Bellbrook declines land sale for snow-tubing mountain idea

The Kircher family is looking to create Bellbrook Mountain snowtubing, skiing, snowboarding and sledding on family land that includes a steep wooded hillside already carved with trails. This aerial view looking west shows the hillside. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
The Kircher family is looking to create Bellbrook Mountain snowtubing, skiing, snowboarding and sledding on family land that includes a steep wooded hillside already carved with trails. This aerial view looking west shows the hillside. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Bellbrook City Council rejected the idea of a snow-tubing mountain as originally proposed, and the owner of the land in question says he and his family are considering selling the property to a developer.

“Council did not feel that a 200-car parking lot on top of a wellfield protection area in close proximity to an active well and adjacent to our water plant was an ideal use of the land,” Bellbrook Mayor Mike Schweller said in an email Wednesday.

Land owner Steve Kircher said he and his family are weighing their next steps.

One possibility: Selling the property to a developer.

“The obvious potential buyer for such a property would be a developer since it’s the last undeveloped open space in the city of Bellbrook,” Kircher said this week.

The site has utility and road access already stubbed up to it.

“It’s ready for development,” said Kircher, a retired physician.

The Kircher family has owned the nearly 100-acre property — a former well field on the west side of South Main Street — for well over 40 years, and the family has long enjoyed the area for its own uses. He first approached Bellbrook City Council with the idea in the spring of 2019.

But Kircher needed city cooperation for the proposal as first presented. The idea would involve city-owned land, primarily for the site’s proposed parking and entrance. Kircher had asked the city for about 15 acres leased or sold for a 200-space parking lot and access off Waynesville Road (South Main Street in city limits).

In a private executive session last month, council rejected the idea of selling the land.

“As you are aware, the land you are interested in is located in our wellfield protection area,” City Manager Melissa Dodd said in a June 15 letter to Kircher. “Significant discussion has occurred surrounding the importance and fragility of the land in this area. As a result of these significant discussions, city council wishes to maintain ownership of the land and has directed me to convey those intentions with you.”

Dodd added in that letter: “It is important to note that the city-owned land proposal is completely separate from your proposed business plan and the city hopes that you continue to pursue your venture.”

In an email to the Dayton Daily News Tuesday, Dodd said the city encouraged Kircher to modify the plan so that it didn’t involve city land.

“The city’s conclusion to not pursue the sale request of nearly 16 acres of land in our wellfield area was in no way an assessment or opinion on the business concept of Bellbrook Mountain,” Dodd said in the email. “The city encouraged the proprietors of Bellbrook Mountain to reconfigure their plan to contain it on their nearly 80 acres of land they currently own.”

As of Tuesday, there have been no permit applications submitted on behalf of the business itself and the city only received the request for land, Dodd added.

“Any alternative uses of the land would be considered during a rezoning process,” she said. “The city is realistic in that property owners have rights, and we will work with them and the community at large.”

Kircher said he spoke with Sugarcreek Twp. officials about moving access to the land to Ferry Road, which is adjacent to the site but just outside city limits.

But that wouldn’t solve the problem, as Kircher sees it.

“We still needed three to five acres for a run-out area for the snow-tubing part, which would still need to be located on the city of Bellbrook land,” he said.

The area has four houses and a barn on site, he also said.

“We’re considering putting a sign up saying, ‘For sale,’ and seeing what kind of market there is for having it developed,” Kircher said.

Another possibility is keeping the land and continuing to pay for its upkeep.

“You know, that could be substantial,” he said.