BATH TOWNSHIP — A fight between tradition and development will come to a head in Bath Township on Nov. 3 when voters get the chance to overturn or approve a decision by township trustees to develop the State Route 309 Corridor Overlay District.
The overlay district would give Bath Township a new tool to control development in the area on the north side of the highway between Saratoga Avenue and just west of Devonshire Drive, said Bath Township Trustee Bob Sielschott.
The south side of the highway is in Perry Township and is all commercial. Development of the land has been limited on the north side, which is in Bath Township, due to the mix of business and residential housing that faces state Route 309.
Sielschott is confident the overlay project will help provide standards for developing the property in the overlay.
“This is moving forward in a thoughtful way versus ‘I never want to change’,” Sielschott said. “Change is inevitable, even if we don’t like it, and it has to be well managed. And this is a way to manage it.”
Ruth Hollenbacher, president of the Lost Creek Neighborhood Association and owner of several rental properties nearby, mounted a referendum on the trustee’s decision to create the new overlay district.
“In four days time we got close to 400 signatures that were certified by the board of elections so that this could be on the ballot,” Hollenbacher said.
Hollenbacher says developing the land in the overlay would destroy the character and tranquility of the Lost Creek neighborhood.
“It’s just not appropriate for this neighborhood. It would just be devastating to the properties that are left,” she said.
But is Hollenbacher standing in the way of progress?
“Do you see this as progress? Do you see an expanded gas station or losing 47 homes or a restaurant taking out 400 feet of the front of Lost Creek as progress? To destroy a neighborhood for a Chipotle and an expanded gas station? Do you think that is progress?” Hollenbacher asked.
But Sielschott counters that improvements need to be made for the future.
“The overlay deals with problems that existed and were discussed long before this group of trustees. The development approach along Harding Highway where you have a four-lane highway with over 16,000 cars a day going by, had stopped being a residential edge a long time ago. I think there’s 11 businesses in that area. Some of the buildings are old, the traffic patterns are very difficult. The development was haphazard. And you had things like gradual business creep into Lost Creek because there was no defined area. You had no consistency in the architecture. More and more of the residences on the edge of Lost Creek, were absentee owner rentals because the idea of a young family moving to that edge and living there and raising their children there on the edge of a four-lane highway was not as appealing as it was 30 years ago, 40 years ago,” Sielschott said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.