Washington Twp. voters handily rejected the controversial Hithergreen redevelopment plan while overwhelmingly approving a renewal issue and a replacement levy on Tuesday.
Washington Twp. trustees in September of 2017 approved a rezoning of the township-owned land at 5900 Hithergreen Drive as part of a deal to sell the property for $250,000 to developer Tom Peebles.
Peebles planned to divide the nearly 15 acres of land into green space and 30 residential lots.
Residents placed Issue 15, a rezoning referendum, on the ballot to prevent the township zoning plan from going through.
Ballot language for the proposed zoning amendment was as follows: “To amend the zoning of the real property located at 5900 Hithergreen Drive which includes approximately 14.889 acres. The existing zoning for the property is R-4, Single-Family Residential. The proposed amendment would zone the property PD-R, Planned Development Residential for a single-family development. Shall the zoning amendment as adopted by Washington Township be approved?”
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, unofficial results from the Montgomery County Board of Elections showed Issue 15 with 5,630 “no” votes and 2,158 “yes” votes.
Resident Brian Feldmeyer said neighbors want the Hithergreen property to become a park and they value green space. He added that the residents opposing the redevelopment were thankful to all the voters in other precincts who also rejected the issue.
“We’ve always used Hithergreen as our green space,” Feldmeyer said. “It was also a statement about zoning changes in Washington Township. We want our elected officials to listen to us. There were always dramatic zoning changes with this issue and we rejected it. We are happy that 3-out-of 4 voters agreed with us.”
Peebles said last week that “on May 9” he would digest the results of the election and think about what his next move on the project would be. He told this news outlet Wednesday that the voters were clear on the issue.
“We will look at what our next move will be and look at what our options are,” Peebles said. “I just don’t know at this point what that will be. We will come up with a plan and go from there.”
Voters approved Issue 17, a 4.65-mill Fire/EMS five-year renewal levy that does not increase tax rates. The levy costs the owner of a $100,000 home $132 per year.
The levy will generate about $7.96 million in the first year and will fund about 68 percent of the fire department’s operating expenses, according to township officials. It will enable the fire department to maintain a positive balance through 2021, according to township officials.
Unofficial results showed Issue 17 passed easily by a count of 10,018 to 3,004 votes.
Issue 16, a five-year recreation replacement levy that increases the millage from 0.7 to 1 mill, also passed. The annual cost for the owner of a $100,000 home will now rise from a rate of $21.95 to $35, according to Jacqueline Curl, public information manager for the township.
The levy will generate about $640,800 per year in additional revenue, while providing about $1.84 million in the first year, according to township officials. This is the first millage increase in 25 years. Voters approved the original levy in 1988.
The additional revenue now approved, will help the township expand services to senior citizens at the Rec West Enrichment Center, according to township officials.
Officials say senior programming cost $185,000 in 2017, but the current tax millage was established before the township began providing services at Rec West when the township was tasked with adding services after the Hithergreen Center closed.
Issue 16 passed easily, with unofficial results showing it received 7,852 votes to 5,126.
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