Sunday, January 02, 2000

Residents marvel, cringe at change

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        UNION TOWNSHIP — No township in Butler County has raced into the century faster than this community. But some residents suggest the beginning of 2000 might be a time to slow down a bit.

        Residents both marvel and cringe at their township's speedy growth, which is the fastest of any community in the county.

        They appreciate the introduction of an eight-story Marriott Hotel, sit-down restaurants, retail stores and a new Interstate 75 interchange, which is fueling the sweeping Union Centre Boulevard development.

        But they worry that tranquil green space, rolling farm fields and historical buildings might be run over by progress.

        Those interviewed by The Cincinnati Enquirer on a variety of subjects exhibited a cautious optimism.

        Residents pointed to the recent outpouring of generosity for victims of the Dec. 23 fire at Woodbridge on the Lake as proof that a strong spirit of community continues through the growth boom.

        “People around here are really generous to a fault,” said Mary Beth Osborne, who has lived in Union Township since 1977.

        She said the more than 20 tons of donations for fire victims were “certainly indicative of the community as a whole. ... I t speaks well for us.”

A new name?
        Ms. Osborne, and others who spoke to The Enquirer, said they aren't particularly enamored with their township's name. Many seem eager to vote in a new moniker — West Chester — when the name change issue appears on the March ballot.

        “I'd be in favor of going to West Chester,” said Ms. Osborne, who is co-owner of Beckett Ridge Wines, off Smith Road.

        There are 28 other Union Townships in Ohio, and switching to the community's historical but informal name of West Chester would greatly reduce confusion, she said.

        Alan Kramer, a Union Township resident of 34 years, welcomes a name change and most of the community's progress. Since 1997, the township has seen more than $600 million in new investments or increased inventories in area businesses. More than 5,000 jobs have been created since 1997.

        “But there are always problems. It's growing so fast. There's a new street popping up every other week,” he said. The township's booming population has jumped from an estimated 23,553 in 1980 to more than 56,000.

        Most of the new families have cars, and getting around the township is tougher as rural and suburban roads are periodically flooded with traffic.

        “Transportation in general is one of the major issues that needs to be dealt with. There are not enough roads for people,” said the 39-year-old Mr. Kramer, who lives off of Cincinnati-Dayton Road.

        Lakota East High School junior Rachelle Carmichael isn't so much worried about how to get where she wants to go as she is about having someplace to go.

        “There are not many places for teens to hang out. There's nothing around us,” said Rachelle, whose family lives near Kyles Station Road in northern Union Township.

What about past?
        Victoria Alvarez is concerned about the future of Union Township's history — especially the Olde West Chester section along Cincinnati-Dayton Road, where her studio and gallery are located.

        She worries that township officials are overly concentrating on developing the newer sections of the community while taking the merchants in Olde West Chester for granted.

        “I worry that they might destroy all the historic to build the new. Progress is good if it's under control and you manage it and maintain it,” said Ms. Alvarez, who has operated her shop since 1988.

        “They grew too much too fast. Personally, I think it's overgrown — but that's progress,” she said.

        She remains optimistic that township leaders will soon provide the necessary zoning, lighting and sidewalks she thinks are necessary for Olde West Chester merchants to thrive.

        All those who spoke to The Enquirer said they were pleased by plans to convert the former Voice of America site off of Tylersville Road into an expansive park and recreational area.


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