Galena Village Council will continue a public hearing on the proposed Blackhawk development at its Oct. 28 meeting.
Controversy continues on the project among the public and officials. For example, there are signs on state Route 3 asking motorists to call the mayor to voice their opposition to the increased traffic in the area the development would add.
A non-resident commenting on the subject told The Gazette in an email, “I just feel for the people in your community if you decide to give in to the builders.”
The Village, in its October newsletter, wrote extensively about the Blackhawk development. To summarize, builder Champion Companies has 220 acres of Blackhawk Golf Course (from Groezinger Golf Enterprises) and part of Wright Farm (John D. Wright) under contract. The two properties filed an application with Delaware County on April 29 for an expedited annexation. In September, the annexation and a pre-annexation agreement were passed after three readings by emergency by Galena Village Council to meet state law timeframes.
Blackhawk Endeavors LLC (a Champion Company) filed a Preliminary Plan and Rezoning application with Galena in August. The village is still in this phase.
“The proposed development is split into three major sections,” the newsletter states.
“The East Portion (12+/- acres) is shown as a Planned Commercial and Office District (PC) to be mixed use commercial/office/residential. This will include a 40-room boutique hotel with retail and dining space, and no more than 60 cottage-style homes. The Central Portion (67+/- acres) of the property is shown as a Planned Residence District (PRD) to be single-family residential not to exceed two units per gross acre. These lots will consist of 117+/- traditional style homes and 18+/- estate homes. The West Portion (141+/- acres) is shown as a Planned Commercial and Office District (PC) to be mixed use commercial/office/residential. This will include: 100,000 sq. ft. of office and mixed-use buildings with shared retail space, 70,000 sq. ft. of retail/commercial space, no more than 494 apartment units, no more than 130 townhomes, no more than 90 village-style homes, and no more than 120 patio homes. The plan includes 80+/-acres of open space.”
Zoning Inspector Levi Koehler, in his staff report to the Planning and Zoning Commission, “noted that the Development Plan is consistent with the standards of the Zoning Ordinance, the Subdivision Regulations, and the general vision of the Village Master Plan of 2010.” He recommended conditional approval with six conditions. The commission approved recommending the plan to be presented to council, which held its first public hearing on Sept. 23 and will be continued at a meeting scheduled for Oct. 28.
In the meantime, Champion’s attorneys have submitted a financing proposal to Village Solicitor Ken Molnar, who in turn sent it to the Bricker and Eckler law firm. The firm sent its analysis to the village’s Finance Committee, which met on Sept. 26 to review. They sent questions back to Bricker and Eckler, and once they have evaluated the proposal, they will make a recommendation to council, and there will be legislative readings.
The village held a Public Information Session at the Galena United Methodist Church Oct. 14.
“Galena Village Council and staff are concerned about the emotionally-charged issues related to the proposed Blackhawk/Champion development as well as a lot of misinformation being circulated,” said an announcement for the session. “This public information forum is being held to better communicate the legal planning and rezoning process related to any new development and to facilitate respectful dialogue regarding community concerns.”
Before entering the church, those opposed to the development handed out a couple of pages stating why. Among the reasons are: Champion has not fulfilled the Zoning Code Requirements to submit a Development Plan application; it’s not a “good plan” per the Zoning Code criteria; it does not fit Galena’s vision as stated in its Master Plan; it does not qualify as a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district; and the proposed incentives and financial backing request from Champion in the form of a TIF, Community Reinvestment Area (CRA), New Community Authority (NCA) and discounted sewer tap fees would be detrimental to the village.
The church was packed as moderator Marie Keister took questions from the audience and allowed staff to answer the public’s questions. Several of the questions were asked by Jill Love, who is running against Thomas Hopper for Galena mayor on the November ballot. Among her questions was why couldn’t the village slow down the process, since there was such opposition to the project.
A key question was asked near the end of the two-hour session — if the village were to turn down the development, would that nullify the annexation, and could the developer approach Berkshire Township about the project? It was believed that was possible.
Galena officials handed out a 12-page handout answering frequently-asked questions and outlining the process. Among the questions answered were about a special meeting needing to be called for a trail easement due to grant requirements on Sept. 5. People left that short meeting upset that they did not get to have their say on Blackhawk, which was also on the agenda.
“Due to the very specific timeline required in state annexation laws, the Blackhawk annexation was added to the agenda to allow for a second reading, which requires no discussion or action,” the handout states. “This meeting was never intended to be a public input session about Blackhawk.”
One woman during the session objected to the handout, saying it talked down to the residents. A Galena councilman apologized for the tone, attributing it to getting a lot of criticism from the public.
However, a couple of residents did thank the village for the session, saying they appreciated the more civil conversation and information.
The controversy spilled over to include the Big Walnut Local School District. The Board of Education stated its position in a message “Regarding Residential Development” dated Oct. 11.
In the message, the board said it discussed the proposed Galena/Blackhawk development at its meeting on Oct. 10. The board also met with a legal representative from Champion on Oct. 4.
“School districts do not court developers or seek residential, commercial, or industrial development projects,” the board wrote. “You will never find in a list of zoning requirements for a developer to design their project to minimize impact on a school district. There is no legal requirement for your village or township to make a decision that accounts for the impact of a project onto the school system.”
The board goes on to state that “Champion has provided a proposal asking Galena to implement a CRA and a TIF, and give Galena’s share of the NCA millage to Champion instead.” Thus, based on the information they had, the board believed “the Blackhawk development could place an operational burden on the District at the equivalent of 2-3 mills of tax dollars upon full build-out. … If the proposed Blackhawk development comes to fruition, the District will have to decide how it can absorb the cost of this development, or ask all of the residents of the District to provide more revenue to cover the costs of this development. This dynamic is not unique to the Blackhawk project.”
Mayor Hopper, who is on the district’s Facilities Committee, told the school board at its Oct. 17 meeting that he objected to a line in the letter that said the district has to “scratch and claw to obtain information” about the development. Hopper said he met with the district twice, telling them what he knew. Board President Brad Schneider apologized to Hopper.
On his board Facebook page, Schneider wrote that “scratch and claw” did not refer to Galena, but “was intended to describe the numerous hours of effort our Treasurer and his staff put into talking to resources, digging through data, and attempting to prepare data to try and anticipate the impact of a project like this.”
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.