BETHEL — Two rezoning requests regarding lots in Bethel Township will appear on the ballot for the general election due to an outpouring of opposition from residents in the community.
“Regarding Palmer Road and Route 40, the owner of the property has changed his mind many times. I believe that there were up to possibly 50 different plans sent through the township, and this individual, Mr. Bean, has changed his mind and he has stated that he could change his mind again,” Bethel resident Michele Pfrogner said. “He’s changed his story so many times, he is not somebody that we, as property owners, feel can be trusted.”
The rezoning requests will appear on the ballot as referendums after over 300 signatures from Bethel residents were certified on a petition filed with the Miami County Board of Elections. Bethel Township trustees had voted to approve the rezoning requests despite over 100 residents showing up at the January meeting to voice their opposition to the requests, thus prompting the petition.
“This is not done lightly,” Pfrogner said in regard to the community organizing to file a petition against the rezoning requests in February of this year. “This is a concern for the future, and we just hope people are aware that both of these property owners, yes, they have rights, but we have rights too as residents. If something doesn’t seem right, we have, I think, the opportunity to check into it, and it was obvious for us to take the action that we did.”
The original requests were filed by Trevor Bean, of Tipp City, and Michael Gutmann, who is a proponent representing landowners who want the land re-zoned.
The request from Gutmann is to rezone 14.182 acres of 93.438 acres from A-2 domestic agriculture to R-1AAA single family residences. The area for rezoning is on the northeast and northwest corners of Agenbroad and Dayton-Brandt Roads, New Carlisle, and Tipp City. If approved, the rezoning of this lot will allow for up to six residential lots to be split, and to develop new housing in Bethel.
According to Gutmann, rezoning part of the farmland for new residential construction was due to a demand for new housing in the Bethel Township area.
The request from Bean is to rezone 66.55 acres of 71.55 acres from A-2 domestic agriculture to R-1AAA single family residence located at the southeast corner of U.S. 40 and Palmer Road. According to Bean, 12 to 15 residential lots are currently planned with lot sizes ranging from 2 to 7 acres.
“The benefit of this small development is to give local families an opportunity to have more space and room to raise their families in an amazing community,” Bean said.
Pfrogner, who has lived in Bethel for over 30 years, moved to the community from Huber Heights because she and her husband liked the rural aspects of the community. One of the reasons she and other members of the community are opposed to the rezoning requests is because they fear the rural environment that drew so many to Bethel may be lost with more housing being developed on farmland.
“I’ve lived out here for 30 years. There are people who have lived out here for generations. His presentation was telling the members of the community that we needed this. We needed to have these homes here. That is a bit arrogant for anybody to come in and tell hundreds of us that we need something,” Pfrogner said. “We live here. We know what we need, and we want to keep our community rural.”
Additional concerns with rezoning the land to build residential lots is overcrowding in Bethel schools, which is already a pressing issue in the community, as well as the concern with water runoff and possible asphalt contamination into water running on to other properties. One of the biggest concerns involves traffic accidents that have occurred on U.S. 40 and Palmer Road; according to Bethel Resident Beth Houston, the fence on her property that is parallel to Palmer Road has been taken out three times in the past eight months.
“Two small SUVs got airborne and landed above the road in my fence, (and) the third car drove down numerous fence posts in the fence line, sending a fence board through the windshield of the car between the driver and a 6-year-old little girl, and into the back seat where a 4-year-old was strapped into his car seat,” Houston said.
“There is definitely a push that people got it on the referendum. It’s definitely how democracy works,” Bethel Township Trustee President Beth van Haaren said.
For both Pfrogner and Houston, they hope voters keep the future of Bethel Township in mind when voting this November.
“What we’d like voters to keep in mind is what they want our semi-rural area to be like in three, five or 10 years. There’s already a consensus among residents that we need zoning changes to raise minimum parcel sizes, or we’ll be another Huber Heights — we moved here long ago to get away from that,” Houston said.
Editor’s note: A previous version of a story on the referendums regarding the rezoning requests that was incomplete ran in Tuesday’s paper. This version represents both the viewpoints of Gutmann and Bean as well as the concerns of many Bethel Township residents.