FAIRFIELD TWP., Ohio - The future of a Fairfield Township neighborhood is in the hands of its elected officials. Township trustees are meeting Tuesday night to vote on a zoning change request by a private school.
Cincinnati Christian School, located on Morris Road, is seeking a zoning change to begin work on a $3 million athletic complex. The school has no home field for its outdoor teams. There is also limited fields for practice. The plan calls for a new football/soccer stadium, baseball fields, a new driveway and a large parking lot.
Superintendent Terry Diefenbacher says the school needs the zoning change only for the stadium lights and the building structures for dugouts and press boxes. It does not need permission to do the fields, the parking lot or driveway.
He said the planning process began about two years ago. He said, at that time, the school invited neighbors to a meeting to hear about the plans. He said only a few turned out for a meeting and no one expressed any concerns. More recently, neighbors did start to voice opposition to the plan. More than 200 people signed a petition against the zoning change. Neighbors are concerned about increased traffic, bright lights, noise and reduced property values.
Diefenbacher said, "The desire was to have some fields our students could be proud of. Fields that we could actually host games here on site. Mostly we need fields for our students to practice on."
He added, "We're talking about 12-14 games a year with the lights. We're looking at a special lighting that is very directed onto the field that doesn't flood out on to the neighbors, so we're looking at these things and we are listening to them. We do want to be good neighbors."
Dan Keith lives next door to the school. His view from his back deck overlooks the valley below which includes plenty of trees, grassy areas, and the Mill Creek. It is that property behind the school that would be used for the stadium and parking lot. He and his wife Pat have lived in the home for 16 years. They are very much opposed to the plan.
Keith said, "This is a natural amphitheatre and sound just rings across the entire valley. It's simply too much in the wrong place."
He listed the concerns he has with the project, "My top issues are property values in the area, flooding, traffic and overall aesthetics to living in my home. We've tried to work with the school too, but this has been, frankly, a total in your face, it's what we want and the heck with you."
Part of the area is a flood plain with the Mill Creek, so neighbors are concerned any work in the area will lead to more consistent flooding problems. The school said it is working with county officials to address any flood concerns.
Traffic on two-lane Morris Road backs up during school pick-up and drop-off times. It blocks both directions of traffic as the traffic line spills out onto the road. Diefenbacher said the school plans to create a large stacking lane to bring that line of cars off the road and onto school property. He said the school is not required to do so, but is making that change to address the concerns of neighbors.
The Fairfield Township trustees in July had a public hearing to discuss the issues. About 100 people attended that meeting. On Tuesday night at 7 p.m., the trustees will meet again to take a vote on the zoning request. The meeting is at the Fairfield Township administration building located on Morris Road.
If the trustees approve the change, neighbors could appeal the decision and the school would proceed with fundraising efforts to pay for the complex. The school expects construction could begin in about a year if the trustees approve the zoning.
If the trustees reject the zoning change, the school could appeal or still build the fields, but would have to make some adjustments to its plans for lighting and buildings.
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