This was the response of one public official to a rumor the Darke County Commissioners were going to the zoning commission (Greenville Township) Jan. 9 to get the 137-acre county farm rezoned commercial. And their first sale, according to the rumor, would be the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).
“How can they do that? What gives them the right to take something that’s part of our heritage, break it up into pieces and sell them off for commercial use.”
Commissioners Mike Stegall, Diane Delaplane and Mike Rhoades confirmed the rumor on Jan. 8 but corrected the zoning request to be light industrial, not commercial.
“There is a need for more ground,” they said… “at a reasonable price.”
According to the commissioners, the Economic Development Office has lost potential new employers because the only land available was at the Greenville Industrial Park and it was too expensive.
“They would ask for something a little more in their price range and we would have to tell them we didn’t have it.”
Rhoades said he didn’t like losing farm ground, but they had to look to the future. When posed with the possible criticism of those who want the land to stay as it is, his response was “Do you want jobs?”
Stegall said it was Rhoades’ idea but he fully supported it. “I think it’s an outstanding idea,” he said.
The commissioners pointed out the taxpayers elected them to make the important decisions. “We have to make the best choices we can. There’s a need for it.”
Rhoades added the land is agricultural but not ‘good’ farm land. “We can put a garden there, but with all the new regulations we can’t sell what we grow.” He noted the ruling came from the Darke County Health Department, adding the property today is basically used for pasture.
The land’s location at the intersection of U.S. 127 and S.R. 49 fills in an expansion area they referred to as a “V” between the Arcanum areas to the south and Greenville to the north. Using this land for business expansion is preferable to taking prime agricultural land from somewhere else.
“We feel like this is the best use for that land. Just because it was that way once, doesn’t mean it will always be that way.”
Commissioners agreed ODOT was interested in about 10-15 acres but that’s still on the drawing board. “No deal has been completed.” They agreed ODOT doesn’t pay taxes on the land “but their workers do… and they serve the public.” Greenville gets to keep the 10 acres ODOT currently uses and turn that into commercial property. “It’s a good deal for everyone.”
Rhoades added utilities will be paid for by the entities purchasing the property. The commissioners will act as real estate brokers, noting they are responsible for the ground.
County department heads have had no official notification of the commissioners’ plans. A couple had heard rumors but that was it. Did the commissioners feel a decision like this might be appropriate for public discussion?
“Why?” said Stegall. “We know there will be some who disagree. What’s the point? They elected us. We make the best decision we can.”
“We have to manage the money,” Rhoades said. “We have the right to manage the property.