It might be a childhood dream to have an amusement park on your doorstep, but for some of the grownups who live in Berkshire Township and Sunbury, it's more like a nightmare.
Developer Blue Horseshoe Ventures on June 28 announced Planet Oasis, a $2 billion, 350-acre entertainment-based development planned near the interchange of Interstate 71 and U.S. Route 36/state Route 37.
The plan calls for a multitude of attractions, many previously unknown to central Ohio, including a "world-class" skate park, a BMX racing facility, a wellness retreat and a man-made saltwater lake with a sand beach.
That plan makes Berkshire Township residents Joshua Varble and Austin Slattery uneasy -- and they said they aren't the only ones.
They are among those participating in the "Protect Delaware County from 'Planet Oasis' " Facebook page, which had 796 followers Aug. 23.
Varble and Slattery have followed news stories saying Planet Oasis will have 15,000 employees, 15 hotels with 5,000 rooms and 50 restaurants -- all expected to draw customers from central Ohio and far beyond.
They also plan to attend Berkshire Township government meetings after Planet Oasis developers file their plans with the township.
Varble and Slattery expect Planet Oasis to create traffic problems and strain local government services without providing adequate tax revenue to those services.
An equally large issue, Slattery said, is Planet Oasis would provide no services or benefit to local residents.
"It's going to be made for somebody else, to be serviced by somebody else," he said. "And with all the revenue dollars that all of these other services locally will not get ... what we're going to get out of it ... is an increased tax. We're going to get levies and we'll get increased taxes. ... And the traffic problems. ... That's our benefit."
Big Walnut Local School District Superintendent Angie Pollock on July 12 said Planet Oasis developers would have the right to a tax-increment financing district that would cut property taxes 75 percent for 10 years.
Berkshire Township Trustee Bill Holtry earlier confirmed a "TIF is in place for any commercially zoned land in our township."
"We're not here expecting (Berkshire Township) to be cornfields indefinitely," Varble said. "We're expecting development. I knew that when I moved here. I think the key element here is what that development is. What we want are things like what Dublin and New Albany have. We want reasonable retail mixed with reasonable new residences that are supported by our local services, that add value to our community. ... What we do not want is a giant tourist attraction."
Planet Oasis, he said, would be a "life-changing, life-altering development."
Slattery said local traffic congestion already has increased because of the Tanger Outlet Mall, which is near the proposed Planet Oasis site.
"Traffic was incredible out there the weekends before school started," he said.
"We know can't stop development," he added. "That's not our intention. We want to help mold what the development is."
Slattery and Varble have attended Berkshire Township Zoning Commission meetings when the commission discussed modifying Article 16 in the zoning code. It describes the planned mixed-use district in which Planet Oasis would be built.
The men were among about 15 residents who attended a Sept. 23 meeting, when the commission voted unanimously to leave Article 16 as it is.
Article 16 lists a maximum structure height of 45 feet. Article 17 allows 85 feet in two of its zones.
Slattery said the 45-foot limit could prevent Planet Oasis from installing large structures, such as a Ferris wheel. The result, he said, would be a "smaller feel" that would be a better fit in the rural environment.
At the Sept. 23 meeting, zoning commission chairman Paul Disantis emphasized discussion about Article 16 began before developers announced Planet Oasis. He also said no Planet Oasis development plans have been submitted to the township.
Commission member Andy Kerr said the original idea was to merge Article 16 with another zoning code section, Article 17. Both cover planned mixed-use districts. Article 17's area is north of U.S. Route 36; Article 16's area is on both sides of the highway.
Disantis said the commission was looking at "a couple of specific points," yet developers at an earlier meeting wanted more extensive changes. The commission has "no intention of writing a whole new section," he said.
Kerr said he concluded the plan would not provide significant improvement, nor change the way development plans are reviewed.
"In my opinion, scrap this whole thing," he said. Each of the other commissioners agreed.
As a result of the commission's vote, a developer who seeks to exceed the height limit would have apply for a divergence, Disantis said, which would require zoning commission approval.