By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FAIRFIELD - A retooled plan to spruce up Ohio 4 should get moving next year - but first the city will seek the blessing of business owners for projects along one of its main thoroughfares.
Even so, some business owners who attended a Fairfield City Council work session where the new plan was rolled out Monday were leery and confused.
The city plans to foot the $2 million bill for landscaping and other immediate improvements along the road. But as properties along Ohio 4 redevelop, it is expected the landowners would contribute to beautification.
"I am concerned the brunt of the expense would be on the backs of the landowners when they go to get a building permit or to redevelop their properties," said Tom Burer of Winton Development, a founding member of the Route 4 Coalition. "Would this cost of putting all the landscaping in be a deterrent?"
Fairfield leaders want to clean up and make safety improvements along Ohio 4, which carries about 42,000 vehicles daily and is dotted with some 350 businesses.
The road also is lined with dozens of vacant buildings - especially as the road creeps closer to Hamilton - and is the scene of a high number of accidents.
In meetings with the city last year, business owners worried that beautification efforts would cause them to lose access from Ohio 4 into their buildings, thus costing them customers.
About 50 business owners formed the Route 4 Coalition to protect their interests, but Fairfield leaders say they are trying to strike a balance with property owners' needs and the city's focus on redevelopment.
After business owners complained, the city all but removed a previous recommendation of installing some medians in the road to control traffic. Now, just one new median could be installed.
"This is a tough, tough situation," Councilman Ron D'Epifanio said Monday. "Enhancing the looks of Route 4 will enhance the businesses, but it's important not to do anything that would take away from them."
The city has earmarked $2 million over the next few years to fund the plan, which includes entrance "gateways" at the start of Ohio 4 in Fairfield from neighboring Hamilton to the north and Springdale to the south.
Those gateways would feature clusters of medium-size trees and evergreen shrubbery and flags or signs alerting motorists that they are entering Fairfield. The greenery would be strategically placed at sections along the corridor.
The city also is incrementally improving street signs as older ones need replacing with illuminated and larger street names and block numbers.
Next, city officials privately will meet with Ohio 4 property owners to continue explaining the plan.
In other business Monday, Council was expected to approve spending $37,500 for the city's ninth bronze sculpture for the downtown area. The city has spent $428,000 on eight bronze sculptures since 2000 as part of a plan for the city's town center areas in and around Village Green, the new downtown.
Councilman Jeffrey Holtegel objected, saying the city is spending too much on the artwork.
"Half a million dollars is enough," he said.
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