Residents near proposed fire station worry about noise, lowered property values

Trustees in this Butler County community say they will research concerns about dropping property values raised by neighbors of a proposed new fire station.

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Liberty Twp. trustees voted Tuesday to spend $550,000 to buy five acres of land near the corner of Princeton and Cincinnati Dayton roads to build a new fire station. The intent is to replace Fire Station 112 on Stumpf Lane off Yankee Road.

A number of residents in the area have voiced misgivings about the fire station planned at 7655 Princeton Road, saying it will lower the property value of their homes and create noise in the neighborhood.

Credit: Justin Gilbert

Credit: Justin Gilbert

The property, which is now zoned Residential, according to the Butler County Auditor's website, would have to be rezoned for the fire station's construction.

“Rarely if ever do (firefighters) leave the fire station with a siren on,” Liberty Twp. Trustee Steve Schramm said. “Maybe in the middle of a rush hour or a school time when you have a lot of traffic, to get out of the station."

Lakota's Independence Elementary School is located less than one half-mile from the proposed site.

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"But for those off hours when people are paranoid about the sound, they run lights only," Schramm said, adding that the fire station will take up about one-third of the property and buffers, such as trees, are planned to mitigate the noise.

The township has 120 days to do its due diligence before the land purchase is final. During that time, Liberty Twp. Trustee Board President Tom Farrell said he plans to research the concern about dropping property values, and he encouraged residents to do the same.

“I want you to do your own research, come back, we’ll figure out a way to co-exist,” Farrell said.

The site was selected because it is centrally located to better reach the northeast area of the township, according to Liberty Twp. Fire Chief Ethan Klussman.

“The Yankee Road location has served us well for the past 40-plus years, but with the continued growth of the township, we now have an opportunity to evaluate the location of this particular station in order to provide the very best service to our residents," Klussman said.

The township is one of the fastest growing places in Butler County and the state, quadrupling in population to about 40,000 residents over two decades.

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The more central Princeton Road site also means the township could sell land it bought several years ago — for $384,000 — on Cincinnati Dayton Road north of Millikin Road in anticipation of a fourth fire station, Farrell said.

“But we’re not going to sell that land until we’re certain we’re going to build a single fire station,” Farrell said.

“That property will expand in value exponentially, so we can certainly re-market it and get our money back out of it," Schramm said, adding that the land would further increase in value if an Interstate 75 interchange at Millikin Road ever comes to fruition.

Schramm estimated the township could save $2 million to $3 million by building one station.

Replacing the Yankee Road station has been part of the township’s facilities plan for several years. The station — built in 1974 when the township had 5,000 residents — was never intended to house a full-time fire and medic operation, officials have said.

Because the township plans to just move staff and vehicles from Station 112 to the new facility, the main cost will be construction, according to Trustee Christine Matacic.

While no firm numbers are available yet, the township estimates $2 million to $5 million to construct the new fire station, Matacic said.

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The township expects to close on the property purchase and begin the planning and design phase later this year. Construction is anticipated to start in late 2019.

Before the township decided on this property, it also considered a 3.8-acre parcel nearby with an asking price of $1.4 million, Farrell said.

The trustees debated for 18 months on when and how much to ask voters for more money for fire and medic services and fire stations were central to those discussions.

Voters in November approved a new 3.5-mill additional fire levy. The vote on the 3.5-mill additional levy was 57 percent for to 43 percent against.

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