Sunday, April 21, 2002

Hidden Valley votes against incorporation

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LAWRENCEBURG — Resisting change, Hidden Valley Lake residents voted 557-350 Saturday against incorporating as a town.

        In the process, the upscale residential community kissed goodbye the possibility of receiving up to $1.5 million in casino tax money.

        “People are always a little leery of change. That's probably the biggest reason,” said Robert Will, a board member of the property owner-governed community.

        “A big part of it was the gaming revenue,” he said. “They thought, "Who knows how long the boat is going to be there.'”

        Since it opened in 1996, Argosy Casino has become one of the most popular floating riverboat casinos in the nation. But many residents feared a domino effect of changes that might have come with incorporation — mainly, more bureaucracy.

        That's not what Hidden Valley's 4,400 residents were seeking when they moved to this community in rural southeastern Dearborn County, said members of Coalition Against Incorporation.

        The vote “was basically 2-1. The population has spoken,” said CAI member Sammy Gutzwiller.

        But, he said, “I'm not fearful of change. I bought into a community and a certain lifestyle. We just weren't going to be bought. We like our community as it is.”

        The community began debating the benefits of incorporation about two years ago. The property owners' association voted to end the debate with a vote last summer.

        Proponents warned that Hidden Valley, Dearborn County's second-largest community, has been receiving less revenue as expenses rise. They said the number of new homes built here has decreased from 81 in 1999 to 51 in 2001, reducing funds for road bonds by $45,000.

        The community now receives only $22,000 in gaming revenue. Supporters of incorporation had suggested using the increased revenues from casino taxes to build an indoor sports complex with a hair salon and dry cleaner to generate income.

        Residents received their ballots in the mail last week. Returned ballots were counted Saturday afternoon.


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