Proposed Fairfield subdivision, first in 12 years, draws questions at meeting

A developer wants to build a high-end subdivision on undeveloped land to the east of South Gilmore Road, which Fairfield plans to widen just north of Mack Road to just north of Resor Road. The project is scheduled to be bid in 2024. NICK GRAHAM/FILE
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A developer wants to build a high-end subdivision on undeveloped land to the east of South Gilmore Road, which Fairfield plans to widen just north of Mack Road to just north of Resor Road. The project is scheduled to be bid in 2024. NICK GRAHAM/FILE

Council members, residents raise concerns about safety.

Some on Fairfield City Council had questions concerning what could be the city’s first new subdivision in 12 years.

The applicant, Benzing LLC, led by Fairfield developer Joe Schwarz, wants to build a residential development to include 20 duplexes and 24 patio homes. Schwarz, who acquired the land in August, according to the Butler County Auditor’s Office, presented a concept plan on a proposed planned unit development, which would require it to be rezoned from agriculture to allow duplexes and patio homes.

The plan would develop 20 of the 32 acres of what’s known as the Benzing property at the northeast corner of Mack and South Gilmore roads. The remaining 12 acres ― which is closest to the Mack/South Gilmore intersection ― would remain undeveloped, Schwarz told council. He said he’s currently in negotiations to sell that portion.

The proposed development is surrounded by residential and non-residential land uses and is adjacent to a hilly South Gilmore Road that sees more than 20,000 cars a day from Ohio 4 to Mack Road, and is expected to be widened in 2024. Three of Fairfield’s top employers are at or near this intersection and I-275 is about a half-mile south of the property.

There would be only one entry into the proposed 20-acre residential development, according to the concept plan presented Monday. The proposed entrance would be at the property’s northern end on the highest point of South Gilmore, the spot that allows the best visibility to enter and exit the development, according to Public Works Director Ben Mann.

Two council members, Chad Oberson and Mark Scharringhausen, have concerns about this intersection.

Oberson said that entrance “scares me a little bit” due to the amount of traffic on South Gilmore Road.

“I just picture coming off that hill. You get moving there,” he said. “It would be my No. 1 concern looking at this right now, but it may not be much of an option.”

Scharringhausen would like to see signage to warn people cars would be turning into and exiting that subdivision.

Mann said the only real solution would be adding a left-turn lane “so cars can get out of the way” of southbound traffic.

Mann said they are now developing plans for the widening project, and a left-turn lane could be incorporated for southbound traffic.

Scharringhausen believes there could be accidents due to the proposed entry.

“I think you’re going to need something more than just a (left-turn lane),” Scharringhausen said. “You’re going to have to warn people. I could see multiple issues.”

Fairfield resident Christine Rennekamp, of Brians Lane in Villages of Wildwood to the north of the undeveloped property, said she and her neighbors “are deathly afraid” when she exits the subdivision at Annabelle, which connects with Resor Road across South Gilmore Road.

“Now you’re asking for us to put up with a least another 200 more cars coming down that hill at us,” she said, saying two of her neighbors have been in accidents at the intersection north of the Benzing property. “It’s dangerous.”

Schwartz said he’s not sure who this development would attract, and thought about establishing an age requirement at 55 and older. “I don’t know at this point in time whether we’ll do that or not. I think the price range that we’ll be in is going to dictate a more senior element of the public.”

A significant number of trees will need to be removed, but drainage issues expected when they are removed will be resolved with a retention pond.

Schwarz said the concept is to have single-family and two-family dwellings and the price range is between $350,000 and $400,000, but he hasn’t yet settled on designs of the buildings.

Planning Commission will meet on Oct. 13 at 6 p.m..

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