Monday, March 10, 2003

Owner saves mansion from developers

Sells land to township for park

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

SYMMES TOWNSHIP - For decades, David Zieverink peeked from the windows of his family's historic mansion and saw new homes and subdivisions creep his way. Finally, he saw enough.

He sold his Greek Revival mansion, along with 24 forested acres, this month to Symmes Township for $770,000, with the hope that his lifelong home and surrounding land will be preserved as green space.

Zieverink, 58, was tired of being approached by developers interested in building more subdivisions, and by wannabe home owners who talked of tearing down mansion walls to make the place their own.

"It's a neat old home. It gets to the point where you have to do something," said Zieverink, a member of the Symmes Township Historical Society.

He expressed confidence in the township's tentative promise to one day use the house for conference space and to house historic artifacts. The wooded acreage most likely will become park space with walking trails.

The historical society already plans to move an historic log cabin to the Zieverink land.

Speaking from his three-story Lebanon Road home, with its handsome fireplaces, maple floors and resplendent balustrades, he lauded township trustees for vowing to make what he said was good use of his property.

Zieverink has lived in the mansion since he was a child and believes township residents might increasingly appreciate the green space.

The township's population soared 25 percent in the last decade, jumping from 11,769 in 1990 to 14,771 in 2000, according to the U.S. Census.

Zieverink feels lucky to remember Fields Ertel Road's once-open pastures. The thoroughfare now contains a number of chain restaurants and stores.

"If you change everything, you have no perspective on the way things used to be," he said.

Township Administrator Gerald Beckman appreciates Zieverink's willingness to solidify the deal.

"I do thank Mr. Zieverink. He probably could have developed it for much more" money, Beckman said.

"This will keep some of the history ... here. There's not much of it left," he said.

According to the agreement, Zieverink will pay monthly rent to the township and live in the mansion for up to five more years.

The home was built between 1890 and 1900 on the northwest corner of Lebanon and Union Cemetery roads.A country doctor raised horses on about 250 acres. Another family took ownership in 1917 and began selling off the property during the Depression.

The original estate had become a chicken farm by the time Zieverink's family took ownership more than five decades ago.

His landscape changed as he tended the chickens, graduated from McNicholas High School and Xavier University, and then enlisted in the Army during the Vietnam era.

Upon leaving the service, Zieverink entered the aviation industry, working as a pilot and aviation mechanic in California and Kentucky. He returned to Symmes Township in the 1970s, finding similar work at Lunken Airport, where he continues to do mechanic work.

Big-name developers began approaching him about 15 years ago.

Tired of the attention, Zieverink was pleased when he learned last year that township officials were interested in preserving green space.

"We decided to make a deal," he said. The developers "were just going to bulldoze everything and build what they want."


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