If approved, as a part of the Planned Development process, the property would be rezoned to “Planned Development District” to acknowledge there is a development plan associated with the property, according to the city.
City Planning Commission conducted a public hearing on March 9 and recommended to City Council the request to rezone the property be approved.
Originally, D.R. Horton, which has built the more homes than any national builder in the last 20 years, according to its web site, wanted 53 homes constructed on the 16.64 acres. Then that number of houses was lowered to 50 with 50 feet of frontage. and 75-foot buffers between the new development and surrounding houses.
Rob Smith, who represented D.R. Horton at the meeting, said 50 homes was “as far down as we can do” because converting the hospital property will be “an expensive site to develop.”
He described the budget for the project as “really tight.”
Small lots don’t “mean cheap” and the homes would sell for between $350,000 to $400,000, according to Smith.
Building homes there would be “a far better use than a hospital,” he said.
“We believe in Middletown,” he said adding the project will be “really good for the city.”
Eric Russell, a pastor at Oaks Community Church and a real estate agent, said in Middletown, only one home is listed for more than $300,000 and it’s on Central Avenue. He said the city needs higher priced homes to attract residents.
The development, he said, would be “a good step toward a new Middletown” and is the “best option” for the city.
Dustin Hurley, a Middletown attorney, spoke in favor of the development and said the 50 homes offer an opportunity to solve “a massive problem” regarding housing in the city.
He said the plan “checks all the boxes” regarding the review criteria and council should “act in the best interest of the entire city.”
Those who live near the proposed development vehemently disagreed.
Rachel Rutherford, who lives on McKnight Drive, asked council members to slow down and consider the impact on the city 10 years from now.
“I want my neighborhood to stay beautiful,” she said.
Tim Carlson, who lives on Flemming Road, said the area around the former hospital is “a special neighborhood” that “should be cherished.”
Kelley Michel, who lives on Florence Street, said the width of the roads concerns her because if there’s parking on both sides there wouldn’t be enough room for fire trucks and possibly school buses.
She said the proposal “is not the right project for the hill.”
Steve Lewis, a park board member, questioned why the city has received only one proposal and not sought bids from other developers. He believes D.R. Horton wants to build there to take advantage of the larger, more expensive homes in the historic district.
Peggy Trimble, who lives McGee Avenue, urged council to “please support your current residents and vote against this issue.”