Washington Twp. voters to decide Hithergreen development zoning issue

Washington Twp. voters will decide Tuesday how the Hithergreen property will be developed. FILE
Washington Twp. voters will decide Tuesday how the Hithergreen property will be developed. FILE

Washington Township has three issues on the May 8 ballot that voters will consider, but how the Hithergreen property will be developed is the hot button topic on the minds of residents heading to the polls.

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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 land for $250,000 to developer Tom Peebles. Demolition of the former Hithergreen Center which sits on the property will cost an estimated $300,000, and then Peebles plans to divide the nearly 15 acres of land into green space and 30 residential lots.

Issue 15, a rezoning referendum on the ballot will sort out what type of development occurs on the land.

The project has traveled a long and winding road before making its way to next Tuesday’s ballot. The zoning board last year voted down a zoning change. Township trustees eventually overturned that decision to allow for more homes to be built.

There was an outcry from residents opposed to the proposal. They managed to collect more than 2,300 signatures for the May 8 referendum.

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Ballot language for the proposed zoning amendment reads 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?”

A yes vote is for the measure; a no vote is against the measure.

Tom Peebles has said he needs the zoning change to make what he wants to do profitable. He has said he would need to build 30 homes on the acres in question to turn a profit.

He told this news organization that all of this now comes down to what the voters decide on May 8.

“It’s the voters who will decide what happens not me,” Peebles said. “The voters opinions will count and they will have their say.”

He said that he isn’t inclined to think about what’s next after the election, but will have a clearer “idea on May 9.”

Residents who petitioned for the ballot referendum have said zoning rules are being ignored to favor the developer and the community’s wishes are being ignored.

“If the trustees can do this in the Hithergreen area that means they’re willing to do it anywhere throughout the township,” township resident Matt Lynch told News Center 7 while opponents were organizing their signature drive.

Two levies , including a renewal, also on the ballot

Washington Twp. voters will also have two levies — one renewal, one replacement — on the May 8 ballot to consider.

Issue 17 is a 4.65-mill Fire/EMS levy that is a five-year renewal that would not increase tax rates.

The levy costs the owner of a $100,000 home $132 per year and that would not change if the renewal passes.

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.

Issue 16 is a five-year recreation replacement levy that would increase the millage from 0.7 to 1.0. The annual cost for the owner of a $100,000 home would rise from a rate of $21.95 to $35, according to Jacqueline Curl, public information manager for the township.

If passed, 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 will be the first millage increase in 25 years. Voters approved the original levy - 1.5 mill - in 1988.

The additional revenue will help with the township expand services to senior citizens at the Rec West Enrichment Center. Officials say senior programming cost $185,000 in 2017, but the current tax millage was established before the township began providing current services at Rec West when the township was tasked with adding services after the Hithergreen Center closed.

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Voting in this election for the two levies are all Washington Twp. voters, including those in the city of Centerville. Residents in the unincorporated area of Washington Township will vote on the Hithergreen property, according to Curl.

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