At the March 23, 2017 meeting of the Bethel Township Zoning Commission, the commissioners heard a request from Apex Engineering and Surveying, Inc acting as an agent for Takkar Oil to rezone a .66-acre parcel located at 9140 SR 202 from B-3 Neighborhood Business District to I-1 Light Industrial and a parcel located at 4423 US 40 from B-1 General Business to I-1 Light Industrial. The purpose of the rezoning is to then join the parcels and erect a gas station at that location. The rezoning is contingent on a variance to allow a lot size smaller than required for I-1 Light Industrial. The minimum lot size required for I-1 is two acres. However, if the lots are joined the resulting parcel will be 1.194 acres, which is only half the size required for the I-1 zoning code.

The residents of Phoneton where the two parcels are located turned out in force to protest the rezoning and the establishment of a gas station at the location. According to the Takkar Representative, the company has already purchased the two properties and are working with the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Miami County Engineers Office to ensure that the company compiles with all regulations regarding traffic flow and drainage. The company plans to demolish the buildings currently on the lot and erect a gas station with eight pumps on four dispenser bays in addition to a carry out grocery. He said, “The whole point is to clean up the properties and to serve you guys.” He also assured residents that the station would not operate 24 hours a day. He said, “We will comply with all of the regulations established by ODOT including turn lines on SR 202 and US 40 if they are required. We will also adhere to the runoff regulations as specified by the county engineer.”

Don Caldwell who lives at 9165 SR 202 was the only Phoneton resident in favor of the rezoning. He said, “I believe this will improve the area and increase visibility at the intersection. The two buildings on these lots are in poor condition and the demolition of them will increase our property values.”

However, the rest of the Phoneton residents were opposed to the rezoning and the construction of a gas station. There concerns included an increase in traffic, light pollution, toxic runoff, noise pollution, odor from the gas, and privacy.

Michelle Sorrell said, “I feel like we were blindsided by the request. We received no notifications, no drawings about the development. I am concerned about the sale of alcohol and extensive runoff. We feel left out. It is not fair or convenient for the citizens of Phoneton.” She added, “There has to be some other use that is more appropriate such as a veterinary clinic, Dairy Queen, flower shop, or a new residence that fits in with the historical character of Phoneton.”

Joe Sumpter agreed, “I don’t think it is the right place for a service station. I don’t think it is good business to encroach on residents. The lot is too small and we are deviating drastically from the township’s plans for development.”

Tom Wenrich added, “The traffic at that intersection is terrible especially when I70 is closed. You can’t see oncoming cars and the intersection has the worst record for traffic accidents in the township. I can’t see adding any kind of traffic at the intersection. You’d be crazy to put a gas station at that location.”

After extensive discussion of the issue, the Bethel Zoning Commission unanimously agreed that they could not recommend the rezoning of the properties to the Board of Trustees. The Trustees will hold a public hearing on the case at 6:30 p.m. on April 11, 2017. They will vote on the rezoning at their regular meeting at 7:00 p.m. on the same date. Township residents should contact the trustees before the meeting and plan on attending the public meeting to make sure their voices are heard. Even if the trustees approved the rezoning, the properties cannot be rezoned unless the Bethel Board of Zoning Appeals passes a variance for the I-1 Light Industrial to allow the lot size to be less than the two acres specified in the zoning code. Residents should also plan on attending the BZA meeting if the rezoning is approved.

The next meeting of the Bethel Zoning Commission is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on April 27, 2017. The commission will hear a request to rezone the parcel at 6625 Cobaugh Road from I-1 Light Industrial to R-1AAA Residential to allow prospective property owners to obtain a mortgage on the property at that time.

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