Fairfield City Council considering new residential subdivision

Fairfield City Council is considering the city’s first new subdivision in 12 years.

Council had its first reading of legislation approving a concept plan to develop 20 of 32 acres of what’s known as the Benzing property at the northeast corner of Mack and South Gilmore roads on Monday night.

The applicant, Benzing LLC, led by Fairfield developer Joe Schwarz, is proposing to build a residential development that will include 20 duplexes and 24 single-family homes, according to Erin Lynn, Fairfield planning manager. Schwarz, who acquired the land last month, is seeking a planned unit development approval, which would rezone the agricultural-zoned land to allow for multi-family and single-family homes. The concept plan also shows the lot sizes as “smaller than the minimum size permitted in Fairfield,” Lynn said in a staff report.

The entrance to the development is proposed at the northern end of the property on South Gilmore Road. Plans call for a retention basin along with a walking trail through the site.

The plan presented will require Fairfield Planning Commission consideration, and a joint City Council-Planning Commission public hearing is scheduled for the Sept. 27 council meeting.

The proposed subdivision abuts Twin Lakes to the north and Mercy Health-Fairfield Hospital to the east. The plan will leave nearly 12 acres on the southern end of the Benzing property undeveloped, and Schwarz is not requesting at this time that part of the land be rezoned. The entire land is valued at $1.8 million, according to the Butler County Auditor’s Office.

The city is reaching full buildout with 13% of its land considered undeveloped. According to the city’s comprehensive plan, there is a significant amount of undeveloped land zoned for industrial and agriculture uses, and while the industrial land would be “protected” as it’s “key to the economic health of the city,” the agriculture-zoned property is anticipated to be rezoned for single-family residential use, according to the plan that was adopted in December 2019.

“Based on the population growth trends of the city, there is a potential for approximately 30-40 years of growth that can be accommodated on undeveloped, residentially zoned land,” according to the plan.

City officials say there are about 700 acres of land appropriate for residential development, and the Benzing property is zoned agricultural, according to the county auditor.

Just more than 1,600 acres of Fairfield’s 12,323 total acres are undeveloped, which is roughly 13 percent. Development Services Director Greg Kathman said the last sizable subdivision developed in the city is the Bluffs at Harbin, which is on Park Place off John Gray Road. It was started in 2009. The Emerald Lake subdivision off Pleasant Avenue was started in 2004 and is still not yet completed, he said.

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