SIDNEY — At the end of a contentious public hearing Monday in council’s chambers, the Sidney Planning Commission struck down a rezoning request of a parcel of land on Wapakoneta Avenue. The meeting room was packed with citizens with the overflow of residents pouring into the hallways.
The purpose for the rezoning request was to allow for multi-family residential housing to be built on the land.
The commission unanimously voted to recommend for Sidney City Council to deny the rezoning request of Sunset Development, on behalf of Russell Road Church, for a parcel of land located on Wapakoneta Avenue, south of Hoewisher Road, from an R-2, single and two-family residential district to an R-3, multi-family residential district.
Commission member Patricia Miller did not vote as she was absent Monday. Her absence was excused by the board.
The property in question is currently underdeveloped.
Barbara Dulworth, community development director, told commission members the city’s comprehensive plan recommends the area, identified as policy areas eight and nine, north of Russell Road include a focus on commercial, service, office and multi-family uses on the underdeveloped property. Recommendations for the northern portion of the Wapakoneta Avenue corridor are for development and re-development activities focused on non-residential uses. Appropriate land uses include commercial and office uses along the frontage, planned mixed-uses that could include multi-family residential, and public and semi-public uses.
Before the public meeting was opened, she suggested the commission recommend City Council approve the rezoning. She said the requested rezoning is “in accord with the recommendations and appropriate land uses for the policy areas. The long-range plan, per the developer will be to rezone approximately two acres fronting on Wapakoneta Avenue to a commercial district, which would be an appropriate use for the Wapakoneta Avenue corridor.”
Jim Hill, executive director of the Sidney Shelby County Economic Partnership, was the first member of the public to speak out of the 75 to 100 in attendance. Hill noted Shelby County and Sidney is challenged to meet the need for more housing, but by rezoning this area to an R-3 district it would “mess up the buffer situation” laid out in the city’s comprehensive plan for that area north of the R-1 district. He said it would put undue burden on that R-1 district. He said the R-3 rezoning it would provide “a little bit more of a challenge for an individual looking to develop that R-1 area.
“My contention is, it’s currently zoned appropriately, and that (the R-2 district) really is the highest and best use for this land,” Hill told the commission.
A round of applause from attendees followed Hill’s statement. Many other residents and members of the community spoke against the rezoning request.
Village Green Drive resident and business owner, DiAnne Karas, voiced concern about the impact on the school system, the assistance and welfare systems and additional burden on the fire and police services if rezoned to an R-3.
“I know that we continually lose citizens to Troy and Tipp City, and would believe that another avenue would provide housing options for middle income families would be a better direction to be considered and a much needed draw for Sidney. The location seems to shadow both the Eagle Glen development and the Northwood Village area and would eliminate expansion of those housing areas,” Karas said.
Developer James Hunley, with Sunset Development, said the proposed “workforce” housing development will not be Section 8 public housing. He explained it would be for families with a range of income levels earning about $14,000 to $65,000 annually. He noted there would be no subsidy for renters and they would be required to pay their own rent.
“It is not subsidized rental housing, per se. What it is, more accurately, is housing that has income restrictions, but those income levels, when you look at what they are at, a family size are really a workforce housing level,” Hunley said.
The rent on the one to three bedroom units would vary up to $720 per month, he said.
Citizens questioned if Sunset Development would receive a low income tax credit for the housing development, what the benefit would be to bring the proposed development to Sidney, and expressed concern for increased traffic on Wapakoneta Avenue. One resident noted there are already nine to 12 housing complexes in Sidney, which is much higher than the surrounding cities including Troy, Tipp City, Wapakoneta and Piqua, she said.
Hunley said his business would be applying for a tax credit from the IRS, but it is not for subsidies. He reiterated, however, the housing would not be a low income development.
Two members of Russell Road Church, including Senior Pastor Fredrick Gillenwater, spoke in favor of the request. Gillenwater echoed Hunley’s point that the housing is not low income housing and said he felt it would be a help to the community.
“I just really see it as an advantage, and if it was more clear on what they are building, it would be helpful,” Gillenwater said. “I saw everything (Sunset Development) is building, (but) I see (residents’) concern. But I know him and the gentlemen that’s working with him. And these guys are men of integrity. They are not building something that is going to bring the community down. It’s going to help the community.”
” — Build it elsewhere,” could be heard in response from a member of the crowd.
After some further brief discussion of opposition among attendees and a couple of questions from commission members, Commission Member David Gross moved to deny the request. His motion was seconded and passed unanimously.
“I base (the motion to deny) on the many conversations I’ve had the members of this community today. And I did contact a lot of people in the community and many people contacted me. I see some of your faces here tonight. And so, I came to this meeting to try to be open minded and listen and I think, in my mind, I think it’s best for this community if we keep it keep it R-2,” Gross said.
The overwhelming reaction of attendees were opposed to the request and a roar of applause erupted after the vote was taken against the request.
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