Perry Village Council has approved a developer’s request to construct a new housing subdivision in the community.
However, a resolution allowing the project to move forward did not win unanimous support from village legislators.
Councilman Rick Walker cited several reasons why he voted against the resolution to develop a subdivision on the Booth Farm property at Main Street and South Ridge Road, also known as Route 84.
“Perry Village is not a cookie-cutter community, and this is yet another case of someone coming in and putting as many pieces of property — as many rooftops as you can — in a small parcel, and I’m opposed to this,” Walker said, during the Sept. 10 council meeting.
All other council members — Phil Cassella, Mike Glover, Jean Schonauer, Buddy Semple and Elias Coss — voted in favor of the project. The subdivision will be developed by B.R. Knez Construction of Concord Township on land that it owns on Main Street and South Ridge Road, just east of the Perry Township border.
Council passed the resolution after discussing the role that the Booth Farm Planned Unit Development, as it’s formally known, could play in attracting new businesses to the village.
“From a standpoint that we have seriously been looking at ways in which to have economic development, and rooftops is an important item as far as I’m concerned … I think (the Booth Farm subdivision) would add to it,” Cassella said. “I think as long as it’s done correctly and positively, it will be a benefit to the village.”
“Rooftops” refer to the number of homes that are located within a community, region or other specific geographic area. When it comes to economic development, there’s a popular saying that “retail follows rooftops.” That adage capsulizes the idea that retailers want locations that are near places which already have a robust residential population, or areas where significant numbers of new homes are being built.
In addition, some national restaurant chains use rooftops as a benchmark when expanding into new communities.
The need for more rooftops to accelerate economic development in the Perry area was brought up two years ago at a community meeting during which the Champion Farm Joint Land Study was unveiled.
Once the site of a horticultural nursery, the Champion Farm property today is owned by Perry Schools, which leases sections of the land to the township and village. About 80 acres are located in the township, while the remaining 150 acres are in the village. Champion Farm stretches from North Ridge Road, or Route 20, on the north in the township to Main Street in the village for its southern border.
The district made the acquisition with the intent of redeveloping the land with a mix of primarily commercial, medical, office and/or light industrial uses. It’s hoped that these new tenants would generate payroll revenue and strengthen the community’s tax base within the established Perry Joint Economic Development District, according to study.
During the June 27, 2018, meeting when the study was presented, consultant Emil Liszniansky said the primary market area surrounding Champion Farm is hindered by a scarcity of rooftops.
“The area is more spread out, with rural developments and lot of farms still in place,” he said. “The lack of rooftops is a challenge to getting intense commercial development on the Champion Farm site.”
At the Sept. 10 Perry Village Council meeting, the idea of additional rooftops and how it could lure tenants to the former Champion Farm — which still sits barren — was reiterated.
“One of the things we are missing is the rooftops,” Councilwoman Jean Schonauer said.
However, Walker doesn’t share his colleagues’ sentiments on rooftops being an indispensable economic development tool.
“There’s no guarantee that more rooftops here are going to bring business,” Walker said. “There’s no guarantee whatsoever of that, and that’s one of the reasons I oppose (the Booth Farm project).”
Cassella also serves on the Perry Village Planning Commission, which recommended that council approve a resolution indicating its desire for the Booth Farm project to begin. However, even with council’s expression of support, Cassella said Knez still has to meet a variety of requirements stipulated by the Planning Commission, village engineer, and other government agencies.
“(The Planning Commission) will have another gathering as far as a pre-construction meeting, where all of the details we have uncovered during our process will be reviewed, before we actually issue a (building) permit,” Cassella said.
Semple said he liked the fact that the Booth Farm project, along with development of the Hidden Village subdivision that started in town about two years ago, can broaden the community’s tax base.
“To sustain this, you can’t keep beating up on the same people over and over and over again, and (the addition of the Booth Farm subdivision) helps to spread it around and keep everybody at a certain (tax) rate,” Semple said. “I believe one of our functions is to keep the people living nicely and not taking money out of their pocket, if we can help it. So I think these new developments will help that situation by bringing in some fresh blood.”
In response to Semple’s claim of economic benefits stemming from the new subdivisions, Walker said these developments also will increase the number of vehicles traveling on village streets.
“I’ve already seen quite a large impact on our traffic with just Hidden Village, and it’s only going to get worse, and I think you’re going to see people move out, because we’re losing our charm,” he said.
At this point, it’s anticipated that Knez will construct 27 homes in the first phase of the Booth Farms subdivision, village Mayor James Gessic said.
It’s difficult to estimate how many homes ultimately will be constructed on the Booth Farms site, since Knez is still awaiting results of soil testing and changes in drainage requirements that might be mandated by several government agencies, village officials said. Both factors could affect where homes can be built throughout the property.
However, before each new phase of the project can begin, the developer will have to come back and seek approval from the community’s Planning Commission and Village Council.