Thursday, May 15, 2003

Petition effort called legal

Fitness club concerned about recreation center plan

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WEST CHESTER TWP. - It is legal for operators of a fitness club chain, other businesses and residents to continue collecting signatures for a public vote on the community recreation center, trustees were told late Tuesday in a closed meeting with their attorney.

Last week, township officials questioned the legality of the petition drive because trustees have yet to take any official action on the center. But the petitions are considered an "initiative" effort, not a referendum, so they are legal, and if enough signatures are collected, the matter can go to public vote as soon as November.

In the meantime, township officials say they are moving ahead on their plans to determine what kind of community center they can afford to build.

They were told in a work session Tuesday they have enough revenue to build up to a $30 million center out of tax increment financing (TIF) money from the Ohio 747 and Union Centre Boulevard TIF districts over the next 18 years.

"They can do what they want and we can do what we want," township Administrator Dave Gully said. "We don't feel it has any effect on what we are doing or what we are going to do."

Earlier this month, operators of Fitworks Sports & Therapy initiated the drive, which seeks to prevent the township from acquiring or constructing the center unless voters approve the site, cost, financing and proposed uses for it.

Fitworks officials could not be reached Wednesday but previously have said they were within their legal rights to circulate the petitions.

They maintain West Chester shouldn't be competing against private businesses and want more information about the center made public. Fitworks, which helped to halt a community recreation center last year in Forest Park, has postponed expanding their West Chester location off Tylersville Road until they learn what the township's plans are for the center.

Late Tuesday, trustees held the first reading on a resolution to borrow $4.7 million in tax increment financing dollars to pay for preliminary costs for the $20 million to $30 million center. They also have received bids for architectural services and a project construction manager.


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