GALENA, Ohio – Last week the Village Council of Galena met to consider annexation plans for a massive development proposed by the Champion Companies that would more than double their population. Residents and Champion employees queued up early, some wanting to listen and others to speak. Ultimately the two annexation ordinances passed as emergency measures by unanimous vote, providing no referendum option.
While they were waiting, the public participated in an informal poll by The Ohio Star, asking who was for the development and who was opposed. Thirty people acknowledged their support, seven were undecided and forty-five were opposed. Nearly all of the supporters were employed by Champion and did not live in Galena.
Councilman Bob Molter met the developers’ people at the door and let them in while residents watched. The employees had arrived early and most were first in line. One opponent, Nicole Walker, took the opportunity to speak with The Ohio Star about her concerns.
“Right now our high schoolers are standing to eat lunch. I have a 7-year-old and an 8th-month-old. I don’t my my children to have these conditions because of apartments going in and density going up,” Walker explained.
“We’re not working with our surrounding townships and villages to grow properly,” Walker added, expressing her concern that Galena was not cooperating with other political jurisdictions when considering their plans.
Galena for Responsible Growth is a political action committee (PAC) that sprang up to fight the plan for 1,085 homes and apartments combined with commercial property. The village is currently home to around 723 people.
Local news station NBC4 was on hand and reported, “People in Galena filled the village meeting hall Monday night as the council there discussed a proposed multi-use development, which has some residents furious.”
The meeting room was filled to capacity, according to the BST&G Fire Chief Chris Kovach. Although the occupancy sign said “172”, the church pews were filled with approximately 145 people.
The pre-annexation agreement was up first. Mayor Tom Hopper stated it was needed, “…to give the owner some rights.” Hopper, who’s been Mayor for nearly twenty years, noted that the agreement would let the property owner out of the plan if he was not satisfied.
Council Member Kathy Krupa asked if adding the emergency language would prohibit a referendum of the annexation. She was told yes. Citizens will not be able to overturn ordinance 2019-33, the pre-annexation, or 2019-14, the annexation ordinance which was also passed as an emergency measure.
The public hearing portion of the meeting was called to order. The council began discussions of zoning changes planned for the newly annexed property which consists of 260-plus acres belonging to Blackhawk Golf Club and the John Wright farm, circled in yellow.
Yeager and two Champion employees spoke first while at least a dozens residents wrapped it up.
Chief Kovach took the opportunity to correct some misinformation. A claim was made by a local news station that BST&G would be unable to handle the increased requirements. He confirmed that it would only add approximately one run per day for which they were well equipped.
Brad Schneider, Board President for Big Walnut Local Schools, also corrected misinformation. Rumors had been spreading that the district could easily absorb the new students. Schneider, to the contrary, said they would need to request additional operating revenue. The school system could not absorb the scope of growth planned.
Michelle Parsons, a Galena landlord, summed up the sentiment of opponents, “You’re representing us [she told the council and the Mayor], but you’re not listening to us…You do represent us.” (emphasis hers)
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