Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Mercedes-Benz looking at West Chester

Auto company considering sites for a dealership

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WEST CHESTER TWP. - The auto name that's synonymous with affluence could be coming here soon - the latest symbol of West Chester's growing prosperity.

The local dealer for Mercedes-Benz confirmed Monday that he is considering sites here and in Northern Kentucky for a dealership. He'll meet with township officials next week to talk about a deal that could include a tax incentive.

It would be West Chester's first new-car dealer, in a township that matches the prestigious automaker's target demographics. West Chester is home to the Tristate's wealthiest community (Wetherington), according to the 2000 U.S. Census, and continues to attract high-income families to its growing subdivisions.

Township Administrator Dave Gully and other officials will meet July 2 with Dana Hackney, president and general manager of Mercedes-Benz of Cincinnati, in Sycamore Township.

Hackney declined to say exactly where he's looking here or in Northern Kentucky. He said an announcement could come in the next few months.

"We are looking for interstate visibility," Hackney said. "We are looking for demographics that match our product, so obviously West Chester shows up in both those categories."

Hackney has indicated to West Chester officials he might be interested in a tax abatement, according to a township e-mail obtained by the Enquirer.

"They are looking to the township for help with a street (possibly a TIF)," reads the e-mail, written by Gully's assistant, Paula Wyrick. TIF, or tax increment financing, is a development tool that uses property tax revenues to help pay for infrastructure projects.

If the dealership does emerge, it could usher in other businesses, which has some residents concerned.

"I would be worried it might turn into a mess like over on Fields Ertel Road with the Kings Auto Mall or (Ohio) 4 or Colerain Avenue," said Douglas Mays, 44. "They would have to try to limit it but I don't know the township has that power."

A car dealership, however, would be a boon to development in the township, which has a lot of land available in the Union Centre area.

"There are many places in West Chester where a high-end car dealership would be a wonderful addition," Trustee Catherine Stoker said. "I am not sure, however, that Union Centre would be the best place. Union Centre is for entertainment and retail centers, not something that sprawls out like most car dealerships do."


Patrick Crowley contributed to this report. E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com.

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