Warren County area could double with new houses, sports complex

Ohio 741 would bypass the Otterbein campus and proposed Union Village development outside Lebanon under a plan being developed in Warren County. STAFF PHOTO/LAWRENCE BUDD

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Ohio 741 would bypass the Otterbein campus and proposed Union Village development outside Lebanon under a plan being developed in Warren County. STAFF PHOTO/LAWRENCE BUDD

Union Village plan calls for 4,500 residences on 1,400 acres in Turtlecreek Twp.

Two years of negotiations concluded Tuesday with trustees here voting to approve a Warren County development that could double Turtlecreek Twp.’s population through a new 1,400-acre community unlike many others.

“This is one of the larger projects anybody in the state will ever approve,” said Douglas Miller, the lawyer hired by the trustees to guide them through the negotiations.

The new seven-member Union Village Authority will meet Wednesday to oversee the creation and maintenance of Union Village, a 4,500-home planned community that will feature a 109-acre, $15 million sports complex.

RELATED: Sports park approved over neighbor concerns

Trustees of what is now rural Turtlecreek Twp. — already in the midst of developments such as the Miami Valley Gaming racino — expressed concern about the size and scope of the commitment for Union Village.

“Would it be better if we did nothing and the place was to develop?” Miller said in response to questions from Trustee Dan Jones. “Yeah, but that’s not going to happen.”

RELATED: 12,000 residents, $1.5B in investment expected at Union Village

Turtlecreek Twp. trustees unanimously approved tax incentives on residential and commercial development. The trustees also approved formation of the authority to act as governors over the development, which includes the existing main campus of Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices.

Otterbein has formed a development company and hired consultants known for new urbanist development, which feature a variety of housing mixed with businesses in a walkable community.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the three trustees approved tax incremental financing (TIF) district that will forgive half of the property taxes on homes and all the property taxes on commercial developments for 30 years to offset the cost of construction of roads and other infrastructure for the project.

RELATED: County commissioners approve new community authority

The schools, township and county are to be partially reimbursed for the lost taxes.

In addition, the trustees approved formation of the authority to assess property owners and other users and use the proceeds to maintain the development, build amenities and fund services.

Ohio law provides for establishment of new community authorities to oversee developments of at least 1,000 acres, somewhat like members of homeowners associations presiding over management of their residential developments.

RELATED: New community authorities already in place in Dayton, Butler County, Columbus

The Union Village Authority board is expected to organize on Wednesday, leaving other tasks, such as annual designation of millage to be assessed to property owners, for later meetings.

Locally, new community authorities have been formed in Miami Twp. for the Austin Landing development and Clayton for the North Clayton development in Montgomery County, as well as Liberty Twp., Butler County, for the Liberty Center project.

RELATED: Last hearing for $1.5 billion development in Warren County

On Miller’s advice, the trustees approved the tax incremental financing district and authority - joining the Warren County Board of Commissioners, as well as the boards overseeing Lebanon City Schools and Warren County Career Center. The trustees also approved agreements to provide fire protection and other services to the development — projected to exceed 12,000 residents.

In exchange, Otterbein has agreed to to transfer 109 acres to Warren County for the sports park.

The sports park is expected to draw more tourists to Warren County, which bills itself as “Ohio’s Largest Playground.”

It’s also seen as the anchor for a multigenerational community, mixing residents of the Otterbein retirement facility with families and young urban professionals moving into homes and apartments. Using principles of new urbanism, the community is to be linked by trails, sidewalks and roads, set off by parks and town centers.

The first 50 homes and town center are to be built next year across Ohio 741 from Otterbein’s main campus.

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Also Tuesday, the commissioners decided to hold a public meeting on May 9 at 9:45 a.m. before raising the county’s lodgings tax 1 percent to finance construction of the sports complex, to be owned by the county but managed by its convention and visitors bureau.

While the tax increase is almost certain to be approved, the commissioners decided to hold a meeting to hear public comments, including those from residents who have questioned, among other things, the county taxing customers at the hotels, most of whom are expected to live outside the county, to fund the project.

RELATED: New commissioner questions tax hike for sports complex

“We’re letting people speak to that issue,” Commissioner Tom Grossmann said before the commissioners set the time and date for the tax-hike vote.

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