Bethel residents speak out against rezoning requests

BETHEL — Two referendums will appear on the Nov. 3 ballot regarding two previously trustee-approved rezoning requests in Bethel Township. Voters will decide whether or not the rezoning should be allowed to continue as planned.

A “yes” vote on the referendums would be to uphold the approval of the rezoning and a vote of “no” would be to overturn the approval decision.

The two original requests were filed by Trevor Bean, of Tipp City, and Michael Gutmann, who is a proponent representing landowners who with to rezone an area on the northeast and northwest corners of Agenbroad and Dayton-Brandt Roads.

The request from Gutmann, which was approved earlier this year, was 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. 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, also approved earlier this year, was 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.

Following the trustees’ approval of the rezoning requests, a group of Bethel residents organized a petition in February of this year, collecting over 300 signatures, to voice their opposition of the decisions. The petition was filed with the Miami County Board of Elections.

“This is not done lightly,” said Bethel resident Michele Pfrogner, an organizer of the petition. “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.”

Residents in support of the petition have expressed concern that their voices were not heard by Bethel Township Trustees prior to approval of the rezoning requests, although over 100 residents attended the meeting, which took place in January, during which the approval was granted.

Pfrogner, who has lived in Bethel for over 30 years, along with others who signed the petition, expressed concern about statements regarding the plan for the total number of homes in the rezoning could change.

“Regarding Palmer Road and Route 40, the owner of the property has changed his mind many times,” Pfrogner said. “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. He’s changed his story so many times, he is not somebody that we, as property owners, feel can be trusted.”

According to Bean, however, his plan has remained the same from the start.

“There’s a very vocal minority of the community who have come out and opposed what I’m trying to do, which is to create larger family home lots,” Bean said. “I envision this property for myself, and for anyone else who purchases this property, to be from 2- to 7-acre lots. That’s what I’ve proposed from day one, that’s what I proposed when I went for the rezoning requests, and that’s what has been approved by the township trustees.”

Bean said he believes some of the frustration on behalf of those involved with the petition to overturn the rezoning approval comes from the worry that he will create a development with “50 homes,” even though Bean said he has no intention of doing so.

Pfrogner, who moved to the Bethel Township community from Huber Heights, expressed this sentiment, stating one of the reasons she and other residents are opposed to the rezoning is because they fear the rural environment that drew so many to Bethel may be lost with more farmland turned into housing developments.

However, Bean said he will create a 5- to 10-acre lot for himself and will sell the remaining land in lots from 2 to 7 acres in size. He noted it would not make sense, financially, for him to create numerous 1-acre lots, as he would then have to pay to install more roads, which “cost a ton of money,” he said.

“I’m not a big developer,” Bean said. “I’m a landowner who would like to put in a road and have 10 to 15 homes on it.”

In addition to residents staunchly opposed to the rezonings, there are those who support the project.

Liz Brannan, whose home is located directly across from the lot on Route 40, said she now supports the rezoning, although she was skeptical at first due to the fact that the rezoning could allow for the building of up to 50 homes.

“Their whole goal is to not have this big development, but to be out in the country,” Brannan said of the Bean’s plans. “Once they explained things to us, my husband and I were so with it.”

Brannan went on to say she believes some who are opposed to the rezoning see a big piece of land, hear the word “development,” and get “freaked out.”

“People want that property to stay farmland and it won’t ever be farmland again … People aren’t buying farmland and if Mr. Bean sells this land, it won’t be to a farmer,” Brannan said. “Our thought is, we don’t mind 12 houses going up — and it may be fewer than that — because it still preserves the feel of our township.”

Bean noted if the referendum is passed, overturning his rezoning request approval, he will submit a new request to rezone the land in 5-acre plots rather than the 2- to 7-acre plots the rezoning approval outlined.

Editor’s note: Previously released stories on the Bethel referendums included incorrect/misleading information, which has been fixed. Miami Valley Today regrets this error.