City says no to nursing home

By Scott Halasz -

XENIA — After much discussion, Xenia City Council Dec. 30 unanimously turned down a major change to the Timber Ridge planned unit development that would have brought a new nursing home to town.

The developer planned to purchase 37.365 acres of undeveloped land and construct a 99-bed nursing home north of Elmcroft of Xenia on the west side of U.S. 68 North and keep 30 remaining lots vacant. Planning and zoning endorsed the change, 3-1, but the possibility of increased EMS calls — which have been growing annually since 1988 — and other financial impacts had residents, city staff and council concerned.

A similar request was turned down by the city in 1997.

“All of Timber Ridge is intended for single home units,” said Ron Taylor, who has resided in Timber Ridge for nearly 30 years. “We bought our lots, we built our homes with this commitment in mind. You have all heard our concerns. The EMS situation remains.”

He added that a nursing home the size of Home Depot was not the intention of the development.

Howard Horstman, a 10-year resident in Timber Ridge, said the perception that there’s a lack of interest in that neighborhood is wrong and that’s not why many lots are still vacant.

“The vacant lots that are there in the neighborhood are kept vacant because people bought the lots to keep green space around the homes or they bought the lots to put a retirement home, to build a home for their retirement years, not because there’s not an interest in the neighborhood,” he said. “I don’t think anybody would want one of these in their back yard.”

Alyssa Varvel said she and her family bought their home four months ago, and had targeted Timber Ridge for 10 years before finally being able to afford to move in there.

“We love our neighborhood,” she said, adding that they intend to buy the adjacent vacant lot to maintain green space. She also said that the 30 leftover lots could become a 7-11 or another medical office building that are popping up all over the county.

At the previous council meeting when the ordinance was introduced, City Manager Brent Merriman said he couldn’t give overwhelming support for the project, citing the city’s inability to handle the increased EMS call volume. When asked at Monday’s meeting, Assistant City Manager Jared Holloway — filling in for the absent Merriman — said he wouldn’t vote in favor of it either.

A motion was made by council vice president Edgar Wallace to table the ordinance — after a motion to vote on the amendment was made by council member Will Urschel — to allow the developer more time to address the issues was defeated 5-2 with Wallace and council president Mike Engle voting yes. Engle said tabling it in his mind was a soft “no,” not a hard “no” and that the request is something that needs some additional conversations with planning and zoning, with the city, and with the affected residents.

Council member Dale Louderback said he didn’t need more time.

“We have a serious problem with our EMS,” he said. “With another facility we just can’t handle it. They (residents) don’t want it. I don’t want it.”

Urschel said with three new council members set to be sworn in, to table it would have the new council operate as a de facto zoning commission. He said the developer should go directly back to the planning and zoning members as they understand the “nuts and bolts” of the request.

“We’re giving the problem to the next council,” Urschel said.

He added that 20 percent of the EMS calls are from a nursing home or assisted-living facility and that 90-95 percent of the EMS call volume is transport. He said the city would need reserves for actual emergencies and it would have to hire paramedics, staff and purchase more units to handle the increase.

The developer has the option to change the request and start over with planning and zoning.

By Scott Halasz

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.