Genoa Township trustees held a special meeting last Wednesday to discuss Delaware County’s sewer master plan.
The Delaware County Regional Sewer District has initiated a sanitary sewer master plan update because the current sewer master plan is outdated.
As part of the sewer master plan update process, the county has requested residential growth estimates from political subdivisions countywide.
Genoa Township tasked members of the Genoa Township Planning and Zoning Commission and commission chair Sandra Faulkner, with assistance from consulting firm Stantec, to provide reasonable numbers beyond current allowed zoning densities the township might experience at build-out.
Genoa Township has a 2009 comprehensive master plan with specified permitted residential densities, and development and zoning director Joe Shafer is currently updating that plan.
Township residents at last Wednesday’s meeting expressed concerns about residential growth, asking trustees to keep growth in check by adhering to the township’s existing zoning code’s density limits, and not granting variances allowing cluster housing.
Residents also expressed concerns that submitting anticipated housing numbers to the county as possible sewer capacity needs would by default become a new zoning standard and written into the revised master plan.
Opening the session, Trustee Karl Gebhardt said any numbers submitted to Delaware County was not an attempt to increase Genoa Township housing densities.
“We’re here to discuss the recommendations of a consultant and our zoning commission about where we see growth going,” Gebhardt said. “The county is gathering information from all townships to come up with an estimate for sewer needs in the future.
“Whatever we give to the county does not recommend timing of sewer by the county, and it does not recommend any zoning proposal,” Gebhardt continued. “It does not commit our township to future zoning densities or changes. It does not establish any future land use or land-use plan. What we’re going to hear about tonight is what this plan does, but it’s really important to understand what it does not do.”
Faulkner described the township’s six planning areas, as established in the 2009 master plan – which areas have sanitary sewer services, which areas are likely to be served by sewer in the future, and where septic systems may remain the norm in the foreseeable future.
“Delaware County has engaged experts about its sewer plant health system, future needs and rates,” Faulkner said. “They’re looking at townships and municipalities in Delaware County as a first part of their plan to understand what the future looks like.”
Faulkner went on to describe large parcel development versus infill development, noting where infill development might increase residential housing numbers beyond current large parcel numbers per the 2009 master plan.
Infill development is when several single-family home property owners with desirable road frontage join forces to combine their properties, option to a developer, apply for a zoning change and, if successful, the developer purchases and combines the properties, demolishes the homes and builds a small community.
An example of infill development that boosts township population is Epcon Communities’ single-family, age-restricted ranch condominiums on the north side of Maxtown Road, immediately west of Heritage Christian Church. Trustees approved that development in March. Three homes on three lots will become a 39-unit mini-development on a less than code-required 25 acres, at 3.1 units per acre, a divergence from the code’s 2.2 units per acres for cluster housing.
Faulkner produced four total build-out scenarios based on 1,019 acres of vacant large-lot land in the township, and 610 acres of potential infill land. Noting that it’s unlikely neighbors could agree on combining properties and moving out of their homes, options ranged from 5 percent of potential infill would develop, to 20 percent infill.
Additional infill lots likely to be developed ranged from 645 to 840, an increase of 104 percent to 117 percent above current zoning density standards, respectively.
“Delaware County asked what is the difference between what you would get today versus what you could get in the future,” Faulkner said. “We have no recommendation for an increase in density unless a zoning application is made.”
Frank Dantonio, a 33-year township resident and candidate for Genoa trustee in the November election, disagreed with the township’s numbers. He said the numbers Genoa was submitting to the county would also increase zoning densities by default, have a negative impact on roads and infrastructure, and lower property values.
“Why are the trustees more concerned about what nonresidents might want in the future and not listen to what our current taxpayers want today?” Dantonio asked. “We’re the residents paying bills today; we’re the ones who will suffer from increased population. You’re putting the cart before the horse — let the county base their numbers on the 2009 comprehensive master plan.”
Delaware County Commissioner Barb Lewis, in the audience as a Genoa Township resident, reminded everyone that she was the only person in this room who voted on the township’s 2009 comprehensive plan.
“No one at the county is looking to change zoning for areas in the township; the county is looking for input on updating its sewer master plan,” Lewis said. “The old plan is 9 years old and outdated. They’re looking for what you’re seeing in the future; they’re trying to complete the sewer master plan by next May, but it’s a very complex process.”
Trustee Rick Carfagna said a lot of development in Delaware County is being held up because of lack of sewer.
“We’re not encouraging any development in the township, except for commercial development in the south,” Carfagna said. “We’re not out there shopping for more residents.”
Faulkner had the last word before trustees voted on future sewer needs to submit to Delaware County.
“We didn’t do this plan for the future we want,” Faulkner said. “We did this plan for the future we see coming. We had to open our minds to what we see coming, not what we dream about.”
Commissioners unanimously approved a motion to submit to Delaware County 710 additional lots from infill over vacant land lots in the township’s Planning Areas I, III, IV and V.
Trustee Leo Wilhelm added that he was comfortable with the analysis that went into the zoning commission’s estimates of future growth and sewer needs.
“When I was a member of the zoning commission, I voted against a lot of infill development, but it’s probably going to happen anyway,” Wilhelm said.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093