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Published: Wednesday, 8/3/2011

Neighbors wary of revisions to Sylvania Twp. subdivision

Traffic problems at entry, potential for flooding cited

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Proposed changes to a subdivision plan Sylvania Township trustees approved four years ago have neighbors worried about potential flooding if the 42-acre site is developed and about traffic at its lone entrance on Sylvania Avenue.

The so-called Rivertree subdivision on the south side of Sylvania west of Herr Road and almost directly across from Mitchaw Road had 92 lots along a chain of cul-de-sacs stretching a half-mile south along the east bank of Ten Mile Creek under the Planned Unit Development approval granted in 2007.

But a flood-zone map revision adopted since then by the Federal Emergency Management Agency rendered about one-third of those lots unbuildable, and that, combined with the housing industry's collapse, has meant that the only work done so far has been earth-moving.

Doug Wamsher, president of Millstream Development Co., and consultant Don Feller of Feller, Finch & Associates, last week described new plans for the subdivision that call for either 103 lots or 75 lots, depending on size and suitability for multiunit "zero lot-line" development.

The revised concept pushes all construction out of the "floodway" area designated by FEMA, leaving that to account for most of 15.6 acres of open space on the parcel.

But it also repositions the entrance road directly along the property line of Greg and Margie Langenderfer, whose attorney, Richard Malone, objected to the lack of a buffer and to the possibility of a roundabout being built at Sylvania and Mitchaw.

Along with the traffic issue, other neighbors said their main concern was that housing development would worsen flooding that occurs often in the area.

"The water is the big thing," said Randy Miller, another nearby resident on Sylvania Avenue. "When they start building these houses, it's going to be dammed up. There's not one year when that field's not under water. And the traffic is going to be ridiculous."

Chris Hamady, also of Sylvania Avenue, agreed, saying, "I have never seen that field in the spring less than 33 percent under water. If I incur any damage [because of this development], will they guarantee financial restitution? … "

"Who's going to be liable? We have never had a flood reach our house, but it's 20 more feet" before that happens, he said.

Township fire department representatives said their main problem with the new plan was the long dead-end road serving most of the property. Fire department policy is to have two ways into any major development as a precaution against one of those routes being blocked by an accident or other emergency.

Township trustees deferred any action on the proposal until their Aug. 16 meeting after Mr. Wamsher and Mr. Finch said they would address some of the issues.

Mr. Wamsher said that if any of the large-lot property owners along Herr have plans to subdivide, the Rivertree road plan could be revised to direct a road toward the appropriate property line as a future second access. He also said he would allow the Lang- enderfers to run their driveway onto the Rivertree road so that they could plant buffer trees along their Sylvania frontage to screen against any roundabout. The roadway would be a county engineer project rather than something done for the subdivision.

Because current regulations require any fill for construction to be taken from elsewhere on the parcel, the water-retention capacity in the "open space" won't change, Mr. Wamsher told the flood-wary neighbors.

Although the plans submitted to the township showed as many as 150 dwellings, Mr. Wamsher promised a maximum of 110. John Jennewine, the township trustees' chairman, asked to have that pledge documented on the drawings. He also asked the developer to commit to providing a landscaped buffer for any multiunit lots that would border neighboring property.

The trustees' regulatory hands are "somewhat tied" because the site already has an approved development plan, Mr. Jennewine said, adding that he considers the revised plan "an improvement on what was there."

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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