Sunday, June 03, 2001

Taylor Mill neighbors fight plan for road

Project would provide access to business site

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        TAYLOR MILL — Residents of a Taylor Mill neighborhood are once again banding together to fight a proposed state road that would serve Fidelity Investments' south Covington business campus.

        People living on West Grand and Parkview avenues on the city's far northern border say the road - considered the key to a major expansion at the investment firm's Northern Kentucky operation - say construction of the $15 million road would disrupt their lives by coming too close to their homes.

        “I moved here two years ago because of the trees, the quiet and the way this neighborhood is like being in the country even though you're really close to the city,” said Parkview Place resident Patty Black.

        “I don't want any more traffic around here. Why can't we just keep things the way they are?” she said.

        Said Paul Harris of West Grand Avenue, the opposition group's leader, “I understand that a company wants to expand, but why does it have to be at our expense?”

        In 1996 Mr. Harris and his West Grand neighbors successfully fought plans promoted by Fidelity and pushed by state transportation officials to build an access road that would have taken the homes on West Grand.

        The group lobbied state representatives, the governor's office and local officials before Fidelity and the state backed off the plan.

        The residents are taking a similar approach now, gathering planning documents nd transportation studies, talking to officials and reporters and trying to make their case that the road should not be built near their neighborhood.

        But plans for the road will not take any homes and will be as far as 200 feet, if not more, from the nearest house of West Grand Avenue, said Dan Tobergte, senior vice president of Northern Kentucky Tri-ED, the region's economic development recruitment agency.

        “As a matter of fact, we're evaluating alternatives right now that will move the road as far away from the homes as possible,” said Mr. Tobergte, who is serving as spokesman for the project.

        “I know some people think this project is being shoved down their throats, but that's not the case at all,” he said.

        Among the residents' concerns are the noise and traffic the new road, which would provide a second access road to Fidelity's operation, would bring to their neighborhood.

        They are also worried that a grassy, wooded area that sits between their homes and Banklick Creek will be disrupted by the road.

        “Who wants to live next to a road when you have their beautiful natural area to look at when you sit on your porch?” Mr. Harris said.

        He noted that neighbors keep a path mowed in the area so residents can walk down to the creek bank during the spring and summer.

        Mr. Tobergte said engineers working on the project are trying to plan the route so it crosses Banklick Creek and leaves much of the grassy area alone.

        Fidelity is considering a new 350,000-square-foot office building where up to 1,500 new employees would work in the company's 401(k) individual retirement account division.

        Fidelity's Midwest regional headquarters is atop a hill along Interstate 275 between Ky. 16 and 17, state routes known respectively as Taylor Mill Road and Madison Pike.

        The campus now has just one access road. It is on the east side of the complex off Taylor Mill Road between I-275 and Latonia.

        The new road would be built on the northwest side of the campus. It would run from the intersection of Highland Avenue and Madison Pike through a wooded area, over Banklick Creek and then link with Howard Litzler Road, an east-west route that is just north of Fidelity's campus and links Taylor Mill Road and Madison Pike.

        The road would give Fidelity employees, emergency vehicles and other traffic to the company's office campus a badly needed second access route, Mr. Tobergte has said.

        Though the residents are passionate about their fight, defeating these road plans won't be as easy as last time, they've admitted.

        Fidelity has said that without the road it will take its planned expansion elsewhere, possibly to Dallas.

        With the economy slowing and communities clamoring for jobs, local and state officials are working hard to make the project happen.

        The Kentucky Economic Development Cabinet is likely to offer incentives to Fidelity to expand here, officials have said.

        And in 1996 local officials weren't as warm to the project as they seem to be now.

        The Kenton County Fiscal Court and the Covington City Commission are supporting the project, Mr. Tobergte said.

        Five years ago, nearby Fort Wright opposed the road. But city officials there are now considering supporting it if the state agrees to make some traffic improvements on a congested part of Ky. 17 that runs through Fort Wright.

        The residents do have hope from their own City Council. Taylor Mill officials have expressed concern about how close the road is to the homes on West Grand and other streets, but has not yet voted of if it will support the project.

        Mr. Tobergte has said the support of local officials is vital to winning the backing and funding of state transportation and economic development officials.

        Fidelity is expected to make a decision on the project by midsummer, Mr. Tobergte said.

        Fidelity employs 4,200 people in Greater Cincinnati, including nearly 2,800 at the main campus, about 1,000 in a Covington riverfront office building, about 300 in a building near the airport in Hebron and about 1,000 in Blue Ash.


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