Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Mason to go alone on tower

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        DEERFIELD TWP. — Mason officials say they are prepared to build a 175-foot water tower here without Deerfield Township's approval.

        City Manager Scot Lahrmer said Monday that Mason will move forward with construction of the 2 million gallon water tower on Mason Road, and that Deerfield Township has no legal authority to stop it.

        “With this tower being a government utility, we are not legally required to go through the township's zoning procedures,” he said. “But we chose to follow their process as an opportunity to work with the township to address concerns of nearby residents.

        “The township, without legal authority, delayed and blocked the city's good faith efforts to receive permits,” Mr. Lahrmer said. “Since they refused to work with the city, we will work directly with the residents in that area.”

Site proposal denied
               Two weeks ago, Deerfield's zoning commission denied Mason's site plan request for the tower. The board said the city's proposal did not conform to the maximum building height regulations in the zoning code.

        City leaders were scheduled to present their case to the township's board of zoning appeals at a special meeting on Thursday. They were expected to ask the appeals board for a variance, allowing them to forgo the township's height requirement for residential areas, and a conditional-use permit, allowing for construction of a government utility.

        However, Mr. Lahrmer said he knew nothing of Thursday's meeting. He said he earned about it by reading an article in Monday's Enquirer.

        But, township officials said Mason leaders did know. In fact, they claimed the special meeting was granted at Mason's request.

        Township officials said the meeting will still take place. Mason officials said they won't attend.

        Deerfield Executive Administrator Dan Theno said he was disturbed that Mason officials would not respect the zoning process of the township. He said the city is being presumptuous by saying it would not receive a fair hearing before the township's board of zoning appeals.

        “This is another example of the arrogance of power of city officials to the detriment of better cooperation between Mason and Deerfield,” Mr. Theno said. “If Mason decides not to show up for the hearing, they will be negating their opportunity to defend their position and present their case to the public.”

        Mr. Theno added “if Mason officials choose to usurp the bona fide zoning process of Deerfield, that will have legal consequences in the future.”

Lawsuit likely
               Mr. Lahrmer said, given the township's track record, trustees will likely file a lawsuit against the city. However, he added that given their record of losses in court, litigation may not be a wise use of tax dollars.

        “Basically, Mason is saying they don't care about the rights of people in the township and that they are going to do what they want and for us to try to stop them if we can,” Trustee Bill Morand said. “That's about as cowardly and un-American as you can get.”


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