Monday, March 11, 2002

Developer holds land county wants

GOP chief's property blocks road

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Butler County officials are thinking about buying a 23-acre piece of property that's in the planned route of the Ohio 63 extension, but developer Joe Schwarz says it's not for sale.

        “I don't want to sell it to them,” said Mr. Schwarz, president of J-II Homes Inc. and chairman of the Butler County Republican Party. “I've told them that. All I want to do is to develop that property in an orderly manner.”

        The tract, located north of existing Ohio 63 and east of Ohio 4 in Monroe, has been an issue for months. Failing to buy the property will force the county to reroute the $90 million Ohio 63 extension.

        County Engineer Greg Wilkens will urge the three commissioners at their meeting Monday to “make a last effort to buy it” before J-II Homes builds houses on it.

        An appraisal set the property's value at $650,000, but Mr. Schwarz' last asking price was $900,000.

        Mr. Schwarz originally gave the county until Dec. 31, then until Feb. 1, to buy the property. Since that deadline passed, he has begun to install sewer and water lines.

        Mr. Wilkins said buying the land would still be cheaper than rerouting the Ohio 63 extension.

        The county didn't make the Feb. 1 deadline because the state couldn't guarantee funding for the whole project. The county wants $63 million in state funding, but the state has been unwilling to commit more than $27.7 million.

        In addition, the county share hinges on voters approving a 10-year sales tax increase in November.

        Commissioner Chuck Furmon said it makes sense for the county to buy the land.

        “We may have to bite the bullet and go ahead and purchase that property,” he said. “It's just a matter of how we finance it.”

        Commissioner Courtney Combs said he doesn't know whether it's worth investing almost $1 million in a road that might not be built.

        But Mr. Schwarz said that as far as he is concerned, the issue is moot. He plans to build 260 houses on that property over the next two to three years.

        “I don't care if they build Route 63, but they're have to go find another right of way,” he said.


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