Mason, Lebanon vie for sewer service

Mason officials want to “put the pause button” on plans to turn over authority to provide sewer service to 463 undeveloped acres along US 42 to the city of Lebanon.

Last week, the Warren County commissioners agreed to ask the OKI Regional Council of Governments to delay making a recommendation to the Ohio EPA. The change would designate Lebanon as sewer service provider for the land – in Union Twp. between Lebanon and Mason that is proposed for development by Terra Firma Associates.

Mason officials expressed concerns during the commissioners’ meeting on Jan. 23 — and one earlier in January — that the change would enable the developer to build at least 600 homes on the land, potentially resulting in crowding in the Mason school district.

“We’ve got concerns,” Mason Mayor David Nichols said at the Jan. 14 meeting. “We’re not trying to derail anything.”

Nichols also acknowledged the city, which has treatment facilities nearby, is interested in providing sewer service for the development.

Mason City Manager Eric Hansen urged the county to “put the pause button” on the process until officials had a clearer idea how many homes Terra Firma plans to build on the land.

Terra Firma has proposed 600 to 1,200 homes as part of the development on about 400 acres of farm land and 65 acres owned by the City of Lebanon, officials said.

County officials said the sewer service issue is separate from the decision about how many homes could be built on the land.

Currently only 220 acres of the land is zoned for residential development at a density of one home for every two acres. Plans for additional homes would require rezoning and other permissions through the Warren County Regional Planning Commission and the commissioners.

“Nothing’s happening without the process,” Commissioner Dave Young said, adding the county also is averse to high-density residential development.

OKI, responsible for planning within the region including parts of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, held a public hearing on the proposal Monday . Monday’s Mason City Council meeting was canceled, so city officials could attend the public hearing.

The county commissioners agreed to ask the OKI board to delay a decision about whether to recommend Ohio EPA make the change to the region’s water quality management map.

At an earlier county meeting, Terra Firma urged the commissioners not to delay the process started when the commissioners voted in November to support the change.

“We want this process to continue,” said Richard Haglage of Terra Firma. “To table it is to make for an indeterminate delay.”

Last week Terra Firma officials indicated they are willing to meet with Mason officials during the next month.

In the existing plan, Lebanon was expected to serve the area through extension of a line — paid for by Terra Firma — from the city’s industrial park, just east of the proposed development.    Lebanon officials made no comment at the two meetings and did not respond to a request for comment.

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