By Jon Gambrell
LEBANON - Plans to rezone former farmland as commercial space passed by a tight City Council vote, paving the way for a possible Wal-Mart Supercenter here.
The ordinance, which converts nearly 58 acres at the intersection of U.S. 42 and Bypass Ohio 48 to commercial land, passed 4-3 at Tuesday night's meeting.
Council members Amy Brewer, Norm Dreyer II, J. Matthew Rodriguez and Jeffrey Aylor voted for the measure, with James Norris II, Jim Hause and Ben Cole opposing.
"I feel uncomfortable about open spaces disappearing and the possibility of more congestion," Dreyer said. "But to move into a community that is in the second-fastest-growing county in this state and buy a piece of property surrounded by open farmland and think it's going to stay that way forever ... I think it is na‘ve."
But Hause, who said there are another 100 acres nearby that could see the same zoning shift, worried about development encompassing the open land.
"I personally don't feel a shopping center is a good use for the land out there," he said.
Though the vote changes the land's zoning, Wal-Mart must still bring conceptual plans to Lebanon's Planning Commission for review and approval.
Lebanon is one of several Tristate communities grappling with possible Wal-Mart developments. Groups of residents in Milford and Deerfield Township are trying to block such plans, citing traffic and noise concerns.
Kitty M. Cassis, a real estate broker for Wal-Mart in Cincinnati, called the vote fair.
Resident Jan Kaufman said she was surprised. She said if Wal-Mart left its current location in Lebanon, there would only be another empty storefront, along with the town's former Kmart and Big Bear stores.
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