Thursday, April 25, 2002

Indian Hill asks for help buying land

Residents' gifts sought to pay for former gravel pit

By Susan Vela,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        INDIAN HILL — This city needs help financing the $7.5 million bill that accompanied its decision to buy a former gravel pit in Camp Dennison and protect the underground aquifer.

        So officials are turning to one of their best resources: their own residents.

        On Monday, council members unanimously agreed to establish a special land acquisition fund for those willing to donate money. They plan a direct mailing that will seek help from the city's 5,900 residents — including those who argued vehemently that three developers' plans to build 600 homes along Ohio 126 would contaminate the property's lakes and threaten the water supply of 5,000 Indian Hill Water Works customers.

        They also decided Monday to issue $6.5 million in bond anticipation notes as a means of purchasing the 300-plus acres from Martin Marietta Corp.

        If Indian Hill can't pay back the debt within a year, council members must decide whether to seek additional notes or pursue a long-term bond.

        The city operates on a $7.4 million annual budget, slightly less than the land purchase. But protecting Indian Hill's water supply is worth the investment, City Manager Mike Burns said.

        “Our primary goal was to secure the long-term protection of our water source,” he said. “We have 5,000 customers — households and businesses — that count on ... a safe water supply. This assures us of that.”

        Indian Hill has Hamilton County's highest annual average household income — $194,000 — according to the 2000 U.S. Census. Any donations to the city would be tax-deductible. Mr. Burns said city officials haven't set a goal for how much they'd like to receive in donations.

        Earlier this year, three Symmes Township developers — Darrell Leibson and Tim and Greg Hensley — proposed an upscale residential project, “The Wharf at Symmes.” Camp Dennison, Symmes Township and Indian Hill residents strongly opposed the plans, warning that the $200 million project would crowd area roads, schools and utilities, and taint ground water supplies.

        Because of the opposition, Mr. Burns began negotiating a deal with the developers, who had an option to purchase the property. The city of Indian Hill will become the official owner on May 1.

        City officials have talked about preserving the property as park space but will not discuss the matter until the deal has been finalized.


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