To:  Bethel Township Residents
From:     Diana Fessler and Kama Dick
Date:     June 28, 2009
RE:The choice:  Preserving Bethel Township

SIGNFICANT and COSTLY efforts to permanently change the nature of Bethel Township are underway. This web site is devoted to providing vital information concerning the proposed revision of the Bethel Township Development Plan and the construction of centralized sewer and water systems.

Without a doubt, the proposed revision of the Strategic Development Plan and the recently adopted centralized sewer agreement are inter-related and co-dependent. To STOP  the intense development that sewer will bring, at minimum, we must STOP the Development Plan from being changed. But, few people know of the magnitude of the proposed changes or the true cost of what is being planned. Because the proposed update of the strategic plan is referred to as the “Route 40 Corridor Plan,” property owners not near Route 40 mistakenly believe that proposed changes won’t affect them.

But be forewarned, the township has gone on record that after this round of revisions is completed the middle and top portions of the township will be subject to “updating,” too.  By then, the infrastructure will already be put in place and there will be no turning back.

Together we are strong. Divide us into thirds and we lose strength. Another example of this divide–and-conquer strategy was the scheduling of two meetings to “unveil” the revised Development Plan. People who showed up the second night didn't know about previous opposition to the changes. Because of the issues raised in those meetings, two more divide-and-conquer meetings were held. 

Township trustees have told us that it is vitally important that the strategic plan be updated because of the changing economy (Resolution #80-04-35). If it is vital to change the plan, it is equally vital that we understand what development, sewer, and mandatory water service will mean to us, who will benefit from the proposed changes, how those changes will impact our property rights, our wallets, and our cherished rural way of life. Yet, vitally important information has been kept under wraps.

A March 2008 report to the Miami County Sanitary Engineering Department states, “Bethel Township’s Strategic Growth Plan is to remain a predominantly rural area but . . .  building a gravity trunk sewer that would promote high density exurban growth patterns in Bethel Township is contrary to Bethel Township’s goals.

Resolving that conflict requires revision of the current Development Plan. To that end, the Bethel Township Trustees selected a steering committee. The committee’s collective preference for future land use was then embedded in the proposed land use plan. The Miami County Sanitary Engineer also served on the committee. He lives in Troy, but sees “potential growth from tearing down existing homes to open up for restaurants, commercial, etc., near 201. At the first meeting, five members were absent, and on a particularly important project only one of the Bethel residents on the committee provided the input as requested.  The proposed land use plan should be scrapped; the process used to develop it was not credible.

At the same time that the strategic plan was being revised, the County Sanitary Engineering Department was working on a centralized sewer system for Bethel Township including acquiring necessary permits to dig. The stage has been set for the development plan to be approved by the township. The county commissioners have already signed a sewer agreement with Clark County, and the Bethel Land Use Plan will be integrated into the County Land Use Plan, thereby making it essentially binding. All this, in spite of the fact that the Sanitary Engineering Department informed Clark County in the Fall of ’07 that no appreciable development would take place in Bethel Twp in the foreseeable future, and that they would not need to discharge wastewater” to Clark County’s wastewater treatment plant.

Last year Bethel had a sensible plan to provide wastewater treatment for about 80 properties in Brandt. On March 13, 2008, in a document prepared for the Ohio EPA, the County Sanitary Engineer that to the best of his knowledge and belief the best option for Brandt was a small Membrane Bio-Reactor process. Therefore, we can have confidence that the original Brandt plan is the best plan to address a stated need. Yet, just months later, that plan was put on hold and a very expensive and expandable agreement for Bethel to get centralized sewer service and mandatory water from Clark County was pursued.

