Liberty Township: Hyatts Road overlay hearing continued to mid-March

Jim Fischer
ThisWeek

A proposed planned overlay district in northern Liberty Township remains a bone of contention, as residents, elected officials and developers struggle to find common ground.

Township trustees took up the matter during a Feb. 16 public hearing that lasted more than six hours. Following a presentation by the developer, comments from numerous residents and some technical issues as officials worked to link in-person and Zoom participation, the hearing eventually was continued to 7 p.m. March 15.

This revised planned-overlay-district map, which was considered during the Dec. 16 meeting of the LIberty Township Zoning Commission and rejected by the commission Jan. 27, went before the township trustees for a public hearing Feb. 16. The hearing has been continued to March 15.

On Jan. 27, the township’s zoning commission voted 4-1 against recommending approval of the overlay.

Trustees said they hope to use the interim to find ways to bridge the gap between the varied stakeholders.

More:Liberty Township: Commission to review mixed-use plans for 190-acre site along Hyatts Road

At issue is the nature and scope of the proposal, which would create a roughly 190-acre zoning overlay north of Hyatts Road, primarily between Sawmill Parkway and Liberty Road, allowing for a variety of uses, including commercial, office/medical, technology, shops and multifamily residential.

Developers, including Metro Development and a number of local landowners, represented by attorney Steve Cuckler, maintain that providing zoning for this kind of development would diversify the township’s tax base.

Residents, including many who live within the proposed POD, say such a large-scale commercial and light-industrial development, plus the density of proposed apartment complexes, runs counter to the area’s rural nature, a condition supported by the current township comprehensive plan, which was approved in early 2018.

“Compatibility is a prime concern,” John Hartman, a township resident who worked on the comprehensive plan, said. “(The comprehensive plan) basically said the area north of Hyatts Road should continue to be low-density residential.”

Hartman and others acknowledge it’s unlikely the area forever will avoid some development, but they question this approach.

"Our rural character and two-lane roads are inadequate to handle the increased traffic," resident Patrick Sells said.

"We would hope trustees and developers would work together with residents responsibly so planning is done in a strategic way," said Jennifer Gabriel. "This POD is not in the best interests of residents."

"The opposition (among residents to the POD) is overwhelming," said Jake Barrett, asking the trustees to represent the will of residents.

Not every resident spoke against it, though.

"I ask that the trustees keep the tax impact (for residents) low by approving this POD," Kevin Popham said.

Resident Melanie Farkas sent an email to ThisWeek on Feb. 11, sharing some of her concerns.

“As you already know, residents are concerned their voices aren't being heard,” Farkas said. “It very much feels like a small group of people are making decisions about the township without any disregard for what residents want …”

Cuckler has said the township would retain the right of oversight on individual projects within the overlay.

Trustee Shyra Eichhorn said she hopes further dialogue proves productive. A link on the township’s website (libertytwp.org) will allow residents to provide suggestions to be forwarded to the trustees and the developer.

“Having no development in that area is unrealistic. We need to lessen the tax burden on all our current residents while not killing the rural vibe of the area,” Eichhorn told ThisWeek. “I am hopeful that … there can be a great deal of constructive dialogue and feedback with the community that will move us closer to that goal.”

editorial@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNews