‘I always thought Butler County was pro-business’: Land of Illusion owner responds to expansion denial

Saying the $190 million expansion of the Land of Illusion amusement park does not fit well in rural Madison Twp., the Butler County commissioners denied a request to rezone 206 acres on Monday.

Owner Brett Oakley wanted to rezone eight parcels off Thomas Road to a Business Planned Unit Development from the current agriculture, residential and general business classifications. Oakley wanted to make Land of Illusion a year-round facility with additional family activities, camping sites and a hotel.

Commissioners Cindy Carpenter and T.C. Rogers said the plan doesn’t match with the township’s land use plan and would have a negative impact on neighbors.

“The high density commercial, recreational uses proposed in the preliminary development plan are likely to adversely impact the existing land uses and have detrimental effects on the surrounding rural and residential developments,” Rogers said. “Particularly with respect to the development’s density and intensity.”

ExploreLand of Illusion rezoning decision pending after county public hearing

Carpenter said she felt compelled to follow the township’s land use plan.

“I’ve asked several times to have the township trustees address the board to give us their advice and opinion on this matter, they have not done so,” Carpenter said. “At this time that is the only adopted plan that we have for Madison Twp.”

The commissioners’ development department, Butler County Planning Commission and the county Rural Zoning Commission all recommended denying the rezoning request. Neighbors have opposed the expansion, citing concerns over noise, traffic and other problems associated with a development of this size.

“I’m not surprised by the decision but I am not sure why they made this decision,” said Brett Oakley, Land of Illusion owner. “I always thought Butler County was pro-business.”

Oakley said he is working with his attorney on next steps and will reach out to the community to try and get this project moving forward.

“We’re going to take it one step at a time,” he said.

The commissioners held a public hearing last week. Oakley’s attorney, Scott Phillips, told the commissioners a denial could prompt a lawsuit and said “the regulations require you to step above just the local residents and focus on what’s in the best interest of the county.”

Rogers responded to the remark this week.

“I personally have lived in six townships and built projects in 13 townships and I think I’m qualified to know how my people in Butler County feel,” Rogers said.

Matt Richardson, a Madison Twp. resident who opposed the project, said he will continue to fight the development if Oakley persists, because the roads and infrastructure cannot support it.

“We’re all excited about the decision,” Richardson said. “We’re not against a business, but this business does not fit this area and it’s disrupted everyone’s lives out here.”

Richardson was one of the Madison Twp. residents leading the opposition against Oakley’s expansion plans.

“The residents were here before Land of Illusion and they moved out here because of the rural setting and the peace and quiet,” he said.

John Pruett, owner of Triangle Fishing Lake whose property is adjacent to Land of Illusion, said he was pleased.

“This is exactly where we wanted to be and that’s exactly how it’s going to stay,” Pruett said.

Pruett also raised infrastructure issues on the small local roads that are inadequate for large amounts of traffic. He said last Saturday night, the traffic for the Land of Illusion Christmas lights overloaded Thomas Road and that traffic was backed up on Ohio 4 between Keister and Trenton-Franklin roads for a few hours.

“Our county and township roads can’t handle large amounts of traffic,” he said.


The Journal-News has covered every step of the Land of Illusion’s two proposals to enlarge the entertainment business in Madison Twp. We have reporters working in our communities to follow the biggest stories to county residents, and we’ll continue following any next steps in this expansion effort.