HAMILTON, Ohio — The first hurdle to building a 2,600-plus athletic complex at Badin High School has been navigated as Hamilton Planning Commission approved its concept.
It could take years before actual plans come to fruition, and the school has offered no timeline for constructing the complex. A concept plan, however, would expire one year after approval, according to city statute.
Hamilton Planning Commission recommended on Thursday a rezoning request to change the residential zoning of Hamilton’s nearly 26-acre campus to a Business Planned Development. This change, if approved by City Council, would allow the county’s only Catholic high school to expand its parking lot by 284 spots due to a growing student population. City Council will consider the matter starting next month.
Because it was requesting a rezoning change, Badin had to submit to the city any other potential future improvements to the property, which is why the athletic complex concept plan is also a part of its request.
Badin Principal Brian Pendergest said the school conducted a feasibility study, which included a campus master plan, a decade ago. That plan included a Student Development Center, which opened in the fall of 2020, and additional parking and an athletic complex.
Though the need for the Student Development Center was determined the school’s priority at that time, the importance of more parking and an on-campus athletic complex has grown, Pendergest said.
“We’ve seen an increase in enrollment over the last 12 years, going from 445 students to 620 students,” said Pendergest. “Our current and incoming freshman classes are the largest we’ve had in 15 years. We currently do not have enough parking for our students, let alone our parents and guests when we have evening events.”
The 284-spot expansion will ensure the school has adequate parking in the future. It would bring the total number of spots to 650, one over the requirement to allow a 2,600-plus-seat athletic complex.
Pendergest said the complex has become “a necessity.”
“First and foremost, it’s the safety of our students,” he said. “The current practice field our football team uses is not safe.”
The field has areas of embedded large rocks and sinkholes, and they are unable to maintain grass, Pendergest said. Also, the boys and girls soccer teams, and the track team, must travel to off-campus facilities for practices and placed ― over the years, some students have been in car crashes going to practices ― an increased burden on parents to find ways to get their student-athletes to off-campus practice locations.
“Having our own campus will allow all of these teams to practice on campus in a safe environment,” Pendergest said.
Pendergest added that though they have a positive working relationship with area school districts, practice times are harder to schedule as those schools’ programs grow.
“We want to be good neighbors with our nearby residents, and we are willing to work with them to make this a positive part of our campus and our community,” Pendergest said.
And Badin will have to be if leaders want any final planned development to be approved. As Planning Commission approved the rezoning for the parking lot expansion and the athletic complex concept plan, the board expressed that this is preliminary and that they’d like to see the final plan address the neighbors’ concerns.
Though a strong contingent of green-clad Badin supporters attended Thursday’s planning commission meeting, so did an equally strong contingent of neighbors who were against either the rezoning, the parking lot expansion or the athletic complex.
Neighbor concerns range from a fear of increased traffic on Jerdan Lane, on-street parking during evening events, noise and intruding lights from games, and encroaching on the wooded area at the back of the school’s property.
Debbie Hymer’s property at 940 Columbia Road abuts the rear of Badin High School’s southern property line.
She said the large wooded buffer is home to many wildlife “that provides tranquility and privacy” for Columbia Road residents.
Hymer said as it stands now with its current parking lot in the rear of the school it “is very intrusive after dark.”
“There are three huge spotlights, and for of those in that lower elevation on Columbia Road, those shining lights come in (during) the evening right into our living area,” she said. “And I don’t think any tree replenishment has been done for the trees that were destroyed to increase that portion of the parking lot.”
With modern-day LED lighting, there is little overspray, according to the engineering firm Bayer Becker.
Badin owns nearly the entire wooded area behind the school that abuts the properties between 888 and 950 Columbia Road.
Hymer said an athletic complex “is just too intense for our small, quiet neighborhood.”
“A parking lot is one thing, but a huge stadium is quite another,” she said, conceding that an athletic training facility would be better for the neighborhood. “Our sense of space would be gone. Tranquility would be gone. Our privacy would be gone. The proposal crams too much into a very small space encroaching onto the private spaces of Badin’s neighbors.”
Columbia Road resident Dan Acton, who lives adjacent to the southeast corner of Potter’s Run Golf Course, said the noise from Friday night football and night games for boys and girls soccer will just add to the noise already in the neighborhood from venues up to a half-mile away.
“We’re just told to choke it up,” he said Thursday. “I didn’t buy a house in the middle of a DORA, and that’s exactly what it seems to be that we’re making it into.
Hamilton City Council scheduled a first reading and public hearing on the rezoning request, parking lot expansion plan, and athletic complex concept for May 25.