Saturday, March 23, 2002

Developers scale back plans

Wharf at Symmes still faces strong opposition

By Susan Vela,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SYMMES TOWNSHIP — In the face of growing opposition, three Symmes Township developers have drastically scaled back plans to build as many as 600 upscale homes — and a wharf, village, beaches and parks — at a former gravel pit.

        Darrell Leibson and Tim and Greg Hensley applied Thursday to have 98 acres rezoned so they can build a traditional subdivision of 150 to 190 homes along Ohio 126. They will leave the remaining 240 acres as it is.

        “We are proposing ... a more rational and sensitive neighborhood,” read their application, filed at the Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission.

        They refused to comment for this story but told senior planner Todd Kinskey that strong opposition in Camp Dennison, Symmes Township and Indian Hill altered their vision for “The Wharf at Symmes.”

        The $200 million project was supposed to be an urban planning achievement and the first time that so much industrial property was converted for residential use.

        Members of the Camp Dennison Civic League remain suspicious. They're opposed to any homes being built on the property, which developers are negotiating to buy from Martin Marietta Corp. The residents' concern is that lawn chemicals will infiltrate the small lakes there and contaminate the groundwater.

        “Although the character of the proposal has changed, I'm not sure that we're ready to declare victory yet,” said Timothy Mara, a lawyer representing the league. “We continue to believe that the entire site should remain open space.”

        The county planning commission will meet May 2 to discuss the zoning request. Township zoning commissioners will meet May 15. Mr. Leibson, who is a township zoning commissioner, has promised to remove himself from all public hearings on the matter.

        Indian Hill City Manager Mike Burns said he will attend both. At a February meeting, he said the plans would overtax the city's school system and nearby water and sewer utilities.

        “We're not keen on any houses there for the same issues,” he said. But, “the concern of the aquifer is the primary one.”

        Many residents have said that the property should become park property, which is proposed in the township's land-use plan.

        “One of my truly major concerns is the aquifer and whether it's been compromised,” said Judy Knuckles, a Camp Dennison resident. “The best idea is still to put a park down there.”


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