LIMA — Bath Township residents will have a unique choice this November: Yes or no on the Lost Creek overlay?
Lost Creek residents, led by Ruth Hollenbacher, filed a referendum in opposition to a trustee-passed bill back in March, and months later, the question will now be on the ballot for the whole township to decide.
“Shall the zoning amendment as adopted by the Board of Trustees of Bath Township be approved?”
At the crux of the issue is the Planned State Route 309 Corridor Overlay District, which essentially greases the wheels of development for the strip of Bath Township land just north of Harding Highway.
If allowed to go forward, Hollenbacher argues that the overlay would destroy the character and tranquility of the Lost Creek neighborhood by spurring the creation of well-trafficked, well-lit commercial venues at its south side and pushing out 47 residents already in the area.
“We have to put faith in people of the township that will look at (the referendum) like they live (in Lost Creek),” Hollenbacher said.
Bath Trustee Bob Sielschott, however, said the referendum is the result of a vocal stagnant minority, led by Hollenbacher, to fight against any change in the neighborhood.
“That mentality out here, for the most part, has gone away. We went from a community that said an automatic ‘no’ to everything, to a community that gives a reasoned and well-analyzed ‘yes’ to good ideas,” Sielschott said.
Ever since the overlay was introduced back in 2019, Hollenbacher and other residents of the Lost Creek neighborhood have been publicly vocal in their opposition to the overlay, but that didn’t stop the trustees from pushing the idea forward, eventually hiring a Columbus-based legal firm to help the township craft what the overlay’s legal language would actually look like.
The end result provides a series of zoning standards for potential new developments. If a new business ends up acquiring a piece of land located within the overlay district’s bounds, it would need to fall within the overlay’s zoning standards to earn approval for the project from the trustees.
If no new development was planned, the current zoning would remain the same.
An example of a similar initiative in action is in Dublin, which requires strict zoning rules when it comes to signage, exterior modifications and site layout when changes are made within its historic overlay zoning district.
Hollenbacher found fault with many different aspects of the initiative. One of the bigger problems, she said, is the potential loss of housing in a neighborhood that already has a lack of it. Other alleged problems she noted include mismanagement of the township, trustees’ circumvention of the zoning board, lying by trustees, a lack of transparency of the process and the existence of other already-vacant properties not being used.
Sielschott said all that’s pure bunk.
“We haven’t changed zoning. We protected Lost Creek,” he said.
Throughout the process, Sielschott said trustees have actively engaged with those affected by the overlay. By holding public meetings to hear potential concerns and allowing input, he said the township helped residents craft a vision for Lost Creek that keeps its character. Trustees hired the Columbus firm for its expertise in similar overlay initiatives passed by municipalities throughout Columbus’s beltway, and Sielschott contends passage of the Lost Creek overlay back in March has already spurred renewed interest in the neighborhood.
Hollenbacher said she’s talked to those who have since moved into Lost Creek, and after she informed them about the overlay, she said they’re going to vote against it.
“I don’t think the people know about the overlay. I tell you what, if this overlay goes through the trustees, truthfully, there could be a class-action lawsuit for Realtors not disclosing it,” she said.
Sielschott isn’t buying it.
“I don’t know what to say to her,” Sielschott said. “We have not had a lot of negative pushback unrelated to Ruth and (her husband) Roy.”
Bath Township residents have two months to decide which side to take: Yes or no?
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.