Thursday, October 19, 2000

Trailer park might relocate

Owner would make way for Lowe's

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MILFORD — A Milford-area mobile home park owner who plans to kick out about 150 tenants to allow development of a hardware store said he wants to buy another park where displaced tenants can relocate.

        Park owner Jake Sieber's announcement comes after Romar Villa's residents, many elderly and disabled, appealed to Lowe's Co. and government planners who must change zoning to allow the home-improvement retailer to build a store.

        More than a dozen residents have moved from the park since learning Mr. Sieber planned to develop the site near Interstate 275 and Ohio 28 into a strip center anchored by Lowe's.

        Now Lowe's executives have taken the unusual step of publicly discussing the case because residents have written protest letters and media have reported the controversial development.

        “We've had to talk about this one because it's been in the media,” said Lowe's spokeswoman Jule Eller, noting that the company usually doesn't talk about a project until it signs a lease and gains government approvals.

        Residents say they are cautiously optimistic of Mr. Sieber's plans to build a new park off Ohio 131 in Miami Township.

        “I think it is wonderful — if the zoning goes through,” said Melanie Smithey. She heads the park's residents committee, which has fought displacement.

        Some residents fear that relocation will be costly and rents will skyrocket past their current $250 a month. The residents own their mobile homes but rent their spaces.

        Mr. Sieber said it's too early to know when the new park will be developed or how much he will charge for rent because he hasn't calculated the cost of developing a 110-space park on the 28-acre site. He said he will pay a “significant portion” of the relocation costs but declined to be specific.

        Lowe's Co. officials said they are concerned about the displacement and have worked with Mr. Sieber on a solution.

        Although plans for the new mobile home park have been submitted to Miami Township community development officials, there's no guarantee that the project will be approved, said Larry Fronk, Miami Township's community development director.

        Mr. Fronk said he must be convinced that traffic and access issues are resolved before he recommends approval of the new park. The land is zoned light industrial and must be zoned mobile. Lowe's also needs to change zoning of the Romar Villa park from mobile to commercial. Both zoning cases will be reviewed on three levels: the Clermont County Planning Commission, the Miami Township Zoning Commission and the Miami Township Board of Trustees. Hearings on both cases will start next week.

        The Miami Township Zoning Commission already rejected a proposal by another mobile park owner, Marv Theilman, to expand and take on some of the elderly residents being displaced from Romar Villa.

        The proposal was defeated because Mr. Theilman's engineer couldn't explain why existing zoning should be changed to expand the Wolfpen-Pleasant Hill Road mobile home park.

        Many elderly Romar Villa residents, fearing they couldn't find another place to live, supported Mr. Theilman's project and were disappointed by its defeat. The park accepts only senior citizens.

        Charlie Seipelt, whose 88-year-old mother, Anita, lives at Romar Villa, said the new park idea is too little too late.

        “Nothing was done until Mr. Theilman came up with a plan,” Mr. Seipelt said. "Everything is out of kilter at this point. A lot of people already left.”


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