Lebanon rezoning land set for industrial use for housing along US 42 corridor

Development focus along Warren County corridor shifts to residential

On Tuesday, the Lebanon City Council is holding public hearings on a proposed change to its long-range plan and rezoning of 64 acres for a developer hoping to turn it into an extension of the Highlands at Heritage Hill housing development, where the 2018 Greater Cincinnati Homearama is to be held.

“This piece of property is where the broader vision for the Highlands started,” developer Mike Williams said last week before taking a reporter on a tour of the Homerama area and optioned land, between U.S. 42 and Columbia Road in Union Twp.

RELATED: Developer to option 65 acres from Lebanon for residential development

Rezoning the land to fit Williams’ vision and changing the city’s long-range plan to reflect the different use would also reflect an about-face by Lebanon city leaders, which in 2014 fought residential rezoning of land just south on U.S. 42 since annexed by Mason and now the site of a sprawling residential community.

The community taking shape just south of the land under option from Lebanon, known as Ambleside Meadows, is across U.S. 42 from land Mason acquired in negotiations accomplishing the annexation. Mason is hoping to develop this land for economic development.

RELATED: Mason, Lebanon vie for sewer service

Lebanon City Manager Scott Brunka said the changes reflected development patterns along the corridor, as well as limitations to the land’s industrial development.

“Over the past several years, the development pattern around this 64.91 acres off of U.S. 42 has been going in the direction of residential development. This property contains multiple federally designated wetlands, which makes industrial development of the property very unlikely.

RELATED: Mason to annex 414 acres along U.S. 42

“The proposed development plan for this property includes a mix of both residential and commercial uses, with significant green space buffering between the existing Industrial uses,” Brunka said in a series of emails.

The proposed development - which sets aside two acres of land along the front on U.S. 42 for future commercial development - would also reinforce Lebanon’s indefinite commitment to buy water, rather than produce their own, with the sale of land once held for well fields.

It would cover about 200 acres, with frontage on U.S. 42 and Columbia Road.

RELATED: Mason to yield to Lebanon for sewer service of new subdivision

Lebanon, which wound up with the sewer service when the smoke cleared in a struggle with Mason over the development of Ambleside and the other land now held by Mason for future commercial development, will provide utilities to the new section.

The Homearama section is to remain in the township, while the new section would be in Lebanon, subject to local income tax. Those living in the Homearama section in the township will pay higher utility rates.

Last Tuesday, the city council discussed the proposed changes and is expected to vote on the changes sought for the new section on May 22.

In addition to opening up 17 more home lots, Williams said the plan is to bring a bike trail currently coming to a halt on U.S. 42 at the Ambleside property line up through the development, connecting the two sections.

The main entrance to the section under construction is from a winding road off Columbia Road.

Last week, workers were busy on several of the 10 homes to be featured in the Homearama, scheduled to open on Saturday, July 21 and run through Aug. 5.

The development is named for a spur “Highland” rail route trains once took in times of high water along the tracks, which cross nearby at Hageman’s Crossing, named for a reverend who lived there with his family, according to Williams.

RELATED: Development eating into Warren County township

Williams, who grew up in Lebanon and lives near the new development, said seven of the 43 homes - 40 already sold - were permitted for multi-generational construction.

He provided a sneak peek at a subterranean passage connecting the separate living quarters in one before climbing to the crow’s nest of another.

Williams pointed to the land optioned from Lebanon, standing on the platform for the crow’s nest of a home to be shared by a retired Beavercreek couple and their daughter and son-in-law’s young family, now living in West Chester Twp.

“We’re looking forward to moving here with our family and experiencing their whole life - which will keep us very young,” Mark Kelly of Beavercreek said.

MORE: 1,400-acre multi-generational development coming to Warren County retirement community

MORE: Development billed as center for multi-generational community seeks another subsidy 

“We’ll help take care of their young ones now and they’ll take care of us when we’re older,” his wife, Nancy Kelly, added.

A pool area, refurbished old barn and agricultural land will be shared by the community.

The homes, some expected to be valued at as much as $2 million, should generate enough property tax to support additional burdens on the local district, the Kings Local Schools, Williams said.

Beyond that, he referred questions about the loss of economic development to local leaders and said new housing was what people were asking for.

“It’s less about where they are working and more about where they are living,” he said.

As he drove later through the former farm field optioned from Lebanon - once part of the Elijiah Rapp farm - Williams recalled the old farmer’s advice: “Persistence pays, Mike.”

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