Monroe may be the fastest growing city in the area, but some officials are concerned that its growth in industrial and businesses is happening too fast.
Continuing its concerns about more warehouses sprouting up along high visibility areas of Interstate 75, Monroe City Council this week overrode unanimous decisions by the city Planning Commission and rejected a pair of rezoning requests.
The requests, which involved about 164 acres near Greentree and Union roads that is zoned as Business Park and 117 acres at Mason and Butler/Warren roads that is now zoned as general commercial, both sought light industrial zoning.
The representatives for both properties, the Berns family and developer Lenny Robinson, had previously told council they wanted their properties reverted back to their previous industrial zoning because they had been unable to market their properties in their current designations.
In both cases, the property owners changed the zoning to take advantage of opportunities that never came to fruition or was the result of the 2008 recession and downturn in the retail sector.
Planning Commission Chairman Mike Morris said the commission only returned the zoning to what they were previously.
During the public hearing, Joe Trauth, who represented Robinson, told council that changing the zoning was “the only thing that makes sense” to give the owners more options.
The property located south of the Cincinnati Premium Outlets mall was originally zoned industrial in the 1940s but was rezoned to commercial in late 1999 for a $1.4 million-square-foot mall project by the Taubman Company. However, after September 2001, the retail sector took a severe downturn, and Taubman dropped its option in 2003.
In addition, the market for commercial property has become very competitive in the region along I-75 with the development of Liberty Center and Austin Landing.
Councilman Todd Hickman raised the concern that Monroe would look like “it’s nothing more than warehouses from Kyles Station to Greentree Road.” He also raised concerns about the increased truck traffic along Butler/Warren Road, which would need to be upgraded.
At first, the rezoning request was approved, but before Tuesday’s meeting ended, Councilwoman Anna Hale moved to reconsider that vote and added the fifth vote to reject the rezoning request, noting that she wanted to wait until the new comprehensive master plan was completed.
The second parcel owned by the Berns family is more than 164 acres along both sides of I-75 and is bordered by North Union and Greentree roads. Michael Berns told council the family previously rezoned the land at the city’s request from industrial to business park.
That land was once considered by Middletown Regional Hospital for its new facility before it opted to invest $300 million to build the 190-acre Atrium Medical Center campus off the I-75/Ohio 122 interchange in Middletown. Middletown Regional Hospital became part of Dayton-based Premier Health system in 2005. Premier opened Atrium Medical Center in 2007.
He also said after 10 years of waiting for development, his family has been advised by multiple brokers that the land is not consistent for business park use.
“The recession changed a lot of things in how retail worked,” Berns said. “Most people don’t know it’s in the city.”
Berns also noted the Liberty Center and Austin Landing developments as well as the new Union Village development that is also underway a few miles away off Ohio 741.
“This will not compete against those marketing focuses,” he said.
Vice Mayor Dan Clark said the city had enough warehouses and that people want to see different things.
“I took a small poll of my own of the community and heard overwhelmingly that the people of Monroe don’t want any more warehouses,” said Councilwoman Christina McElfresh.
While she did not want to stifle business development, McElfresh said she feared that the potentially detrimental long-term effects on the city.
Jim Kleingers of the Kleingers Group, which represented the Berns family, said the decision was “disappointing but was an opportunity to move forward.”
“The family respects the process and respects the city’s decision,” he said. “They intend to work with the city through the comprehensive plan process to resolve this issue.”
In a related matter, council approved an emergency resolution for up to $100,000 with Rundell Ernestberger Associates of Indianapolis to assist with updating the city’s comprehensive master plan. The city last updated its comprehensive plan in 2010. City officials requested the emergency clause so that work could begin immediately.
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