The Harlem Township Zoning Commission denied a rezoning application of a nearly 7-acre parcel on Fancher Road for a landscaping business at its meeting Monday.
The property, which is next to the Fancher Cemetery, was being requested by its Westerville-based owners to be rezoned from Agricultural Residential to a Planned Commercial Development for Miller Landscapes of Westerville, LLC. It had been conditionally approved by the Delaware County Regional Planning Commission.
In addition, the county’s economic development team has considered the southern part of Harlem Township, where the business would be located, to be a good area for a commercial district. It was also noted by the commission that the township needed to have revenue from commercial businesses — if it were entirely residential, it was said, then people couldn’t afford to live in Harlem.
If the business use were approved, phase one of constructing the buildings would be completed by the end of 2020; and phase two of growing trees and shrubs in back of the buildings would be completed by the end of 2022. It would be open 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, and have no retail sales. It would include a 7,200-square-foot building, two hoop buildings, and vehicles would be enclosed.
When the public hearing had started, the meeting room of the township firehouse was full of residents, who spoke out against the rezoning. They had either seen the public notice on the township website or in The Gazette, or had heard about it on the Harlem Township Community page on Facebook.
Comments from the residents included concerns about speeding traffic on Fancher Road, with the cemetery being at the top of the hill and the placement of the business driveway; security measures that included chain-link and barb-wire fencing with a windscreen; noise from a half-gravel road to the business; light pollution; potential after-hours noise; the view; the nearness to the cemetery; salt barn and pesticide runoff; and the effect on property values for what some called their dream home.
One man was angry no one from the company had spoken to him about the proposed use; and another man said the commission was helping the business by compromising on conditions. Yet another said if they had known there could be a business in proximity to them, they wouldn’t have built there.
“This is my nest egg,” said Robyn Williamson. “It’s not an ‘ideal spot’ when we’ve put money into these homes.”
“You don’t live there, you don’t care,” said one woman. “What is Harlem Township good for?”
“Where does it stop for you guys?” another man asked.
A resident read from a “News and Notes” handout by the township: “Harlem residents enjoy relative privacy in their living conditions and minimal commercial encroachment. This is the underlying theme which characterizes our community. With the proper management, continued future development, and the emphasis on rural character, we trust that our community will continue to evolve as a premier place to call home.”
He went on to say that was a lie.
Chairman Mike Kabler said the township’s Master Plan currently permits Planned Commercial Districts anywhere, and that if the residents disagree, they should tell the trustees.
The public hearing ended, and most of the residents left. The commission members discussed fencing and whether to vote. The vote was 2-2, with Robin Lobenstein and Tom Neid voting in favor, and Kabler and Joni Manson voting against it. The deadlock meant the rezoning is denied. However, the request will go before the township trustees Dec. 18, and they are not bound by the commission’s decision. The trustees would then have a public hearing in January.
“I’m not used to being the bad guy,” said Ron Miller, of Miller Landscapes, following the vote.
Kabler said there were “legitimate arguments on both sides,” and “your plan is great. We’re just concerned about the location.”
In other business, the commission unanimously approved rezoning a 5.3-acre property on Center Village Road, Galena, from Agricultural Residential to Farm Residential. The commission’s organizational meeting will be held Jan. 6.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.