Dozens of Ross Twp. residents protest $353M mixed-use development

Credit: Submitted photo

Credit: Submitted photo

Many Ross Twp. residents have taken to social media and writing letters to Butler County officials to protest the proposed $353 million mega mixed-use development saying they want to remain rural.

Residents are expected to flood the Butler County commissioners’ chambers today to implore them not to create a taxing authority that is necessary for the 350-acre project to proceed. Russ McGurrin told the Journal-News he planned to gather some fellow residents to let the commissioners know they were blindsided by news of the development.

“The people of Ross don’t want this, at least in my opinion,” McGurrin said. “The trustees are severely misguided and I believe collectively and unilaterally making decisions that they have not sought any input whatsoever from the Ross Twp. residents.”

The 350-acre Burns farm tract at the corner of U.S. 27 and Ohio 128 is a prime location that could be developed with 339 mid-level and estate homes, senior cottages and assisted living,185 rental units and 124 units of “active adult housing.” A small portion, about 25 acres, could hold a hotel and neighborhood retail.

Financial Advisor Andy Brossart told the Journal-News the preliminary value of the 350-acre development at the juncture of U.S. 27 and Ohio 128, is $150 million for the commercial portion and $203 million for residential.

ExploreRoss development expected to be boon for township, region

McGurrin said he and a standing-room only crowd of people went to a trustee meeting this summer and were told there would be a “public unveiling” of the project before it proceeded. Then they saw a Journal-News article stating the development was discussed at the county commissioners’ meeting a week ago.

Retired township administrator Bob Bass, who the trustees retained as a consultant to work on this development, said trustees Tom Willsey and Ellen Yordy asked him to respond to the Journal-News’ queries about the residents’ concerns. He said the meeting with the commissioners was just part of developer Ron Coffman’s due diligence as he works through the process, because he needs their blessing on the creation of a new community authority (NCA) to help fund $46 million worth of infrastructure.

“I think some of the people that are concerned at this point in time are concerned that we were already out in front of this asking for permission from the commissioners to move ahead,” Bass said. “I saw one thing in particular that said ‘we were told we have a chance to talk and obviously we were lied to.’ That’s not the case, they will have the opportunity, but that comes when the zone change is in effect and that’s when the project gets approved or not approved.”

Coffman said the NCA is essential for the development to proceed, because he is not going to “commit financial suicide” to build it without the funding mechanism.

“It won’t work financially at the current price the seller is asking for the property,” Coffman said. “If it’s not going to have the NCA I’m sorry I’m out, I can’t make it work.”

Many of the dozens of people who commented on the Journal-News and Ross Facebook pages object to the development because they want their township to remain rural.

“Don’t need this,” one person wrote. “Small town American is disappearing. We have Oxford, Hamilton, Colerain and Harrison 10 min away. The city people need to go back to the city.”

Not all the commenters criticized the development, one person said, “Well maybe you all should pull the money together and buy it. That way it can stay the same. Everyone’s in favor of property rights unless it backs up to their back yard.”

Bass reiterated this point saying the developer and Burns family have been working for a long time to craft a development and it is up to them to decide, not the trustees.

“We don’t control who buys and sells what, all we can do is control what development comes out of it to the best of our ability we are allowed to by law,” Bass said. “I know there are people that don’t want it, don’t think that it’s a good thing, but again if you own the property you can control what it becomes, if you don’t then you can’t.”

Trustee Keith Ballauer said he isn’t wild about all aspects of the development, particularly the apartments, but the trustees have no say since they don’t control their own zoning. The township hopes to put a question on the November ballot that would give them that power, until then everything goes through the county planning commission and commissioners.

“We would only be able to go, just like everybody else, to the zoning commission and state our likes or dislikes at that point,” Ballauer said. “People think as trustees we hold extremely amount of power at this point we do not... Right now we have the same voice that anyone in Ross Twp. has.”

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