Galena Village Council approved the annexation of Blackhawk Golf Course and the farm of John D. Wright into the village during its meeting Monday.
The authorization of a pre-annexation agreement and the actual annexation represent the first steps in what could be a five- to six-year process if the village were to consider the entire development/subdivision plan for the combined 261 acres between Dustin and Plumb roads along state Route 3.
Council then had a lengthy public hearing about how that land may be used by developer Blackhawk Endeavors, LLC as they weigh whether to rezone the property. Currently zoned as Berkshire Township Agricultural and Planned Recreational District, Blackhawk has applied for rezoning it to the village’s Planned Residential District and Planned Commercial and Office District. Galena’s Planning and Zoning Commission has previously given conditional approval to the development, a decision that upset many residents.
Council chambers were filled to capacity Monday, and some people were wearing t-shirts that read “Love For Galena” on the back. After a swearing-in for those providing testimony, Council President David Walker and councilman Bob Molter laid out the ground rules for the hearing. Those guidelines included giving comments instead of asking questions, not clapping after speakers had their say, and three-minute time limits were requested from the public.
Representatives for the developer went first.
Brian Yeager, CEO of Champion Companies, said he would address some of residents’ more common concerns. While there would be population growth from the various types of residences, he said it wouldn’t take place overnight, because the construction would be done in phases. Yeager also said there would be 80 acres of green space and 5 miles of trails.
Yeager admitted the most contentious part of the development is its apartments, and he felt some people were wrong in their assumptions about renters. He said a lot of renters are now empty-nesters looking to downsize; they are “renting by choice, not necessity,” and willing to pay rents higher than some mortgage payments. He also suggested residents see the nearby apartments and town homes at Sunbury Pointe, which is a Champion community, for comparison.
“We put thousand of hours into this project,” Yeager said of Blackhawk. “We want to create a win-win for generations to come.”
David Fisher, zoning attorney for Kephart Fisher, noted that they would be before both zoning and council for each preliminary and final development plan, as well as each phase or major change to the plan. “This is not a one-and-done process,” Fisher said. He also said that a “bigger development means better development” for the municipality.
Brian Kinzelman, of MKSK (design firm for Champion), said the development is in alignment with the village’s Master Plan in 10 different ways.
Next came report summaries from zoning and engineering, and a letter regarding additional road projects needed for the area from County Engineer Chris Bauserman was read into the record. BST&G Fire District Chief Chris Kovach said that even with an increased population in Galena, his staff “are more than capable of running one more call a day.” Jeff Fishel, of Delaware County EMS, said a population increase doesn’t necessarily mean an equivalent increase in service calls.
Next it was the public’s turn to speak, and 19 people gave comments.
Recurring themes were concerns over housing density and the number of rentals, traffic and parking, the strain on the Big Walnut Local School District, insensitivity to existing neighbors, and increased speeding and break-ins. One person called it a “monstrosity,” and another person said “crime is coming.” Some said they were not opposed to development in general, but wanted more negotiations on this particular development, and a reduction in incentives.
One person said he was in the construction business, and that things never end up the way they’re initially proposed. He said the village couldn’t even fix its brick road, which was recently replaced. A life-long resident said she was heartbroken, and was going to move out of the village.
Some people were upset with the process, and when told their time to speak was up, one man said to the audience, “You see how it is. This is our lives.” Another person who was opposed to the development said the village could have done a better job explaining legislative procedure to the residents.
One person said the controversy “has brought a lot of the community together.”
Yet, there were a couple people who said they were in favor of the development. Reasons cited included putting Galena on the map, literally and figuratively; attracting good job candidates to the area; offering more dining options instead of going to Columbus; the addition of a pool and barn-like club house; and saying that Champion was a top-notch company.
Another man said he liked that the more commercial parts of the development were along state Route 3, and the residential portions would be further east. “It’ll attract a mix of people, and I think that’s good for the community,” he said.
However, another person wanted council to put off any decision.
“You’re representing us, but you’re not listening to us,” was one of the comments she said to council. “You have to compromise here.”
Council agreed to continue the public hearing at its next meeting, which is scheduled for Oct. 28. It was said Delaware County Sheriff Russell Martin would speak at that meeting about providing police services for Galena.
About 2.5 hours into the meeting, after a recess that saw most of the audience leave the chambers, council returned to hear staff reports, pay invoices, and consider resolutions.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.