in the $500,000 cost range that would be built by Romanelli and Hughes. The homes are geared toward empty-nesters, but there’s no deed restriction. Taxes would generate $500,000 in annual revenue for Big Walnut Local Schools, and the township would collect about $200,000 in taxes for the general fund.

“We chose conservation zoning because it is a beautiful piece of property,” Benton Benalcazar states in an article published in Friday’s edition of The Gazette. “We fulfilled every single requirement of conservation zoning. We put the houses where there are pastures, a hayfield, and a soybean field. Fifty-two percent of the property will be undeveloped land.”

Carter said that the comprehensive plan was updated and then approved by the trustees in December 2016. He said in accordance with the plan, the area of the township in question only allows one house per one and one-third acres of land.

“Anything north of Big Walnut Road in the Hoover watershed is to remain rural,” he said. “He (Benalcazar) owned the property for 17 years. He knew the rules when he came in.”

Carter said Benalcazar is running a “vote yes campaign.”

“His signs are on future properties to develop,” he said. “Once we allow one to do it, it becomes a precedent for all to do it.”

Benalcazar said in a previous story some of the opposition is using the amendment language to say it’s an overhaul of the township’s zoning code that will allow apartments and high-density developments.

“It only affects this one property,” he said.

“He (Benalcazar) has everything to gain from this. The residents just want to retain their quality of life,” Carter said. “There have been 115 people contribute money to stop this. People are upset about this. All we’re asking for is responsible development.”

Renee Vaughan, also a member of Genoa Township Residents for Responsible Development, said she is mostly concerned with the housing density of the development.

“It’s over twice what the comprehensive plan allows,” she said.

Vaughan said there are usually one or two people to represent the group at the Genoa Township Zoning Commission meetings. She said individuals from the group will “voice” their own personal concerns during the public comment portion of the meeting about a developer’s plan.

“We have worked with two other developers,” she said. “Both applicants worked with the group by taking into consideration what we say. (Benalcazar) didn’t work with us.

“We aren’t unreasonable on what we want to do,” she added. “We feel — Genoa Township Residents for Responsible Development — that the Ravines is unreasonable.”

The language on the ballot states, “On April 9, 2018, the Genoa Township Board of Trustees enacted Resolution No. 18-0409001 to amend the Genoa Township Zoning Map to rezone 42.791 acres from Rural Residential (“RR”) to Planned Residential Development (“PRD”). The seven adjoining parcels that make up the 42.791-acre site are parcel nos: 31713001036000, 31713001036001, 31713001036002, 31713001036003, 31713001036004, 31713001036005, and 31713001038000. According to Genoa Township Zoning Case No. 2018-01, and Genoa Township Board of Trustees Resolution No. 18-0409001, the above seven parcels are “located at 4741 Tussic Street”, which is near the southeast intersection of Oxbow Road and Tussic Street. Shall the zoning amendment as adopted by the Genoa Township Board of Trustees be approved?”

The Benalcazars have said they would put a hog farm on the property if their proposed development was rejected.

“The hog farm is a distant choice,” Benalcazar states in a previous article.

By D. Anthony Botkin

[email protected]

Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.

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