Sunday, January 10, 1999

Boone Co. cities vie to annex development site

990 homes planned over 15-year period

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FLORENCE/UNION — In at least 10 years with the Boone County Planning Commission, Kevin Costello has never seen the likes of it:

        Two cities in a race to annex property. The winner gets the right to decide on a rezoning request needed before a large-scale residential development of almost 1,000 homes can be built in unincorporated Boone County.

        Whether it's Union or Florence that annexes the land, Boone County will have no say in the matter. When a city annexes adjacent property in Kentucky, no other body has to approve the transaction.

        “I've seen a number of annexations happen. (But) I don't recall something like this happening,” said Mr. Costello, the commission's executive director.

        The contested property is near Longbranch and Fowler Creek roads. Fischer Development Co., Miller Developers and Tom Schreiber want to build up to 990 homes over a 10- to 15-year period. Each home would cost between $100,000 and $400,000.

        After a lengthy public hearing drummed up plenty of protest before county planning commissioners, Florence and Union announced their interest in annexing the property.

        Florence officials said they wanted to aid the developers and stated interest in the parcel in question; Union officials said they wanted protesters to have more time to organize and said they would annex several thousand acres that included the targeted property.

        Officials from both cities are expected to vote on an ordinance to annex the property within the next months. Parties from both sides have said a judge in Boone Circuit Court might have to settle the matter.

        Meanwhile, officials in Ohio and Indiana warn that such annexation battles could happen more often, as developers target Boone County's unincorporated property for future subdivisions, businesses and other projects.

        “That's a fairly common and unfortunate progression,” said Robert Craig of the Warren County Regional Planning Commission, who noted that, in Ohio, county commissioners get to vote on annexations of contiguous property.

        However, Indiana is similar to Kentucky. Cities can annex property without any say from county officials.

        John Kyle is a county commissioner in Dearborn County, where Lawrenceburg, Ind., is the county seat.

        He recalled one incident, where half of a farm sat in Lawrenceburg and the other half in the county. After the owners sold the property, the city annexed the entire farm and the county lost tax revenues because of the transaction.

        “The county doesn't have any say about it,” Mr. Kyle said.

        The annexation battle between Union and Florence hasn't stopped Boone County planning commissioners from considering the zone change needed for Longbranch Park. The next step is for the zone-change committee to consider the request.

        Larry Sprague of Fischer Development Co., one of the developers, noted that conversations with Florence began several months ago. Develop ers first presented their project at the county level because they wanted to get the project rolling, he said.

        But the developers say they asked Florence to annex the property because of its city services, not because of the people who have protested the project. Mr. Sprague would not comment on Union's present involvement.

        Florence, Walton and Union are Boone County cities. Unincorporated property — or property not within city limits — accounts for at least 90 percent of the county. About 60 percent of Kenton County is unincorporated. The percentage is about 82 percent in Campbell County.


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