The Porter Township Board of Zoning Appeals hearing on Nov. 5 drew a packed house as residents filled township hall to discuss a conditional use of land application filed by Olive Green Oaks Limited to build a park with 20 ultimate disc (Frisbee) tournament fields.
“There were 150 people that showed up complaining about the traffic and the noise the tournaments would cause,” said Dan Oaks, Porter Township resident and owner of the property. “They even called my son a liar. My son isn’t a liar.”
According to the American Ultimate Disc League website, the game is played like football or rugby but with a Frisbee, instead of a ball.
The conditional use application for the 53-acre parcel located on Olive Green Road behind the Porter-Kingston Fire District building, was denied by the township BZA.
“It was just a meeting for zoning,” Oaks said. “But I guess we stirred things up and got people out away from the TV.”
Oaks said he had purchased the parcel for his son, Rodger Oaks, a Pickerington North High School math teacher and department head, whose “lifetime dream is to bring ultimate disc to Ohio.”
“My son runs tournaments all over the country,” he said. “Last weekend I drove his equipment trailer because he teaches and has a limited number of vacation days.”
Oaks said there are a total of 14 tournaments per year from March to October, which are played on the weekend. He said each team consist of 22 players, and the teams would have come from all over the country to participate.
Oaks added that most of the complaints about traffic and noise came from those who live on Plantation Road.
“The property doesn’t even face Plantation Road,” he said.
Oaks said his son’s proposal included every possible contingency.
“My son wants to do it by the book,” he said. “He put in a parking lot for 500 cars.”
Oaks said he has never seen anything near 500 cars at any of the tournaments.
Mark Mazzon, the township’s fiscal officer, said it was a packed house on Nov. 5.
“Everybody that lives on Plantation Road was there,” he said. “Mostly the township deals with little variances. We’ve only ever had one rezoning for a family that wanted to build a house, and the neighbors were there to support it.”
Mazzon said the application “was sort of an anomaly.”
“The applicant had filed for a conditional use permit for a park,” he said.
Mazzon said parks are to be open and free to the public. He said he understood that the property would only be for tournament use, gate fees would be charged, and the property would only be available to the organization and teams, which made it more of a commercial venture.
“We’re a farming and bedroom community,” he said. “It was the first time anyone suggested commercial zoning. We don’t have anything that spells out commercial.”
“They don’t want to listen,” Oaks said. “It would take three to four years to develop the land. The fees would be charged to the teams to help cover the cost of planning and building the fields, and there’s no charge to watch the games.”
Stephen Belcher said he lives 600 yards south of the 53-acre parcel and that “nobody knew about the hearing.” He said there were two small signs on the property advertising the rezoning hearing for a park, but he didn’t see it advertised in the local papers.
“A little park,” he said. “I think the owner tried to pull a fast one on the township.”
Paul Reida, the township zoning inspector, said according to the law, he placed an advertisement in both The Delaware Gazette and The Sunbury News.
“It’s required by law that the applicant is to provide letters to the 10 closest residents,” he said.
Belcher said the 53-acre parcel is one-third of a bigger property that was sold in September. He said he had done a little research about the other two parcels.
“I found out that the other parcels were sold to developers,” he said.
Belcher asked township officials how he could “find out about this the next time it comes down the pike.”
“One of the people said they would call me,” he said.
Oaks said he and his son haven’t given up on his sons dream of bringing ultimate disc to Ohio. He said the attorneys had suggested another option for getting the parcel rezoned, but he told them he wasn’t interested.
“I’m not worried about it, and we’re not here to tick anyone off,” he said. “I paid $10,000 per acre. There are new houses that paid $15,000 per acre across the street.”
Oaks said he would he would wait three or four years to see if property values go up and then he’ll decide if he is going to develop the land or sell it.
The Porter Township Board of Zoning Appeals meets the first Monday of the month at 7:30 p.m. with the caveat of “if needed.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.