Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Opposition voiced to YMCA in park

Loveland proposal displeases some neighbors

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LOVELAND — More than 600 people have signed a petition opposing a proposed YMCA in Phillips Park because they say it would hurt the park's character, increase traffic and displace several ball fields.

        The Committee to Save Phillips Park has collected signatures of park visitors from Loveland and nearby communities. The committee has also hired an attorney to fight the YMCA project.

        Paul Elliott of Loveland said most people would welcome the YMCA to the community, but at a different location.

        Jim Baumgarten, who lives in Symmes Township across from Phillips Park, said the roads surrounding the park would not be able to support traffic to and from a Y.

        “It would change the character of the park and the neighborhood forever,” he said. “We think it's a commercial operation, and the site is inappropriate.”

        Jackie Mathews, spokeswoman for YMCA of Greater Cincinnati, said it would take up to two years to build the facility once ground is broken this year. The 37,000-square-foot facility proposed for a site off Rich Road is expected to cost about $5 million.

        “We've been working on this project for several years now,” Ms. Mathews said. “Phillips Park is the ideal place for a facility that is going to serve kids, teens and families.”

        Mayor Donna Lajcak said the Y is being opposed mostly by residents who live outside of Loveland.

        “I get no negative comments from Loveland residents,” Ms. Lajcak said. “This is what the people want, and we have to give the people what they want.”

        Mr. Elliot said the “vast majority” of the people who signed the petition are from Loveland and Symmes and Miami townships. This is important, he said, because the Y would be used by residents in communities surrounding Loveland.

        City Manager Fred Enderle said city officials signed a contract with the YMCA that calls for the facility to be built on 8 acres the city is leasing to the Y at no cost.

        City Council has been discussing building a recreation center since the early 1990s, but the plans did not materialize until recently.

        The committee urges residents to attend a public hearing of the Loveland Planning and Zoning Commission at 6:30 p.m. July 16. The YMCA is seeking a conditional-use permit. A decision will be made later.


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