Wednesday, November 08, 2000

Growth catching up to Morrow

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MORROW — Warren County's growth spurt, so far concentrated in the west, may soon seep eastward into this village of 1,500 on the bank of the Little Miami River.

        “It's not because we're brilliant,” says Vic Centers, a councilman, real estate agent and local bar owner. “We're the only thing left. It had to get here eventually.”

[photo] Robert Etherington (left) of Vertex Commercial Group and Morrow Councilman Vic Center look over plans for a new golf course to be built near Todd's Creek.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        A slight majority of property owners in a 101-acre area east of the village have petitioned to be annexed, and several other areas north and west are considering taking the step.

        Further, developers have an option on a former ski resort site once targeted for a landfill. Vertex, based in Sharonville, is considering putting a golf course and 200 homes on the 473 acres.

        The development would increase the number of homes in Morrow by 50 percent, estimates Fred La Follette, the village's administrator and fire chief.

        While the population here has not grown much beyond the 1,170 people it had in 1990, the countywide population has risen almost 35 percent, to an estimated 153,292 in 1999, the Census Bureau reported.

        “We don't have any tax base here — no industry — and we need something to support the village,” Mayor Bob Brown says.

        County commissioners recently received a petition from four of seven Salem Township property owners along Morrow-Blackhawk Road seeking to be annexed to Morrow. If it goes through, the village would collect a 1 percent income tax and provide police protection and water service.

        Morrow has just opened bids to extend its waterlines there, with estimates starting at about $150,000, Mayor Bob Brown says.

        But the three property owners who oppose the annexation say it's hardly a done deal. The longtime residents plan to fight it because they already have water and don't want to pay a tax on the produce they grow, says Ruth MacKenzie, whose 7 acres contain a vineyard and an orchard.

        The commissioners will not decide the case before the new year.

        Another east-side area — along U.S. 22/Ohio 3 toward the community of Roachester — also is considering joining the village, Mr. Centers says. Yet another on the list is west 22/3 near the new Little Miami High School.

        The village would love the extra income new residents would bring. It expected to take in $987,550 this year and spend $1,138,468, treasurer Jean Mayne says.

        Morrow entered the year with money in the bank so it shouldn't have to borrow, she says.

        The Alpine site — as the former ski resort is called — would be especially lucrative for the community of mostly low- and moderate-income residents and retirees. Vertex is considering building lower-priced townhomes but also houses ranging from $250,000 to $350,000 and above, says Robert Etherington, the company's land development manager.

        It would probably be two years before houses start going up at Alpine, Mr. Etherington says.

        But villagers are leery because several other developers have considered the site in the past.

        “I used to say I wouldn't believe it until I saw the bulldozers,” Mr. La Follette says. “Now I say I won't believe it until I see the rooftops.”

        But Ms. MacKenzie, who helped lead the fight against a landfill at Alpine, thinks it's inevitable — if not with Vertex, then with another company.

        And as someone who once faced the specter of a landfill 1,500 feet from her property, houses sound just fine to Ms. MacKenzie, “as long as they're tastefully done.”


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