The May 29, 2009 sewer agreement between Miami County and Clark County requires payment for

  • All metered flow at the prevailing rates in Clark Count, plus 20%
  • The Clark County’s current Capacity and Connection charge, plus 40%  
  • 100% of the Capacity and Connection Charge for Brandt, upfront
  • At least 25% above Clark County’s prevailing sewerage rates in addition to Clark County flow rates, plus 20%

Neither linear foot costs or the cost and interest of the long-term debt associated with the project have been disclosed. (See rates and fees)

Below is the Service Area  map of the current boundaries for sewer and water coming from Clark County.  The planning area goes east from the Clark County line, south to the Montgomery County line, west toward Flick Road and then diagonally east to 571, but it is subject to expansion. A 45,000 gallon wastewater system was needed to serve Brandt, but the County has signed an agreeement with Clark County for 1.2 million gallons per day with an allowance for more as needed. Significant work is also underway on a centralized system for Phoneton, north up 201 and east and west on 40. through a contract with the Tri-City Wastewater Treatment Facility.

Without access to more specific information it is impossible to calculate the full cost per residence; it will certainly be in the thousand of thousands of dollars, plus monthly service fees, per parcel, perhaps as much as $20,000.  Bethel residents will pay Miami County. The county will keep some of our money, and then send the rest to Clark County. In the end, Bethel Township residents will be paying for the expansion of the Clark County wastewater treatment plant even though most Bethel residents don’t need or want centralized sewer and water. Apparently, Miami County will become part owners of the plant, at our expense. However, no genuine need for a widespread centralized sewer system for Bethel Township has been established by the Ohio EPA. No hard figures have been provided. So why proceed? Apparently, the goal is to completely re-invent Brandt, position a few large landowners to develop their own land, and to enable external developers to turn Bethel Township, our little piece of Heaven on Earth, into a planned community with high-density housing, industrial parks, and commercial centers for the purpose of increasing the tax base. 

What’s the benefit to Clark County? A Sept. 12, 2008 Clark County memo says: “Having an outside entity like Miami County to help pay for the cost reduces the unit cost to Clark County residents,” but they also recognize the disadvantage of expanding: “Once a commitment is made to expand the plant and work begins, the debt becomes a certainty, while growth in either Miami County or Clark County may be slow or not materialize.”  Growth or no growth, we, the residents of Bethel Township, will foot the bill for this ill-advised project. Even so, on April 24, 2009, in a letter to the Miami County Commissioners, Bethel Township Trustees pledged their continuing commitment to bringing centralized sewer service to Bethel Township.

Undoubtedly, you will hear: “The Ohio EPA requires . . .”, but NO PUBLIC RECORD has been provided to substantiate the trustees' claim the Ohio EPA is breathing down our necks. You might hear, “The County has jurisdiction”, but only because the trustees solicited their involvement, or you might hear some irrelevant chatter about boundaries.

You may be told that property currently zoned commercial is being re-designated residential and that you should be happy. But, because the proposed development plan allows for Planned Unit Developments (PUDs), you should find little comfort in the proposed change. That is because a PUD designation is used to permit commercial and industrial development in residential zones and vice-versa. In addition, During the July 2, 2009 meeting at Bethel School, some verbal backtracking took place as the terminology shifted from PUD to a Planned Unit Residential (PUR). However, low-income housing, as once proposed for Palmer Road, would be allowed in your neighborhood even under a PUR.

Interested parties also need to know that Overlay Zoning refers to additional zoning to permit uses that are desired but not currently permitted as well as additional zoning that prohibits uses deemed undesirable. At the July 2, meeting it was stated that Overlay Zoning can be removed from the document. However, that may prove to be a moot point based on the townships commitment to participating in the statewide Corridor Management Plan.

We are at a crossroads; One road, QUALITY OF LIFE, leads to the preservation of the township. The other road, SILENCE OF THE MAJORITY, leads to government planned, tax-supported development of the township for the financial benefit of a few. Without a doubt, the proposed revision of the Development Plan and the centralized sewer agreement with Clark County are inter-related. To STOP the intense development that central water and sewer will bring, at minimum, the township trustees and zoning board must reject the proposed changes to the Development  Plan.

Bethel Township News and Views

Miami County, Ohio