Land of Illusion changes proposal for $190M expansion, to face commissioners on Monday

The Butler County commissioners will hold a hearing Monday morning concerning a rezoning request by the owner of Land of Illusion in Madison Twp.

The hearing is slated for 9:30 a.m. Monday at the Butler County Government Services Center in Hamilton. The Butler County Planning Commission and the county Rural Zoning Commission recently voted to deny recommendations for the rezoning.

A representative of Land of Illusion owner Brett Oakley contacted the county commissioners before a hearing scheduled for July 6 and withdrew a separate request with plans to resubmit the proposal. At that time, the rezoning request faced community opposition and both zoning commissions recommended the requests to be denied.

ExploreLand of Illusion owner withdraws expansion plan, will prepare new proposal

Oakley is seeking to rezone 206 acres across eight parcels off Thomas Road in Madison Twp. to a Business Planned Unit Development from the current agriculture, residential and general business classifications.

He wants to make Land of Illusion a year-round facility that would complement the Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill facility in Hamilton with additional family activities, camping sites and a hotel.

Oakley wants to include a larger family entertainment venue with a campground, indoor water park, hotel, outdoor adventure area and other entertainment activities.

Zeb Acuff, county planning administrator, said the major changes between the proposals included an overall reduction of 21.8 acres to about 206 acres, removing the planned amusement park rides and a reduction in the proposed building heights.

Oakley said he “listened to the concerns of the neighbors and took the amusement rides out.” He said 75% of the project will be indoors with an indoor water park as part of a 500-room hotel.

“We brought it back to the commissioners,” he said. “We want to get the project going again."

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Oakley envisions as many as 500 full- and part-time jobs could be created if the estimated $190 million project is completely built out in phases over the next several years.

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“I think the Butler County commissioners will support a great project for the community,” Oakley said.

Some residents remain unsure about the proposed rezoning and expansion project. They also remain concerned about the growing number of noise complaints that emanate from the park.

John Pruett, who owns Triangle Fishing Lake in the 7400 block of Franklin Madison Road that borders the Land of Illusion property, says little has changed since the previous proposal that was withdrawn.

“I’m still opposed to the expansion and I will fight it tooth and nail,” Pruett said. “But I have a business to run and a family to raise.”

Pruett said the Triangle Fishing Lake has been in existence for 80 years. He has already told Oakley his commercial property was not for sale.

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“I’m focusing on my business and family. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life fighting Brett Oakley everyday,” Pruett said. “But I’m not backing down.”

Another resident, Matt Richardson, said Oakley has been denied by the planning and rural zoning commissions. He said there will be an attorney representing the residents at Monday’s hearing.

“We still don’t know any specific plans and what we’ve seen has been vague,” Richardson said. “He has never talked to any residents who live nearby.”

Richardson said the expansion would only create more infrastructure and public safety issues.

“We’re a rural community,” he said. “Thomas Road is already dangerous. We don’t want a campground and a hotel there.”

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