On Tuesday, Nov. 6, the voters of Genoa Township will be asked, “Shall the zoning amendment as adopted by the Genoa Township Board of Trustees be approved?” The question is in regard to the rezoning of seven parcels of property totaling approximately 43 acres near the southeast intersection of Oxbow Road and Tussic Street.
Benton Benalcazar and his wife, Katherine, who own the property near Hoover Reservoir, requested the property be rezoned from Rural Residential to Planned Residential. The couple’s preliminary plans for the property is to construct 64 single-family, two-bedroom, patio homes built by Romanelli and Hughes called the Ravines at Hoover.
“They are single-family homes that are designed for empty-nesters,” said Benton Benalcazar. “That is about $200,000 in taxes for the township’s general fund. The Big Walnut Schools are the big winners because they will be getting nearly $500,000 per year in taxes.”
Benalcazar said the tax revenues are “a conservative estimate based on a $500,000 home,” and there would probably be very few students enrolling in the Big Walnut Local Schools because “the homes aren’t designed for young families.”
According to the Delaware County Auditor’s website, Big Walnut Local Schools collects approximately 30 percent in taxes on property valuations within the district.
Benalcazar said the couple has lived in Genoa Township for 17 years. He said it’s a great piece of property because of the ravines running throughout the property and a creek flowing into the reservoir.
“We chose conservation zoning because it is a beautiful piece of property,” he said. “We fulfilled every single requirement of conservation zoning. We put the houses where there are pastures, a hay field, and a soybean field. Fifty-two percent of the property will be undeveloped land.”
The Benalcazars currently have an annual lease with a farmer in the area who farms the property in the summer.
Benalcazar said they tried not to disturb the trees that are now on the property.
“We’re saving 83 percent of the trees,” he said. “They are pretty, and they are also an asset. The closest neighbors are for this.”
Bonnie Leggett, who lives across the from the property on Oxbow Road, said she thinks what they want to do with the property “is fantastic,” but there have been misstatements about the zoning amendment by the opposition.
“People think it’s going to raise the taxes for Westerville schools,” she said. “This is Big Walnut schools, there is no impact to Westerville or Olentangy schools.”
Leggett said she “is really happy” for the development, since it is for empty-nesters and retired folks, but said some of the opposition “are telling people it’s going to be a senior citizen facility.”
“It’s not going to be a commercial building,” she said.
Leggett added there is a boat dock down the street on Oxbow Road within walking distance of the proposed development.
“I can see older people walking down to the boat dock,” she said.
Leggett said the development will have sewers, instead of septic systems.
‘That will be great,” she said.
Benalcazar said he thinks people will want sewers over septic systems.
“Sewer is a benefit. I don’t think any of the opposition has thought about that,” he said. “Nobody is being forced to go to sewer. They can still stay with septic.”
However, he mentioned the cost to replace septic systems is $20,000 to $50,000.
“That’s more than a tap fee,” he said.
The township’s zoning commission voted 4-0 against the Benalcazars’ application on March 12. The commission said the proposed 64-home development would exceed the 1.35 homes per acre density as written in the township’s Comprehensive Plan, and members recommended that the board of trustees deny the rezoning.
The Benalcazars have said they would put a hog farm on the grounds if their proposed development was rejected.
“The hog farm is a distant choice,” added Benton Benalcazar.
The trustees voted 2-1 to approve the measure during a rezoning meeting on April 9. The majority view was that there were no divergences and a maximum density of up to 2.2 homes per acre is allowed under the township’s zoning resolution. The zoning resolution takes precedence over the Comprehensive Plan.
From the minutes of the April meeting, Trustee Connie Goodman, chair of the board, “moved to reject the Zoning Commission’s recommendation of denial and thus approve, without modifications, the Preliminary Development Plan proposed by Katherine Benalcazar.”
Goodman and Trustee Karl Gebhardt voted in favor on the rezoning measure, while Trustee Frank Dantonio opposed it based on it not matching up with the Comprehensive Plan.
Benalcazar said that both the zoning commission and the board of trustees were advised by the “prosecutor’s office that the rejection of the rezoning can’t be based on anything outside of the township’s zoning resolution.”
“They were told denying the rezoning on something that’s not the law is a denial of due process,” he said. “So, they threw it in the lap of the trustees to deal with.”
At the May 3 trustees meeting, residents submitted 1,600 signed petitions for a zoning referendum asking voters to overturn the trustees’ decision to rezone the property.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Jim Carter told the trustees, “Close the legal loophole. It’s critical to this community to use the same playbook.”
“We all know it needs to be fixed,” said Goodman, noting that harmonizing the language in the zoning code and Comprehensive Plan was a priority for the zoning commission.
Carter helped spearheaded the petition for the referendum.
The Delaware County Board of Elections (BOE) unanimously voted June 12 to certify the petition to have the referendum placed on the Nov. 6 ballot.
“We wanted to help all the residents to have a voice, particularly the adjacent residents, which didn’t happen with the trustees,” Carter said after the referendum was certified. “The next step was a referendum.”
Benalcazar said he and Katherine did not go through with the protest process of the referendum.
“We felt the trustees made the correct decision,” he said. “We decided to put our efforts into opposing the referendum campaign.”
Benalcazar said some of the opposition is using the amendment language to say it’s an overhaul of the township’s zoning code that will allow apartments and high-density developments.
“It’s not. It only affects this one property,” he said.
The language of the ballot states, “On April 9, 2018, the Genoa Township Board of Trustees enacted Resolution No. 18-0409001 to amend the Genoa Township Zoning Map to rezone 42.791 acres from Rural Residential (“RR”) to Planned Residential Development (“PRD”). The seven adjoining parcels that make up the 42.791-acre site are parcel nos: 31713001036000, 31713001036001, 31713001036002, 31713001036003, 31713001036004, 31713001036005, and 31713001038000. According to Genoa Township Zoning Case No. 2018-01, and Genoa Township Board of Trustees Resolution No. 18-0409001, the above seven parcels are “located at 4741 Tussic Street”, which is near the southeast intersection of Oxbow Road and Tussic Street. Shall the zoning amendment as adopted by the Genoa Township Board of Trustees be approved?”
Editor’s Note: Another article on the referendum will be available on The Sunbury News’ website and Facebook page prior to the election.