Sunday, December 03, 2000

Community may gate streets

Area fights through traffic

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — One of the richest neighborhoods in this growing community might be off-limits to drive-through travelers next year.

        The Wetherington community, off Tylersville Road in Butler County's northern West Chester Township, could become a gated, private neighborhood in 2001, according to the head of the homeowner's association.

        A growing amount of cut-through traffic, which uses the golf course community as a shortcut between Tylersville and Cincinnati-Dayton Road, has caused concerns among residents in recent years, said Kevin Plank, president of the Wetherington Home Owners Association.

        Especially dangerous is Wetherington Drive, which passes by the Wetherington Golf and Country Club's swim and tennis facility, Mr. Plank said.

        More than 11,000 cars use the road daily, he said, and there have been a few instances where children were nearly hit.

        The community has 350 families living in homes ranging in price from $350,000 to $1.2 million a piece.

        It is home to dozens of professionals, business executives and politicians, including U.S. Rep. John Boehner, R-West Chester, Judge Stephen Powell of the Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals and developer Carlos Todd.

        West Chester Police officials said they have not investigated any accidents inside Wetherington. However, there are numerous complaints of speeding by drivers cutting through the community.

        “We give it a lot of enforcement attention and we are controlling it,” said West Chester's Acting Police Chief John Bruce.

        But residents in the adjacent community, Cobbler's Creek just west on Tylersville Road off Cedar Creek Drive, complain that when Wetherington's main drive-through route closes, traffic will simply move to their streets and endanger their children.

        Other West Chester residents criticize the switch to a private, gated community as elitist, and as a method of segregation by economics.

        “We understand their dilemma but they should find other alternatives,” said Cedar Creek Drive resident Mary Pat Peterson, who worries about the safety of her three young children.

        “They have sidewalks in Wetherington and even fences around some of them. We don't have sidewalks. Their kids are less at risk than ours,” said Ms. Peterson.

Non-residents shut out?
        Mr. Plank said the homeowners association is considering only restricting drive-through traffic during the day by closing off the Eagles Wing Drive intersection with Cincinnati-Dayton road.

        Details as to whether Wetherington would be closed to non-residents remain to be worked out, he said, but homeowners there overwhelmingly support it.

        Last year, West Chester Township trustees granted a request by the homeowners association to convert to a private community.

        Mr. Plank said no tax money has ever been spent on the community's roadways.

        David Gully, West Chester Township administrator, said the township is a neutral party in this process and that Wetherington is no longer a central part of the township traffic grid.

        “This is not as unusual as people might think,” Mr. Gully said.

        Wealthy people are attracted to townships where gated communities are legally easier to create than in most cities, he added.

        The same limited rule township laws that allowed Wetherington to pursue a private community status could also be used by residents of Cobbler's Creek if they also wanted to stop cut-through traffic, Mr. Gully pointed out.

        But West Chester resident Jim Ralston, who also lives in a community off Tylersville, blasted Wetherington residents for trying to restrict drive-through traffic.

        “Why should their children have any more safety than other communities with less money?” said Mr. Ralston. “It doesn't make the community feel friendly. It's segregation by income.”

        Wetherington resident Pam Spence said that the neighborhood is united in support of privatization and that she expects the homeowners association to vote for it next year.

        “There has been an increased volume of motorists seeking a short-cut through here,” Ms. Spence said. “Too many people are running stop signs and exceeding the 25-mph speed limit. It's dangerous for kids.”

        Michael Sommers, spokesman for Mr. Boehner, said the congressman declined to comment on the community's change but may do so when the homeowner association takes its privatization vote.


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