What seemed like a routine request for a zoning change to allow for construction of a housing development in Springfield Township has led to a likely referendum on the May ballot.
Some see it as a vote by residents not only on the site in question, but on whether there is a general attitude opposing growth in the township.
More than 1,000 signatures have been collected on a petition asking township trustees to reverse the planning commission's approval of a zoning change for a parcel of about 18 acres at 6901 Garden Rd. The property, east of Holloway Road, was zoned from large-lot residential to single-family residential, which allows for three to five housing units per acre.
Charles Grass, who seeks to develop the property, said that any fewer lots would not make economic sense. If the development plan fails, he said he'll consider an agricultural use allowed by the current zoning.
He erected a sign with a depiction of pigs on a farm field on one side and of a home on the other. It reads: "You Choose - One Or The Other.''
"I don't want to do it. I don't want it to come to that, but it's a half-million-dollar piece of land,'' he said.
It's not a large enough property for farming, but the current zoning would allow raising animals or poultry. He said some residents view that possible use as a threat, "but I don't want to fuel the flames. It's not a threat,'' he said.
Robbin Syrek of Garden Road said the petitions he began to circulate are specific only to the proposed residential project, but acknowledged that some of those signing petitions may be voicing a general attitude opposing growth.
He said his immediate concern is that any growth on Garden Road will increase traffic on a road becoming overburdened with traffic. Development puts a further strain on other facets of the community's infrastructure as well as on the school system, he said. And, there are broader issues to be considered.
The local real estate market is slow and the proposed development on Garden will take another piece of farmland out of production, Mr. Syrek said.
He questioned whether it's wise to allow development to continue to move outward while there are homes and other properties closer to the area's center that could be rehabilitated.
The petitions have been sub-mitted to the township trustees who must forward them to the Lucas County Board of Elections. If the board certifies sufficient valid signatures on the petition, the issue will be on the May primary ballot.
The planning commissions of Lucas County and the township recommended approval for the zoning change requested by Mr. Grass, doing business as Kountryside Land Development of Whitehouse.
The approval would allow for development of 51 housing sites. Any development, however, is on hold until after the referendum issue is resolved.
Mr. Grass said his development is within the master land-use plan guidelines adopted by the township.
Township trustees Bob Bethel and Andy Glenn voted against the rezoning, but Marylin Yoder voted in support of the recommendation from the commissions. A unanimous vote is required for trustees to overturn the township zoning commission recommendation.
Mr. Bethel, chairman of the trustees, acknowledged the residential development is in line with the township's master plan and that it is a "logical'' use for the parcel. He said he voted against it because he didn't think the developer's plans were best suited for the neighborhood. He said he would have preferred that the applicant request a planned unit development that would have allowed township officials to require some changes.
Lack of greenspace and the developer's unwillingness to build fencing or some buffer along the western edge of the property were two aspects he objected to in the plan that was presented, Mr. Bethel said.
Mr. Syrek said that at this point, he and others who oppose the development are letting the process move toward placing the issue on the May ballot. He said there are no plans to mount a campaign in connection with the ballot issue.