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109-acre sports park clears another hurdle

The Warren County Board of Commissioners signed off Tuesday on plans for the $15 million county sports park to be built at Union Village, a 1,200-acre development to take shape in coming decades west of Lebanon.

» RELATED:Union Village another step closer to reality

The commissioners approved the plan for the part of Union Village where the park is to to be built on 109 acres off Ohio 741 and Greentree Road.

Two hours later they approved, with a dozen conditions, a site plan for the land to be transferred by Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices, developers of Union Village, to the county for the project.

The votes came after a week’s delay prompted by opposition from residents of New England Way, a street across Greentree Road from a section of the park.

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“We are conceding. It’s happening. Help us out here,” said resident Barry Nuss on Tuesday during a pubic hearing of more than two hours.

The conditions are expected to ensure the roads are sufficient and safe before the sports park, to include about 2,000 parking spots, opens next year. Other conditions are to keep lights from poles at the park and cars entering and existing the complex from disturbing residents on New England Way and other nearby streets.

Still undecided are what, if any, improvements will be needed to manage traffic on weekends when the baseball, soccer and other sports tournaments are in play. Or how many or the exact location of driveways into the segment of the complex on Greentree Road.

Consultants from the Kleingers Group said only 20 percent of traffic is expected to use Greentree Road, but withheld how many cars this was projected to equate to.

The commissioners added a condition designating the address on Ohio 741 in hopes of keeping the bulk of the visitors off Greentree, but New England Way residents predicted GPS systems and human nature would draw drivers to the shortest route, regardless of the address designated by the county.

Also still unresolved was whether one of the driveways would be shared with the Turtlecreek Twp. Park just west on Greentree Road. It remained unclear if another proposed driveway at the east end of this park section - across from New England Way - would be needed or a 150-space parking lot at the end of the complex would be developed or left as a buffer for adjoining residential properties.

Before any dirt is moved, the project still needs to satisfy county staff, as well as the Ohio Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration, since the county airport is also near the Greentree section.

“Nothing you are going to say is going to change our opinion,” Commissioner Dave Young said as Alan Wolfson, of the Warren County Airport board, began to raise questions. “You might as well sit down.”

Wolfson sat down and the meeting moved toward the second unanimous vote.

Tuesday’s meeting was the last opportunity in the permitting process for the commissioners to weigh in on the sports complex.

They have yet to approve a 1-percent hike in the lodgings tax to be used by the operators, the Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau, to finance the project.

RELATED: Tea party opposes lodgings tax hike for Warren County sports complex

On April 25, the Turtlecreek Twp. trustees are expected to approve tax sharing and the formation of a new community authority to help offset costs of Union Village’s development, maintenance and operation.

Then Otterbein is to give the sports park land to the county. Otherwise the land can be turned to more than 400 of the 4,500 residences permitted at Union Village.

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While creating problems for neighbors and fueling traffic problems on already busy roads, Commissioner Shannon Jones said the project - designed to bring in sports competitors and other tourists from around the country and overseas - would be a “net gain for our entire county.”

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