When Larry Gamble moved to his home in Monclova Township in 1989, he could look out the back windows and see trees and deer.
The view has changed. Now days, when he looks out his back windows and his side windows too, he sees houses.
“Quite a few homes have gone in there in 10 years,” said Mr. Gamble, chairman of the township's zoning commission that has approved changes that often allow homes to replace farmland.
Indeed, hundreds of homes have been constructed in the last few years, and hundreds more are in the planning stages. Since 1990, a total of 3,634 single-family homes, villas, and multi-family units on a total of about 1,937 acres have been approved, helping to make Monclova Township the fastest growing area in Lucas County during the 1990s.
The developments, which are in various stages of completion, carry names such as Quail Hollow, Crimson Hollow, Deer Valley, Wrenwood, Olde Farm, Crosscreek Woods, and Strayer Farms.
The names conjure up bucolic scenes. Rustic homes nestled along gently rolling countryside. Peaceful places filled with flora and fauna. Whistling birds, babbling brooks.
Whatever the name or image, the housing developments are threatening the character of the township, some residents argue.
“People want growth to slow down,” said Jackie Ankenbrandt, one of 15 residents who have circulated petitions to force a township vote on a recently approved subdivision.
And two trustees, elected last year on a platform of slowing growth, tried recently to enact a 90-moratorium on housing developments to give trustees time to study infrastructure needs. The move was later rescinded because some said it was illegal.
Trustee Brian Scilzo, who with Keith Trettin tried to implement the moratorium, said Monday night that he believes that the township's land-use study should be reviewed. If residents want change, they need to convince all of the trustees, he said, noting that he feels “like the Lone Ranger” because of his views on growth in the township. His motion for a three-month moratorium was defeated by a 2-1 vote last week with Trustee Gary Kuns and Mr. Trettin voting no.
Some residents say they are frustrated because the new trustees - Mr. Trettin and Mr. Scilzo - cannot override the vote of Mr. Kuns, who has been a trustee for 18 years, on zoning matters.
Last month a zoning change was approved on a 1-2 vote for a subdivision on 36 acres along U.S. 20A near Butz Road. The trustees needed a unanimous vote to stop the zoning change, which was recommended by the township's zoning commission. Mr. Kuns voted in favor of the zoning change; Mr. Trettin and Mr. Scilzo voted against it.
Ms. Ankenbrandt helped get petitions signed by 328 residents opposing that change. The petitions were submitted to the township clerk Monday. If the referendum petition is certified, the zoning issue will go on the ballot in November.
If trustees continue to approve zoning changes for more and more subdivisions or other developments, voters could wind up casting ballots for more than one referendum issue this fall, she said.
Some residents worry that taxes could increase if more classrooms are needed in the Anthony Wayne schools. Enrollment in the district has increased from 3,366 in June, 1998, to 3,582 last month - a 6 percent increase, according to figures provided by Susan Cross, district spokeswoman.
Based on calculations by school officials, enrollment increases by 0.79 student per home built in the AW district, she said.
At the Monclova Primary School, where the number of students jumped from 274 in 1998 to 350 this year, an expansion project was completed in August, 2001. A community room, kitchen, teacher work areas, and seven classrooms were added.
Groundbreaking is scheduled this spring at the junior high building where four classrooms will be added.
At the high school, a technology wing is under construction. Eight classrooms are being added, and storage and classroom areas are being expanded for art, vocational agriculture, physical education, industrical technology, guidance offices, and athletic offices.
The construction work at the schools, funded by a $13.7 million bond issue approved by voters in March, 2000, is “proactive in anticipation of area growth,” Mrs. Cross stated, who noted that AW officials are analyzing the financial impact of the growth to overall operating expenses, such as salaries, utility bills, and textbooks, but has not offered its final projections on this.
Growth likely will continue because the township still is an attractive place to live, officials said. The township's population jumped 48 per cent from 1990 to 2000.
Mr. Gamble said he is concerned about the shifting population in Lucas County as more and more people move to Monclova, Springfield, and Sylvania townships. “Where are they coming from? That concerns me. It is not good for the whole area if the central area collapses,” he said.
If growth slows in Monclova Township, it could be the result of efforts to preserve farmland, Mr. Gamble said, but he added that he doesn't know how the preservation of farmland can be assured when farmers can make more money selling their land than raising crops.