The village of Galena is at a crossroads, simultaneously growing and awaiting improvements.
As for the latter, there is a sign on state Route 3 heading north letting motorists there will be a stoplight at the busy nexus of Walnut Street and South Galena Road. The problem is, the light isn’t installed yet.
“The odd thing is the poles that will support the traffic signals have been back-ordered since last fall,” said Galena Administrator Jeff White. “There’s one major manufacturer of these poles nationally, and they went out of business, but it threw all projects around the country into this situation.”
Sunbury had to endure a similar wait to install a light last year at state Route 3 and Sunbury Meadows. In addition, a traffic signal was installed just below Sunbury at Plumb Road and SR 3.
White said Galena’s new traffic signal, a project between the village, the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Delaware County Engineer, was originally expected to be installed in March, then pushed until mid-May. However, going into the Memorial Day weekend, orange barrels surround the crossroads where the stoplight would go in.
“We’re hoping it finally gets done, because it is a public safety issue,” he said. “Here’s why traffic signal projects come about — it’s because of accidents. You get to a threshold on the traffic volume, the traffic snarls, and then the accidents come into play on deciding whether a signal is warranted at an intersection. As the intersections get busier as South Galena Road has as you look over the decades, what happens is people are waiting to get across the intersection or do a left turn. It becomes a driver-behavior thing, human nature — you’re waiting, you see people behind you stacking up, you feel guilty holding people up, so that’s when you push the gas pedal and floor it. But sometimes that ends up in an accident.”
On the other hand, the finishing touches are being made to Galena’s new wastewater treatment plant. White said a grand opening event is anticipated sometime in June. With those improved utilities, property owners are seeking to be annexed into the village. For example, Berkshire Township Trustee Bill Holtry announced at a recent meeting that the Galena United Methodist Church on Sunbury Road had put in its petition to the Delaware County Commissioners to be annexed.
“They want to be part of the village, and they would be hooking into the village sewer system,” White said.
On May 9, there was a special village council meeting in Galena, where ordinances pertaining to a potential annexation of about 261 acres into the village were unanimously approved. The annexation would include cow-grazing farmland and the 112 acres of Groezinger Golf Enterprises, better known as Blackhawk Golf Club. Designed in 1964, Blackhawk is an 18-hole, par 71 course in Berkshire Township at 8830 Dustin Road. Its website said it was voted the best public Central Ohio Golf Course in 2014. Across SR 3 from Blackhawk is The Retreat at Dustin, standalone condominiums from M/I Homes that should be finished in time for a busy home-buying season.
Following the May 9 meeting, Galena Mayor Thomas Hopper said preliminary plans have been shown informally, but nothing has been approved yet, and that the process was in its early stages. He noted that the May 15 Galena Planning and Zoning Commission meeting was cancelled due to lack of business.
The Facebook page What’s Happening in Sunbury had a post on March 22 featuring notes from a prior Galena meeting about the golf club. Champion Companies, MKSK, and Romanelli and Hughes were interested in the mixed-use development that included 1,100 homes and apartments in various configurations; along with offices, restaurants, healthy setbacks and 30% green space. Entry points would be off of Dustin and Plumb roads, and Old 3C Highway, but not off SR 3.
Business observers have said the demand for housing in Central Ohio has outweighed the popularity of golf or the profitability of farming. This has led some property owners to sell developers an option to buy their property. The option allows the developer the chance to see what regulatory hurdles would need to be overcome to make it worthwhile to build the property, and setting a time limit for holding the option. There may be multiple options from different developers in play. In the meantime, the owner would continue to use the property in the manner it is zoned.
As for Blackhawk, White said, developers have informally attended P&Z meetings, getting feedback from the commission on whether the development fits in with Galena’s Master Plan.
“It was established 20-25 years ago, and updated 10 years ago,” White said of the plan. “So the Zoning Commission has to decide when the Master Plan was done, this is what the land uses should be in this particular area. They compare that with what a developer is proposing, and get into a dialogue with the developer of here’s what we would want to see at the village’s perspective. The developer comes back each time with a little more refined concept. So at some point, I wouldn’t be surprised if a formal application is presented.”
Annexation is done publicly at the county and village levels over several months, in compliance with the Ohio Revised Code, and to avoid any impropriety.
“The municipality isn’t out trying to gobble up land, it’s more like the municipality is sitting there, and somebody comes and says they would like to do something with their land and they need your services that your village provides,” White said. “The municipality says our plant can handle that, so that starts the annexation process. The owner of the land submits a petition to the county commissioners. Meanwhile, the village doesn’t have any authority to zone it if it’s not in the municipality. At some point, zoning needs to come into play, but for a municipality it can’t happen until it’s annexed into the town.”
In turn, the village is being proactive in anticipation of growth, he said.
“Galena has become suddenly noticed by people as a place they would like to live. We’re just in the next outer ring of where people are finding a convenient place to live in the Columbus metro area. The village has positioned itself in a way that it can accommodate this whenever it happens. This new plant that is being built is going to be able to handle all this population that could come along. It’s an example of government trying to be ahead of the curve, instead of trying to react after it becomes a crisis.”
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.