Bethel school, township leaders speak out against annexation into Huber Heights

Huber mayor says funding plan would give Bethel schools millions; Bethel reps say if plan passes, students would learn in trailers; rural character would be destroyed



Bethel Twp. leaders spoke strongly against a proposed annexation of township land into Huber Heights this week, saying the move would badly overcrowd Bethel schools and “destroy our way of life.” The comments came at a city of Huber Heights “due diligence” meeting about the annexation Monday.

In February, Miami County commissioners reluctantly approved some Bethel Twp. landowners’ request to annex their 296.236 acres into Huber Heights. The city of Huber Heights has until Sept. 6 to vote on the annexation request.

The land in question lies immediately north of the Carriage Trails subdivision in southern Miami County, just south of U.S. 40 and west of Brandt Pike (Ohio 201). Most of the parcel in question was subject to a similar, previous annexation request that was never finalized, because Huber Heights council didn’t vote on that petition within legal time limits, citing a lack of consensus.

About a dozen attendees addressed Huber Heights council during the three-plus hour town hall segment Monday, sharing concerns that have been at the heart of the matter since the annexation was first proposed.

Those against the annexation are worried about the potential overcrowding of Bethel schools if hundreds more homes are built on the annexed property. They also questioned whether adequate public services would be provided to the annexed land, and disliked the loss of a rural feel many associate with Bethel Twp.



Huber Heights Mayor Jeff Gore responded to many of those concerns Monday, explaining the suggested remedies outlined in a due diligence report recently compiled by city staff for council consideration prior to a vote on the annexation petition.

According to Huber Heights officials, over a period of 30 years, the Carriage Trails II development is anticipated to provide just shy of $130 million in funding to go toward Bethel schools, further ensuring the district would have sufficient funds to construct new educational space as needed.

This money would be generated through a revenue strategy that would see the annexed acreage for development designated as a Community Reinvestment Area in connection with a New Community Authority, the report states.

CRAs provide real property tax exemptions for property owners who construct new buildings, to encourage such development. Under a CRA, a 100% property tax abatement would be implemented on improvements (construction) to the annexed property over a 15-year period, as outlined in the due diligence report from the city of Huber Heights.

New Community Authorities allow communities and developers to create a board of trustees to establish various fees or charges within the boundaries of the NCA, funds from which can then be used for capital and operational efforts.

The due diligence report suggests the city could recommend the NCA fully reimburse both the Bethel school district and the Miami Valley Career Technology Center the amounts they would have collected without the tax abatement.

Further, the report recommends the NCA provide Bethel schools with $20 million for the construction of a new elementary school within Carriage Trails II, on lands donated to the district by the developer.

“So, the $130 million plus the $20 million from the city would be about $150 million, plus state instructional money per student,” Gore said.

Multiple members of the Bethel Local School District Board of Education spoke, including Vice President Regan Butler, who said money isn’t the main concern of those opposed to the annexation.

“You’re throwing around numbers ... but money isn’t what it’s all about,” Butler said. “And you can’t build a school based on projected numbers. The state gives money based on the number of kids in seats.”

Butler contended the timeline of securing the funding, updating growth estimates, and constructing a new building would potentially leave Bethel schools overcrowded in the interim.

“We have to educate these children for a number of years until we get to a population number that makes sense to start discussing a new school,” Butler said. “So that means ... anyone moving into Carriage Trails II, your children will be educated in trailers for a number of years because we’re not going to build a school that’s going to be overcrowded as soon as we cut the ribbon.”

Bethel school board President Jackie Leskowich stressed that overcrowding is already an issue.

“We are still feeling the effects from Carriage Trails I,” Leskowich said. “The school is in constant turmoil; we’ve outgrown our brand new elementary school in just one single school year.”

Huber Heights resident Thomas Dillingham encouraged fellow residents not to allow “our feelings to get in the way.”

“It is understandable that concerns may arise whenever significant changes are proposed, however, it is essential to assess the changes based on facts and their broader impact on the community development,” he said.

Dillingham said he feels the pushback against annexation is based on a “perceived threat of tradition” and a resistance to change.

“I’m not saying we abandon all tradition, but the only way we move forward is to honor tradition, embrace progress, and make reasonable compromises to ensure we are doing the best for the future,” he said.

Bethel Twp. Trustee Julie Reese, who said she spoke solely as a resident of the township, said the annexation of Bethel Twp. land has and will negatively impact her community, a position shared by many Bethel Twp. residents who oppose the annexation.

“Folks move to Bethel Twp. for a reason; we don’t want to live 10 feet from our neighbor. We want the quiet and tranquility of a rural lifestyle,” Reese said. “We want the country roads without a stoplight on every corner, we want to drive those roads and look out the window at the crops growing and the cattle grazing. Annexation is destroying our way of life.”

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