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Leaders want to plan future of ‘prime’ Warren County land

A group of Warren County residents and officials has begun planning the future of a 25-square mile area in the path of development growing together Dayton and Cincinnati.

The Eastern Turtleccreek Plan is expected to map out the preferred land uses, roads, open space and commercial development of the 16,000 acre study area. Today the area is east of Lebanon and west of the Little Miami River is primarily farm land.

“Lots of farms, lots of prime farmland,” Turtlecreek Twp. Trustee Jon Sams said. “By good fortune, it gives us the opportunity to be a part of the growing region and still enjoy all these great things about Turtlecreek Township.”

RELATED: Construction has started on massive development in Warren County

Turtlecreek Twp. encompasses the racino and prisons just east of Interstate 75 on Ohio 63 and the Pilot Flying J truck stop at Ohio 123 and Interstate 71.

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It also includes the Warren County Sports Park and Union Village, a 1,400-acre planned community under construction, west of Lebanon near Ohio 741 and Ohio 63. More than 15,000 people live in the township.

The area under study stretches around the city of Lebanon east from Ohio 48 as far north as Ohio 73.

It crosses Interstate 71 near the area around the Fort Ancient Earthworks and Nature Preserve. Fruit farms, parks, agritourism and YMCA’s Camp Kern are also within its boundaries.

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The plan is the latest in a series designed to chart the future for all 65 square miles of the township.

Read Turtlecreek Crossroads Plan

Last week, regional planning staffers met with a citizen committee expected to help shape the plan with community input leading to approval in 18 months by township trustees and county commissioners.

Sen. Rob Portman, whose family owns the Golden Lamb Inn in Lebanon, and Lebanon City Manager Scott Brunka, are on the draft list of potential committee members.

“The City currently provides utility service to properties within the planning area, and we have a Joint Economic Development District with Turtlecreek Township at the S.R. 123 / I-71 interchange. The City has reached out to Turtlecreek Township to take part in City planning initiatives that may impact their jurisdiction in the past, and we appreciate the opportunity to participate in this process,” Brunka said in an email.

RELATED: Lebanon maps development of 500 acres

So are major landowners like Ken Natorp, who owns land near the interchange of Ohio 123 and I-71 , along with business owners and residents.

“Because it’s more rural, we’d like to preserve that as much as we can,” said John Smith, a 30-plus year resident on the committee. “I think it will be successful if it reflects the majority of people in Eastern Turtlecreek Twp.”

A focus area of the study is the Genntown area, just north of the Walmart and shopping center on U.S. 42 on the northeast edge of Lebanon. Some property owners apparently want to sell their land for commercial development.

“I want to hear from those people,” Sams said.

At the same time, the planners have heard from residents, including Smith, that they don’t want developments like the one around and at the Walmart any closer to them.

RELATED: Truckstop opens after delays, opposition

“They are willing to drive for amenities and conveniences,” said Stan Williams, executive director of the Warren County Regional Planning Commission, whose staff is directing the planning process.

The citizen committee next meets on Jan. 16.

People are encouraged to review the plan and leave comments at a special web site.

A public hearing and final vote on the plan by county commissioners is expected in January 2020.

“Turtlecreek twp wants to make sure the zoning, the development that occurs is consistent with the residents vision for Turtlecreek Twp,” Williams said. “We want to make sure that the growth that occurs there furthers the vision for the area.”

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