Thursday, January 30, 2003

W. Chester puts off choice of site


Consultant to study community recreation center plan

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WEST CHESTER TWP. - Trustees on Tuesday delayed - again - deciding where to put the proposed community recreation center.

They also still aren't sure if the $20 million facility is economically feasible and plan to hire a consultant to study the matter and make a recommendation.

"We have to have our own consultant go out and evaluate the pros and cons of the two places we are looking at and determine whether or not the proposed partnership with Tri-Health, who may operate it, is appropriate for us," Trustee Catherine Stoker said.

The holdup in the project, which has been 10 years in the making, is frustrating residents while neighboring communities such as Fairfield and Mason build community centers.

"I hear a lot of stuff about this township throwing around money," groused Robert Quatkemeyer Jr. to trustees in their Tuesday work session. "I think this thing is ludicrous."

Trustees did agree to consider allowing the West Chester Baseball Organization to build a complex of four baseball fields at one of the township's parks - most likely at Beckett Park.

Leaders of the nonprofit baseball group for youth say it has received funding from a corporate sponsor they decline to disclose. The group went after corporate funding for the complex after trustees balked at the expense late last year when the proposal was first made to the township.

The baseball group must relocate its complex because development in the Union Centre Boulevard area of the township caused the agency to lose its lease on property on West Chester Road.

The organization, which serves 300 players, wants to remain in West Chester because it is centrally located for players and regional and national tournaments. Organization officials say they expect to generate $340,000 a year in tourism revenues and provide recreation fields that are in high demand.

Fields at the new complex also will be available for Pisgah Youth Organization and Lakota Sports Organization, two other youth baseball leagues, said Mike Hasselbach, president of West Chester Baseball Organization, formerly Basil Baseball Complex.

Meanwhile, the trustees still are undecided whether to place the proposed recreation center on land the township already owns on Beckett Park or to pay $2.5 million to West Chester 75 Inc., for 21 acres - 11 of which would be donated - at Union Centre Boulevard and West Chester Road across from Lakota West High School.

The site for sale is about half a mile from the 150-acre Beckett Park. Some residents who participated in focus groups last year on the recreation center said they would rather the township spend the $2.5 million to make the center bigger and better at the park.

The township's $32 million budget for 2003 is strapped.

But the property for sale is a prime piece of real estate in the center of the Union Centre business area. If the township purchases it, West Chester 75, a group of Union Centre investors, would develop 3 acres into a park called West Chester Towne Centre, with benches, fountains in a lake and a clock tower, Stoker points out.

West Chester 75 hopes the community center would spur economic development, particularly for an open-air mall proposed on the south side of the land, next to where the park would be.

Trustee Dave Tacosik, however, wants the center to go in the park.

That's where, he says, it would benefit the entire community, not just businesses.

E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com.




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