JACKSON TWP.  The Jackson Township Trustees held two public hearings for two separate rezoning requests. The trustees approved the first request and continued the second.

The first hearing was Rivertree Christian Church requesting 1.33 acres located on the north side of Portage, west of Lorraine from rural residential to suburban office and limited business district.

The trustees followed the recommendation of the Zoning Commission and approved the request. Nobody spoke out against and two people spoke for the rezoning.

The second public hearing was for owners of Tam O’Shanter requesting to rezone to rezone 62 acres south of the southeast corner of Everhard and Fulton.

Town Hall was packed to capacity with more than 120 people in the main room and more than 30 in the lobby. Residents came to speak in favor and against the proposal for the rezoning presented by Chuck Bennell, president of Tam O’Shanter golf course.

Bennell told the trustees and the audience that his family and the members of the company have decided to sell the golf course within the next few years and that the golf course will cease to operate. He said the Tam O’Shanter company has received offers to buy the land from developers but none to buy and run it as a golf course.

"We could sell the entire property to a developer who could put up to 400 homes in that area, and we could do that without a zoning change," Bennell said. "We would rather get 62 acres of it rezoned to commercial so that we can then sell 205 acres to Stark Parks at a discounted price and donate 20 acres to the township for a park. That’s the legacy we would like to leave behind. It’s really up to the people in the township which way we sell the land."

Many residents spoke in favor of the rezoning mainly because of the land designated for park area. Some also cited that with the addition of 400 homes, it would put pressure on the school systems (both Plain Local and Jackson Local), increase the need for safety services and increased traffic.

Those speaking against said they were concerned about the area for the commercial zoning citing 24-hour lighting, noise, traffic, safety and more retail business when the county has many empty buildings where major retailers have closed or are closing.

Other issues mentioned is that the park area designated to sell to Stark Parks would be a passive park which means it is undeveloped and is not maintained like other parks.

Residents were also concerned because there weren’t any specific plans submitted for what kind of commercial business would go on the 62 acres. Bennell said he wasn’t required to submit a plan because the land isn’t sold.

After the trustees let everyone who wanted to speak on the issue, they offered a plan to relieve some of the traffic concerns in the area.

They said that the commercial project could become a Joint Economic Development District (JEDD) where 1 percent of the income from workers in that area would come back to the township for safety forces. Plus, fiscal officer Randy Gonzales said the township could do a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for the new commercial area.

"We could use the TIF money to add right turn lanes in the area and make improvements to Sibila Road to prevent it from being used as a go around or cut through," Gonzales said.

Residents of the Carriage Hill apartment complex and a homeowner along Everhard Road also spoke and said that the property the apartments sit on would be right next to the commercial development.

The trustees were concerned about the commercial area being so close to the apartments and the homeowner. Trustees proposed to Bennell the possibility of zoning a portion of the area for office versus commercial. 

Because of that proposal, trustees decided to continue the hearing and delayed their vote. They want to take some time to work with property owners and Tam O’Shanter to find a way to buffer or provide a step down zoning solution n the area around the apartments and the homeowners along Everhard. They have 20 days to make a decision.

The Jackson Township Zoning Commission recommended the trustees approve the rezoning during their May meeting. The commercial zoning would permit the building of gas stations, retail stores or hotels.

Local developer Roger DeVille told trustees the area would benefit from more property that would accommodate larger retailers. One of the residents who spoke against the proposal countered that with the fact that research shows more people are shopping online and that many brick and mortar stores such as HH Gregg, Sears and others are closing stores and leaving empty buildings for the community to deal with.

OTHER ACTIONS:

- Accepted a number of donations including: $200 to the 2017 Pride Program from Remax Edge Realty, $210 to the K-9 program from Village Tower Residents Association, $750 to the park division from Jackson Fury Soccer Club, $200 from the Fraternal Order of Eagles North Canton and landscaping for the MJD Gazebo from the Danner family and the labor to install landscaping from the horticultural class at Jackson High School. 

- Approved the disposal of Police Department property that isn’t being used and has no value.

- Approved disposal of Fire Department property that isn’t being used and has no value.

- Approved an EMS Billing Agreement with the city of Massillon.

- Approved a Marlboro Township Sales Agreement for them to purchase old radio equipment from the Jackson Township Fire Department

- Paid bills in the amount of $1.8 million.

UP NEXT: The next regularly scheduled meeting is 5 p.m. June 27 at the Township Hall.