Friday, October 19, 2001

Liberty in zoning flap

Nov. voters decide: Residential or commercial?

By Walt Schaefer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LIBERTY TOWNSHIP Efforts to rezone two small parcels of land between Yankee Road and the Michael A. Fox Highway (Ohio 129) have sparked neighborhood opposition.

        Voters will decide Nov. 6.

        Township trustees' Februaryapproval of a unanimous zoning commission recommendation to change the parcels from residential to commercial prompted some area residents to successfullypetition to place the issue on the ballot by referendum.

        Township Administrator Nell Kilpatrick said the parcels face Yankee Road on either side of Stumpf Drive — a no outlet lane.

        “The trustees felt the land is well-situated for commercial development. This has been puzzling,” Mrs. Kilpatrick said.

        The administrator said opponents to the rezoning would prefer a planned unit development (PUD) to give trustees significant power over what enterprises are permitted to locate on the sites.

        However, PUDs are limited to a minimum of three acres and neither site is that large — one is slightly more than half an acre, the other almost two acres.

        Bill Small, spokesman for the group opposed to the zone change who lives on Krach Court, north of Yankee Road, said traffic already snarls Yankee Road, particularly at evening rush hour.

        Businesses such as fast-food restaurants or service stations are apt to erect high signs to attract business from the highway that would shine into neighborhoods and ruin aesthetics, he added.

        Mr. Small said his group would prefer residential development such as condominiums or very restricted zoning for professional offices for the site.

        Mrs. Kilpatrick said traffic is not going to disappear from a major highway interchange, and no one would want to live on small parcels surrounded by three major roads, a school bus garage, road maintenance garage and a fire station.

        Dean Swartz, who leads a citizens group supporting the zoning change, said “no one would want to build a house on that property. It's too small for a PUD and it's going to end up standing there empty if it is not rezoned commercial.”

        Gene Luckey, chief operating officer of Phoenix Montant Inc., the owners and proposed developers of the site, said he is “sick and tired” of trying to develop it.

        His firm and the mortgage company, Litchfield Finance Corp., have agreed to offer the property to the highest bidder at a sheriff's sale next month.

        It has been appraised at a minimum acceptable bid of $2.8 million.


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