Thursday, March 22, 2001

Warren tower fight escalates

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Two familiar names returned to the Warren County court docket this week.

        Deerfield Township trustees on Monday filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against Mason to stop the construction of a 175-foot water tower on Mason Road.

        Township officials said the city's disregard for Deerfield's zoning laws prompted the lawsuit. Trustees want the court to order Mason to follow the township's zoning approval process and halt all construction at the Mason Road site.

        A hearing on the motion has been scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday before Warren County Common Pleas Judge P. Daniel Fedders.

        “We still believe very strongly that Mason needs to abide by the zoning regulations of our community,” said Dan Theno, Deerfield's executive administrator. “We respect Mason's right to regulate development in their city and we expect them to respect our rights to do the same in the township.”

        The lawsuit was no surprise to Mason officials, who said they expect the court to uphold their right to build the tower.

        “It's a waste of taxpayers' money and it's a waste of time and energy,” Mason Mayor John McCurley said.

        Bulldozers were prepared to raze the home and other structures on the 6-acre parcel Wednesday to make way for the tower. Mason, which acquired building permits from the county last week, plans to begin construction of the $2.5 million tower in about two months.

        City officials declared last week that they were moving forward with construction of the 2-million-gallon water tower. The city's action came less than two weeks after township zoning officials denied Mason's site plan proposal because it did not conform to the maximum building-height regulations in the zoning code.

        Mason Law Director Ken Schneider said township officials don't have the authority to regulate the water tower because it is a public utility.

        However, Deerfield's suit claims the city's water tower is not a public utility, and therefore must go through the township's zoning process. Township legal counsel Doug Miller said determining what qualifies as a public utility depends on a variety of factors.

        “The goods or service must be provided to the public indiscriminately and reasonably,” Mr. Miller said in the lawsuit. He said Mason officials plan to use this water tower solely for the benefit of its own residents and not provide its services indiscriminately to the public.

        This is the second lawsuit Deerfield has filed against Mason in the past two years in an effort to derail the water tower project. In 1999, trustees filed an eminent domain lawsuit in an effort to seize the 6-acre site.

        Warren County Common Pleas Judge Neal Bronson dismissed the lawsuit, saying the township had no urgent need for the land. A trustees appeal is pending.


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