CLAYTON — After a majority of Clayton city council members ignored pleas by residents not to approve plans for a residential development in the northeast section of the city, those residents organized to fight the housing project.
They worked to get signatures to place a referendum on the ballot. The number of valid signatures required for the referendum was 595. Residents gathered 1,030 valid signatures.
The referendum was filed against Clayton Ordinance O-05-23-08 which adopted the planning commission’s recommendation to approve a preliminary development plan for Salem Springs on 42.99 acres located south of Phillipsburg-Union Road and on the east side of Haber Road.
During the merger process between Randolph Township and the Village of Clayton, elected officials at that time made verbal promises to keep the rural area of the township preserved, but nothing was put in writing.
When residents pointed that out at city council meetings, the movement to preserve the city’s rural character began to gain momentum.
Signs started popping up in yards saying, ‘Keep it Rural’ and ‘Keep North Clayton Rural’ as well as others.
Residents living in that area packed Clayton council meetings to voice their opposition to the plan. Council’s indifference caused one affected resident to decide to make a run for office.
Michael Ryan Farmer, who goes by Ryan, will be running for a council seat in Ward 1 against current councilman Dennis Lieberman. He will appear on the November 7 ballot as M. Ryan Farmer.
He said one of the main reasons he got involved to oppose the development was the water runoff from that area, which can already cause flooding issues. Farmer has a creek running through his property in the 11700 block of Old Mill Road and the flood water can cause damage.
“I am in it now more so for the people down the road. Their houses actually flood,” Farmer said. “They don’t just have a creek; the water comes up to their house.”
Farmer credited his wife with coming up with the slogan, ‘Keep it Rural.’
“That is sort of a hook. What is ‘it?’ It, seems to be resonating with all of Clayton,” Farmer noted. “Because ‘it’ south in Clayton means something different, especially right by Summersweet Drive where the Hunter’s Path development is going in. It is sort of a positive message, ‘Keep it Rural,’ and it is engaging. People start asking questions.”
Farmer said the reason he decided to run for office was partly due to the response he was getting from city council.
“Partly concerns, and partly not liking the answers I was getting from council made me decide to run for office,” he said. “A couple of folks over on Haber expressed an interest to run. I also knew they had demands in their lives. My wife and I are empty nesters and I just retired out of the Air Force Reserve, so I had a little more time.”
He still holds down a full-time position at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as an analyst. The kind of analysis he performs helps equip senior decision makers with information to make better decisions.
So, he agonized over the decision to seek office for a couple of weeks.
“I decided I need to do this, not just for folks on Old Mill, but also for the community,” Farmer said.
While Farmer will be on the November ballot, the referendum initiative would not appear until the March 2024 ballot, which would coincide with presidential primary.
However, if Clayton council votes to repeal the ordinance for the proposed development the referendum would be resolved and no vote by residents would be needed. If the city does not repeal the ordinance, the referendum would appear on the March 2024 ballot for a vote by city residents.
As far as his bid for office, Farmer said he has received overwhelming support from residents living in Ward 1 north of U.S. 40. Ward 1 also extends to the west and south to Westbrook Road where the existing Bayberry Trails subdivision is located and where the new Hunter’s Path development is being built.
“In order to get a taste of Ward 1, I went to the other end where Summersweet Drive is located, and I found those residents were not too keen about having a second exit from their plat,” Farmer noted.
The second exit is connected to the Hunter’s Path subdivision.
The effort to preserve the rural character of Clayton has gained a lot of momentum as yard signs have appeared in other areas of the city that aren’t so rural.
Reach Ron Nunnari by email at [email protected].