Liberty Township’s Zoning Commission meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 16, is expected to be contentious as the township continues to consider a Planned Mixed-Use Overlay District (PMU) for approximately 190 acres north of Hyatts Road and south of Clark-Shaw Road that has area residents in an uproar.
If approved, the overlay would pave the way for commercial and residential development, including multi-family housing, on both sides of Sawmill Parkway.
The zoning commission first discussed the proposal during its meeting on Oct. 21, but those discussions were tabled as changes were made to the overlay to remove a 20-acre tract at the southeast corner of Liberty and Hyatts roads. Now, the conversations are set to pick up again, and township resident Scott Miller, who lives on Liberty Road, is one of several ready to speak out against the proposal.
“I’m not opposed to growth,” Miller told The Gazette. “Anyone who lives in southern Delaware County knows that there’s going to be growth and there’s going to be development. We all recognize that, but we’re disappointed in what’s being proposed.”
Miller pointed out that in February of 2018, Liberty Township trustees unanimously approved an updated comprehensive plan that set the standard for future use of the land north of Hyatts Road and west of the railroad tracks. Now, he wants the township to honor the document he said so much time and effort was put into less than three years ago.
Regarding the “Northwest Estates” or “Sub-Area VII,” the Comprehensive plan states, “Based on the current large-lot development trend of the area north of Clark-Shaw Road, the township wishes to retain an area that has a more rural character,” along with particular recommendations for that land. One of those recommendations reads, “For all lands, whether served by centralized sewer or not, maintain a maximum density of one unit per net developable acre.”
Another recommendation for the sub-area states, “No commercial, industrial, or higher density multifamily uses are recommended.”
Miller added that with Hyatts Road being a direct route to and from U.S. Route 23, truck traffic along the road would surely become an issue as those trucks service the businesses that result from the commercial development.
“When you get out in the rural areas, your neighborhood is more than just 200 feet,” Miller said. “Your neighborhood becomes large, and I consider this area as my neighborhood. I’m just in shock that here we had a comprehensive plan, and they turned around and they’re going fully against what that plan says.”
To educate and rally those who will be impacted by the proposed development, residents in the area have started a website titled “Liberty Residents for Responsible Growth,” which can be accessed at www.lr4rg.com. The site includes their assessments of the proposed overlay and encourages local residents to be vocal and proactive in the coming discussions, beginning with Wednesday’s meeting.
Attorney Steve Cuckler, who is representing the landowners for the proposed overlay, said sticking strictly to single-family housing for the sub-area would be a “negative” to the Olentangy Local School District (OLSD).
Cuckler said that based on 300 new single-family homes being built rather than what is currently being proposed, upwards of 250 students would be added to the district’s total enrollment. As a result, he said those students would cost the school district close to $3 million in order to educate them based on the district’s formula for costs per student. He added that the property tax revenues to the schools from the new homes would total less than $2 million.
“Single-family (homes) is a $1 million loss to the schools,” Cuckler said. “The schools have to make up that tax revenue somewhere else. What we’re proposing in a commercial development, even with some multi-family (housing), we’re talking about 50 to 100 new students and a net positive of over $1 million to the schools. So, not only does this development cover the costs to potentially educate any new students, but it also throws a net positive of over $1 million to the schools.”
Cuckler added that the commercial development, which he said could include a large medical facility, retail, and other uses, will create jobs that will benefit the township as well with the possible addition of a Joint Economic Development District (JEDD) tax on the development.
“The employees and residents who live in that ‘commercial pod,’ as we’re calling it, would also pay their fair share of an income tax that no one else would have to pay,” Cuckler said, adding that his estimations are an additional $1.6 million per year being generated in addition to the property taxes.
Of the total tax revenues, Cuckler said the current proposal would send a third of the revenues to the school district.
Cuckler went on to say, “One of the challenges we have, not only in Liberty Township but all of Delaware County, is diversifying our tax base with more commercial growth … Right now, we could go in there and build upwards of 300 new single-family homes without talking to any of the neighbors, but that would be the worst thing for the schools and the community because it’s a drain of resources rather than a provider of resources.”
As for the potential traffic impact of the development, Cuckler said that, perhaps, there would need to be road widenings or lanes added to accommodate additional traffic. However, he said discussions on traffic plans would take place down the road if plans for the development progress.
Wednesday’s meeting will be held virtually and will begin at 7:30 p.m. Details on how to register for the meeting or access the live stream can be found by visiting www.libertytwp.org/calendar and clicking on Wednesday’s zoning commission meeting.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.