Monday, September 04, 2000

Boom bypasses Morrow


And for some in Warren Co. village, that's just fine

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MORROW — This small village along the Little Miami River is an anomaly in Warren County: It's not growing.

        While developers build houses, offices and factories through most of the rest of the county, there's nothing new in Morrow. Instead of having a Great Clips, Cliff's Barber Shop occupies a corner. Instead of the ubiquitous golf course, there's a park with ball fields.

        That's not altogether a bad thing, some say.

        “I don't want it to turn into anything like Fields Ertel” Road, said Lillian Cooper, 57.

        Ms. Cooper, a native who moved from Washington, D.C., back to Morrow in 1994 to help care for her mother, said there's no place she'd rather live.

        “You can't go outside without somebody coming by and waving,” she said.

        But the stagnant growth — the population was 1,206 in 1990 and is thought to have changed little — is not entirely by choice. Much of the town is in a floodplain, limiting the potential for growth to nearly 500 acres that until recently had been a possible landfill site, said Fred LaFollette, who is both fire chief and village administrator.

        Morrow's best chance to grow has been by extending its boundaries, but that effort has been rebuffed by affected property owners.

        Just a few miles north, Lebanon City Council members recently told a developer they didn't want to stretch city services into new territory. Morrow has been trying for more than two years to annex Salem Township land up U.S. 22/Ohio 3 toward Roachester.

        “A couple of developments would help us,” Chief LaFollette said. A Procter & Gamble Co. plant wouldn't hurt, either, he joked.

        Subdivisions are on the increase all around Morrow — witness the 15 percent increase in students in the Little Miami Local School District in the past five years — but developers in the township have little incentive to annex into the village.

        It's a circular problem: Lack of growth has made finances tight, which has led to higher taxes for villagers than for many other county residents, which has contributed to landowners' resistance to annexation.

        “It puts the few (residents) in a financial burden,” Chief LaFollette said.

        Morrow has a 1 percent income tax that Salem Township doesn't, county Auditor Nick Nelson said, and township property taxes are about 3.8 mills lower than town taxes.

        The few who are contributing to town coffers are getting fewer: Morrow's largest employer, Little Miami schools, just built its new high school outside town, so employees there no longer will be paying the income tax.

        Morrow also has little to offer Salem residents in the way of services. It doesn't have a sewer system, and most township residents already get water from either Western Water or Morrow. (The county recently shot down a village plan to charge nonresidents more than residents for water.)

        That just leaves police protection and garbage pickup as incentives to annex.

       



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