Monday, February 10, 2003

Rec center fate may be at hand

Trustees could determine locale and whether building proceeds

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WEST CHESTER TWP. - The future of a proposed $20 million community recreation center could be decided Tuesday in a special session of township trustees.

Trustees are expected to ends months of debate and decide where to place the 110,000-square-foot center. They also could agree to move forward with building it.

The meeting will be 5:30 p.m. at the Township Hall, 9100 Centre Pointe Drive.

Trustees have narrowed the center's location to two parcels. One would cost the township $2.5 million, while the township already owns a site at Beckett Park.

Two trustees are split on the decision and the third, Jose Alvarez, is undecided.

Trustee Dave Tacosik wants the center to go at the 150-acre park. That will save money and allow for expansion, he said.

"I may be making some enemies by saying this, but I think it will serve the overall community more and not just the businesses at the park," Tacosik said.

Trustee Catherine Stoker, however, wants the center to be across from Lakota West High School, at the southeast corner of West Chester Road and Union Centre Boulevard.

While the township would spend $2.5 million for that parcel, the landowner, West Chester 75 Inc., is donating 11 of the acres.

But the township's $32 million budget for 2003 is strapped. Trustees have been scrambling to find money for a bus service and parks. .

Stoker, however, said the property for sale is a prime piece of real estate in the middle of the Union Centre business area.

She also says it would be cheaper to buy the land than to pay to build walking and biking trails for students to trek to the community recreation center at the park, about a half mile away.

Also, if the township purchases the land, West Chester 75, a group of Union Centre investors, would develop three of the acres into a park called West Chester Towne Centre, with benches, fountains and a clock tower.

West Chester 75 hopes the community center would spur economic development in Union Centre, particularly for an open-air mall proposed on the south side of the land, next to where the park would be. West Chester 75 and Schumacher Dugan Construction Inc. own the mall land. The mall hasn't broken ground yet because it doesn't have enough tenants.

But some neighbors say the township would be crazy to spend $2.5 million for more land when the park is available, especially with the down economy and local governments facing cuts amid a state budget deficit.

"You should invest the $2.5 million in something the people can use at the community center," said resident Gene Hendel, 59. "All we're doing is helping Schumacher and West Chester 75. You're not helping the township. There's a stench someplace."

Township officials estimate the center could be built in about two years.

The township has entered into a preliminary partnership with TriHealth Corporate Health Care Services, the potential developing and operating partner for the center.


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