Public hearing on Blackhawk tabled; Sheriff speaks


Galena Village Council tabled the continuation of a public hearing on the proposed Blackhawk development at its meeting Monday.

The reason cited for tabling the hearing was because Village Solicitor Ken Molnar and lawyers for builder Champion Companies were not present. The public hearing will resume during the next council meeting set for 7 p.m. Nov. 25. During the public hearings, concerned residents and people from neighboring communities have mostly expressed their concerns and asked staff questions. At Monday’s meeting, one visitor signed in but declined to speak, saying he didn’t think it would matter.

A second reading on the ordinance about the development, which accepts the Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendation for rezoning the golf course and the adjacent John Wright farm, was read into the record. There was an attempt to table the second reading to ask more questions, but it failed by vote.

“This will not make it go faster,” said Mayor Thomas Hopper of the motion to table.

Hopper said the public hearing needs to conclude before council can take action at the third reading. That action could take the form of tabling the ordinance, a vote for or against the ordinance, or no motions being made.

Many local municipalities require three readings of legislation, with emergency passage included if there is a time element involved.

There was also a procedural question about accepting the minutes of a public information meeting to explain the legal process, held at the Galena United Methodist Church on Oct. 14. Although it wasn’t an official meeting, it was said informal minutes were taken since a majority of council members were present.

Delaware County Sheriff Russell L. Martin was the guest speaker at the meeting. Martin said he has lived in the county for 39 years and served as chief of police for the City of Delaware. Many people opposing the development have cited among their concerns was with an influx of people, there could be more crime.

“It hasn’t escaped me the emotion that surrounds development,” Martin said. “I’m not here to take sides. I’m just here to state the facts.”

Martin said the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) is responsible for patrolling all unincorporated areas in Delaware County; servicing the courts; and providing and maintaining a jail. Delaware County consists of 459 square miles and has 1,763 miles of roads. Martin also showed data about trends in Galena, including vehicular accidents and response times; as well as numbers of police reports filed for the Lake Club and Oak Creek, two Champion properties in Delaware County.

Martin added the DCSO has mutual aid agreements with police departments in the village of Sunbury and Genoa Township to assist on Galena dispatches. At one time, Galena had its own police department, but it was dissolved because of the recession. Galena has also contracted with Sunbury.

“We’re fortunate to have partnerships with law enforcement agencies that work well in the area,” Martin said. “There’s never been any billing or remuneration on mutual aid. As good stewards, we have additional staff for the highest volumes of calls.”

Martin also said some homeowners associations have hired special-duty officers on a part-time basis, mainly to enforce speed limits.

Residents repeatedly asked Martin how many additional deputies would be needed to serve a fully built-out development, which could add 3,000 more people to Galena, and what would it cost.

“I can’t speculate,” Martin said. “It’ll be more activity than a cornfield, but I can’t say you’ll need three deputies.”

One woman attending Monday’s meeting said, “If you can’t answer, then we can’t afford to do this.”

Some in the audience left at that point, and there was talk of a referendum going on the ballot to oppose the development.

According to the village, “The proposed development is split into three major sections” with 220 acres of properties in contract. The east portion is 12 acres zoned as Planned Commercial and Office District (PC), including “a 40-room boutique hotel with retail and dining space, and no more than 60 cottage-style homes.” The central portion is 67 acres zoned as Planned Residence District (PRD) “to be single-family residential not to exceed two units per gross acre,” with 117 traditional-style homes and 18 estate homes. The west portion is 141 acres zoned as PC to include “100,000 square feet of office and mixed-use buildings with shared retail space; 70,000 square feet of retail/commercial space; no more than 494 apartment units; no more than 130 town homes; no more than 90 village-style homes; and no more than 120 patio homes.”

In addition, there would be 80 acres of open space; five miles of trails worth $2.8 million built by the developer; a community swimming pool; and “Champion will make more than $3 million in in off-site road and intersection improvements at State Route 3” and Dustin, Lewis Center, and Plumb roads.

The PRD and PC district designations mean the developer and the village would negotiate the development plan “to allow flexibility due to the specifics of each property,” the village said. That means the planned district can have divergences (changes) or variances from village requirements, and the village can impose conditions that can’t be diverged from.

The Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended conditional approval of the Blackhawk development plan to council, noting that it was “consistent with the standards of the Zoning Ordinance, the Subdivision Regulations and the general vision of the Village Master Plan of 2010.”

Many Galena residents have signs in their yards stating they are against high-density development. Galena residents have signs in their yards stating they are against high-density development. Gary Budzak photos | The Gazette

By Gary Budzak

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Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.

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