Middletown rejects zoning change that would have brought 44 homes to former hospital site

Vice Mayor Monica Nenni votes for the proposal, questions members what they want built.

Officials at a Middletown church will have to wait longer to find a buyer and developer of their 16 acres located near the city’s historic district.

Middletown City Council rejected a zoning map amendment that would have allowed 44 single-family homes to be built on property formerly owned by Middletown Regional Hospital. Oaks Community Church, which is located near the site, purchased the land for $500,000 in 2016, according to the Butler County Auditor’s Office.

The church wanted the zoning changed from public and institutional district to planned development district and for an approved preliminary development plan.

Vice Mayor Monica Nenni was the only council member to vote for the ordinance change at Tuesday’s meeting.

Council member Tal Moon, who is affiliated with Oaks Community Church, abstained as he has throughout the process.

Several Middletown residents spoke during the citizens comments of the meeting, and as they had at previous meeting, expressed their concerns with the size of the homes near the Highland Historic District.

Rob Smith, who represents D.R. Horton, the proposed developer, attended the council meeting, but didn’t address council. After the vote was taken, he quickly left City Council Chambers.

Nenni appeared to be frustrated by the vote of her fellow council members. She said the developer and the property owner made several concessions, changing the plans from 52 homes to 44 and enlarging the lot sizes. She wanted to know if council rejected this plan, what plan would the members approve.

Council member Rodney Muterspaw said “this is not the right thing” for that land.

“What is the right thing for this site?” Nenni asked.

Muterspaw said he talked to Middletown residents and 90% of them were against the project.

Those residents certainly expressed their concerns during the three public hearings and four council meetings that addressed the issue the last four months.

Chris Lacy, who lives near the proposed Hill Development, said he was concerned D.R. Horton said according to its business model it could only afford to build 44 homes only if the city waived the water and sewer fees. The connection fee is $3,500 for water and $3,500 for sewer per lot so the total waiver would have been an amount not to exceed $308,000, according to city documents.

That means, according to Lacy, the developer was operating on a “shoestring of a budget” and the city “deserves better.”

Steve Lewis, who lives near the development, said he understands the property will be developed, but “these are not the right homes for this area.”

One person spoke in favor of the amendment change. Dustin Hurley, an attorney for Oaks Community Church, said there is a “real need” for single-family homes in the city and this type of development would generate dollars for the local school district and small businesses.

He called it “a rare opportunity” to solve some problems in the city.


Jan. 4, 2016: Oaks Community Church purchases four parcels that include 16.64 acres from Middletown Regional Hospital for $500,000.

Feb. 9, 2022: Middletown Planning Commission votes to table the vote on the project.

March 9: Planning Commission approves the Hill Preliminary Development Plan and Map Amendment for a new subdivision that proposes 50 single-family homes with public streets.

April 19: City Council holds first public hearing. Pastors from the church, a representative from D.R. Horton and a Middletown attorney speak in support of the project, while 10 residents voice their concerns about the project due to its density and potential problems it could create near the historic district.

May 3: The legislation is pulled from the City Council agenda to give the developers and city leaders more time to “evaluate,” according to a city official. Council was scheduled to hear the second reading, then vote on the legislation.

June 7: City Council holds second public hearing regarding the first alternate design. Representatives from D.R. Horton present three options for the property. Nine Middletown residents, including two Realtors, say they’re against the plan and no one speaks in support.

June 21: Developer asks City Council to pull legislation from agenda to give more time to create another plan.

Aug. 2: City Council holds third public hearing regarding second alternate design. Many residents speak in favor of and against the plan.

Aug. 16: City Council rejects the amendment 3-1 with Vice Mayor Monica Nenni voting for it and council member Tal Moon abstaining.

SOURCES: Journal-News archives, city of Middletown records, Butler County Auditor’s Office records

About the Author