Springboro council to determine the future of $265M Easton Farm development

After months of controversy through the preliminary planning and rezoning process, Springboro City Council will hold a public hearing this week that will determine the future development of the $265 million Easton Farm project.

Council will hear from opponents and proponents of the proposed 103-acre Easton Farm development located at 605 N. Main St./Ohio 741.

The public hearing on the proposed 103-acre Easton Farm development will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Council Chambers at the Springboro City Building, 320 W. Central Ave. The public hearing will be limited to a total of 30 minutes in which proponents will get 15 minutes and opponents will get 15 minutes.

There will also be one fewer council member hearing, participating in the discussion or voting on the proposed development. Deputy Mayor Janie Ridd announced at the Aug. 5 meeting that Ohio ethics laws prohibit her from the discussion and vote on the Easton Farm development because she lives about 300 feet from there.

On June 9, the Springboro Planning Commission approved the proposed rezoning and the preliminary Planned Unit Development/Mixed Use plan located at 605 N. Main St./Ohio 741.

At that meeting, the development project included three land use components, commercial, multi-family, and single-family areas, with permitted land uses in each.

The proposal included 519 dwelling units—apartments, townhomes, and single-family residences—on 89 acres of land, for a development density of 5.83 units per acre. The plan also included 22.89 acres of open space, 25.72 percent of the residential land area.

According to the City’s 2009 Land Use Plan, Policy Area 3, North SR 741 Corridor, recommends development up to six to eight units per acre when a minimum of 25% open space is provided. The current R-1 zoning for the site allows up to two dwelling units per acre.

The Easton Farm property is operated as a farm and includes two single-family residences. About 16 acres of the farmstead will be retained.

According to city documents, the development project was filed by Easton Farm Partners in February and was reviewed by the city Planning Commission at its meetings on March 10, April 14, May 12 and June 9 meetings.

During the process, developer Larry Dillin removed a parking garage as well as lowering the multi-family housing from four stories to three stories and tweaked other aspects as a result from meetings with neighboring residents.

The proposed plan has drawn the ire of neighboring residents who are adamantly opposed to the high-density that the multi-family housing will create for the adjoining neighborhoods and the city. Opposing residents have organized themselves with online petitions and forums, information sharing as well as packing the council chamber and speaking up at council and planning commission meetings expressing their concerns. They have also met with Dillin to express concerns about the project’s preliminary plans.

At the public comments segment of the Aug. 5 council meeting, Dillin gave council an update on the renovation and restoration of the historic Aron Wright House where he has located his business. Councilman John Hanson thanked for his efforts with the house on the National Register of Historic Places, and broached the Easton Farm topic. Based on the feedback he received from residents, Hanson, who does not oppose multi-family housing, suggested that Dillin consider removing the multi-family aspect of the development project.

Another councilman and Mayor John Agenbroad also made the same suggestions because that is feedback they were getting from residents. Agenbroad said to Dillin: “sharpen your pencil more and get rid of multi-family to bring in more high-end restaurants that everyone wants.”

On Aug. 6, Dillin told the Dayton Daily News that “We’ve actually been studying options on continuing to refine the plan for a while now. We discussed our thinking on removing the multi-family at a public Springboro Rotary meeting back in June.”

He said they are listening carefully to feedback from the community just as City Council has.

“However, it’s not as simple as taking an eraser to the plan and removing the multi-family building,” he said. “Not only did the market study show tremendous demand for multi-family in the Springboro market, but we need to continue to study the impact on leasing restaurant space if we remove the multi-family as well as the tax revenues to support schools and city services.”

Dillin said they must achieve an appropriate balance to create a sustainable project with lasting positive community impact.

“The refinements suggested at last night’s council meeting, to us, was a reinforcement that working collaboratively with city leadership will yield the best result for the community, which is and has always been our goal as the developer and as residents of this community,” Dillin said.

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