Centerville development progressing after bats threatened to derail construction

Progress is finally moving ahead on the 360-unit Gateway Lofts housing development in Centerville near the Cross Pointe Shopping Center.

But before that progress came, they had to account for an unusual part of their plans: Clearing acres of trees before mating season for two threatened species of bats.

In early April, developer Hallmark Campus Communities cleared about 20 acres of trees for the project along East Alex-Bell Road near Chardonnay Drive.

Gateway Lofts is a 40-acre site on East Alex-Bell Road that will include 14 walk-up apartment buildings with 256 one-bedroom units and 104 two-bedroom units. It is under construction, and progress is on time, officials said.

Hallmark officials said the tree-clearing on the planned apartment complex needed to be completed by early April due to requirements by the Army Corps of Engineers to mitigate the impact on the Indiana bat and Northern long-eared bat populations that were present in the development area.

“The bats traditionally settle into the area after April for mating, so trees could not be cut down after then,” said a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers.

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The developer cleared approximately 20 acres of forest between East Alex Bell Road and I-675, with about 15 acres of woodlands included in that, according to Maureen Hodgson, community resources coordinator for the city of Centerville.

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Northern long-eared bat and Indiana bat are federally listed as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

A spokesman for the agency said the bats made the endangered species list due to white-nose syndrome, which is a fatal fungus that wakes up bats during winter, when there are no insects to consume.

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It has devastated bat populations across the eastern United States, including Northeast Ohio. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Northern long-eared bat is one of the species most affected.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said the rule for protecting the bats on the endangered species’ list “only requires trees to be cut down, but not taken off of the property prior to the restricted period. If there is a conflict with the developer, during the April 1 to Sept. 30 roosting season, a property owner can conduct a bat survey to determine whether any bats are actually living on the property.”

The time period was approved for the Hallmark developers along the East Alex-Bell site.

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Some wondered what would happen when the bats searched for their familiar home after the trees were gone.

“Indiana bats hibernate during the winter, are migratory in nature, and roost in colonies in forest habitats over the spring and summer. This leaves the bats seeking clusters of trees to live in, the location of which could vary from year-to-year,” according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

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