Residents concerned about development idea

At a recent West Jefferson council meeting, Harmony Development Group shared this rendering of what a potential housing development could like just east of the village along Route 40. The development is only in the concept stage at this point.

(Posted March 22, 2017)

By Sandi Latimer, Staff Writer

The March 20 meeting of West Jefferson village council drew a large crowd wanting to know more about a potential residential development along U.S. Route 40, east of town.

Two weeks earlier, council approved a water and sewer agreement and a pre-annexation agreement that would make it possible for Kroger Co. to build a small-format grocery store at the northeast corner of Route 40 and State Route 142. The agreements also involve land on the other side of Route 40, owned by William “Russ” Miller and Kris Miller, that is under consideration for a residential housing development.

At the March 6 meeting, Karl Billisits of Harmony Development Group showed renderings of what could be developed on the Millers’ land. The concepts involved a mix of housing types.

It was these concepts that drew about 20 people to the March 20 council meeting to ask questions.

Jefferson Township Trustee Jon Forrest was among them. He implored council to work with the township when it comes to development since the township funds the fire and emergency medical services (EMS) that serve the township and the village.

Council President Steve Johnston and Mayor Ray Martin pointed out that, at the last meeting, council approved legislation that would assess fees on new development that would send money to the township specifically for fire and EMS work.

“There won’t be 40 houses overnight,” Johnston said of the potential residential development.

“I’ve kept the township abreast of what is going on,” Martin said.

Several residents of Darby Crest, a housing development just east of the Miller property, said they are concerned about the number of houses that might be built on the Miller property. They admitted the village needs growth, but said they wanted a slow growth.

“And who’s going to widen the road?” came another question from the audience during the spirited discussion.

“Kroger will take care of that,” Martin said.

He also said that the only papers signed to date are the water and sewer agreement that still has to be approved by the county.

Council member Lori Cafagno sought to allay fears about a big housing development springing up overnight.

“I’ve talked with Mr. Miller several times,” she said, adding that any work on his land “is a work in progress.” “But we do have a need for housing. The plan has changed so many times. We do want input.”

The Millers own 400 acres, but the development would only be on 40 acres.

Jefferson Township Trustee Jeff Pfeil called for a town hall meeting, and Martin asked to talk with the Darby Crest residents’ association.

“(Miller) only wants what’s best for West Jefferson,” said council Vice President Jen Warner.

That’s when William Miller stood up and asked why residents of Darby Crest didn’t understand what was going on.

“I’d like to invite the people out and feed them and explain it,” he said. He then walked out of council chambers, trailed by Darby Crest residents and Martin. Meanwhile, Johnston gaveled the discussion closed and continued the meeting, although voices could still be heard from the hallway leading into the council chambers.

Earlier in the discussion, an audience member asked why earlier plans for a Turkey Hill store were abandoned. Turkey Hill is a convenience-type store affiliated with Kroger.

“We don’t need any more quick-stops,” said Warner.

“We’ve surveyed the people, and they say they want a grocery store,” Martin responded.

The village has been without a grocery store for several years. Residents drive to London or the west side of Columbus for groceries.

“Forty percent of our residents are seniors, and we have to keep them in town,” Martin added.

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