Clayton voters make peace with city


CLAYTON — Residents of Ward 1 that led a campaign to place a referendum on the March 19 ballot which resulted in citizens voting against a proposed residential development in the rural area north of Route 40, attended the March 21 city council meeting not to gloat over their victory, but to offer their desire to work with the city for the benefit of all.

Voters overwhelmingly defeated Issue 4, a plan to redevelop 43 acres of farm land into a residential subdivision along Phillipsburg-Union and Haber roads.

Issue 4 was defeated by a wide margin in all 10 precincts. Residents cast 2,423 no votes with only 715 voting yes.

Prior to residents addressing council on March 21, Councilmember Greg Merkle proposed that the city put in writing what type of development is acceptable or not acceptable north of Route 40.

“A lot of comments were made at public sessions and I think those comments and concerns should be brought into this as far as what can and can’t be built, or what is not wanted,” Merkle said. “This way it gives us a starting point for a firm understanding of what that area is not desired to be so there is no misunderstanding of what was done in the past, what is currently here and what might be present here in the future.”

Merkle proposed discussing this in a work session in order to address the issue to see if there is a need to formally adopt an ordinance and get it on the books.

Mayor Mike Stevens agreed with Merkle.

“If we would have had such a document it probably would have made everything a lot easier,” Stevens said. “But it also stretches beyond that because there is a lot of planning and research that has been done like in the Plan Clayton document that would have to be examined also at the same time.”

City Manager Amanda Zimmerlin stated the first step would be looking at the legality of whether or not the city is able to prohibit people that own property of coming to the city to request a zoning change.

Haber Road resident Jeremy Blanford thanked council for giving residents the opportunity to bring Issue 4 to the ballot for public vote.

“We knew we had support going in. We had no idea the support we had behind it,” Blanford said. “We as a community hope that each of you saw and heard our voice.”

Blanford also brought up the failure of Issue 5, which sought a 1 percent increase to the city’s existing 1.5 percent income tax while restoring a 100 percent tax credit.

Blanford stated that he was an outspoken proponent of Issue 5, which failed by 133 votes. He stated that if Issue 5 goes back on the ballot in November, council would have to address “a big elephant in the room.”

Blanford said it was the most common topic brought up when he spoke to residents at the poll and online, specifically Meadowbrook at Clayton, the city’s public golf course and banquet facility.

“A lot of the residents are tired of putting money into it,” Blanford said. He noted the discussion of taking a resource officer out of the school and putting him on road patrol made residents angry when the city put more money into Meadowbrook.

He felt the city would have to answer some tough questions about Meadowbrook if it hopes to pass Issue 5 in November. Blanford offered to help promote Issue 5 and offered to help Merkle put on paper guidelines for the rural area.

“We are more than willing to help,” Blanford stated.

Dr. Doug Bias who headed the ‘Keep it Rural’ campaign also addressed council.

“While I am extremely pleased with the results of the past election as it pertains to Issue 4 in particular, I am not here to gloat before you today,” Bias stated. “It’s not my intention, or really any of our intentions to be a thorn in the city’s side just for the sake of being a thorn or even a nuisance.”

Bias said he recognizes the issues the city is facing and the tough decisions that each member of council has to make and that he did not envy that.

He noted that after growing up in Huber Heights, living Oakwood and Kettering, he chose to locate in the rural area of Clayton for a reason.

“I work in emergency departments all across the Miami Valley and I could have chosen anywhere to live,” Bias said. “My parents, my brother all live in Springboro but I chose to come up here for a reason and I am very happy to be a resident here.”

He stated that he and others were insulted when the representative of Arbor Homes scoffed at residents’ concerns and his claim that people don’t want land or yards, which Bias stated was outright false.

He cited the fact that two new homes have recently been built on sizeable lots on Phillipsburg-Union and Old Mill roads. One couple chose to build there even though they commute to work in Columbus.

Bias said the residents in the rural area do not completely oppose development, but that it needs to be done in a smart and consistent way.

He noted the ‘Keep it Rural’ PAC is continuing to grow in size and is much more organized than it was one year ago.

“We will continue to fight to preserve the rural feel of the northern parts of the city and will outright oppose any similar development,” Bias said. “However, we don’t wish to be an enemy of the city’s government and we would like to work with you to help solve the issues just as others have stated tonight.”

Bias added that there is a win-win situation out there. A situation that is a win for a seller of land, a win for the city itself as a whole, and win for those that live in the immediate surrounding area.

“We intend to work towards finding that particular situation and hope to work with the seller to find a mutually beneficial solution,” Bias said. “We have already reached out to the sellers and hope we can all come together in this effort.”

Reach Ron Nunnari at (937) 684-9124 or email [email protected].

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