Greene County: Trees stand in way of potential development in Xenia

More than 16 acres of mature trees are slated to come down this fall on vacant land that’s been set aside for commercial development in Xenia, but the trees might be home to an endangered species, and not everyone feels cutting them down is necessary.

The dense tree stand sits among 155 acres of empty space owned by Greene County that is referred to as the OVCH Park, or Ohio Veterans Children’s Home Park. It is an Ohio Certified Site ready for development located between Innovation Drive and U.S. 35, east of Ohio 380.

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The goal of cutting down and harvesting the trees is “to facilitate vision of business owners who may be considering the location,” said Greene County Administrator Brandon Huddleson.

“It is also a time-saver, should someone decide to purchase the property for development, as the parcel will be clear of trees,” Huddleson said.

Greene County Development Director Paul Newman Jr. said the site is zoned to allow for heavy industrial activity, which includes manufacturing and production, research and development or laboratories.

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Newman said with the infrastructure that’s already in place, such as water, sewer, electric, telephone lines and wireless access, the site is shovel ready for a developer, except for the 16.5 acres of trees.

“This site is unique in that it is the only site the board of county commissioners owns that has been improved and is being marketed as an industrial park site,” Newman said. “It is also currently the largest site in the county with approximately 155 acres.”

County officials said they do not have an estimated cost of logging the site. Newman said the wood will be harvested, and that revenue will offset the costs of cleaning up the site after the logging is done.

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County officials have been working with the Ohio Division of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because the trees have been identified as a potential habitat for the Indiana brown bat, an endangered species under the protection of state and federal agencies.

Because of the potential presence of the bat, the logging will have to happen between October and March, which is before and after the bat’s mating season.

Kim McCarthy, a citizen who is part of a watchdog group called the Greene County Progressives, thinks cutting the trees down to help a potential developer see the possibilities on the land “is a bit of a waste.”

McCarthy said she has asked county leaders for details about how much the county has invested to install infrastructure on the site, yet “there’s not a single building on that 1-mile road.”

“I don’t understand why they’re doing this,” McCarthy said. “People care about money more than they do trees. It’s going to be a waste.”

The county is seeking bids from contractors to harvest the trees, and the sealed proposals will be opened on the deadline day July 18.

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