Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Voters consider pace of growth

By Denise Smith Amos
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Nick Silvestri, 11, in a squirrel costume, has some fun with his friend Aaron Gehring, 11, as they finish their last-minute campaigning outside Lakota Freshman School in West Chester Township Tuesday.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
Voters in Cincinnati suburbs said they came to the polls Tuesday to tackle questions that pit the hometown feel of their communities against the side effects of rapid new growth.

In North Bend, a historic village of more than 750 residents in western Hamilton County, voters were choosing whether to remain a village or to become part of Miami Township, as some homeowners in a rapidly expanding, high-end housing development want.

In West Chester, voters said they feared rapid growth was swallowing up open spaces, so they were drawn to the polls to decide whether to spend tax dollars to create bike and walking trails, baseball fields and playgrounds for the future.

And in Milford, longtime homeowners just want their basements to stop flooding after heavy rains. Voters considered competing council candidates' plans for new sewage and storm systems, to counter the effects of new commercial and residential development on hillsides.

By mid-day more than half the 552 ballots had been cast in North Bends' mayoral and city council elections. Voters there said they wanted to decide the future of their village, founded in 1879 near the Great Miami River.

Proponents of dissolution say it would cut property owners taxes by 2 percent to merge city administration and services with the township. But opponents say that owners of the high-end homes in the new Aston Oaks subdivision would be the big beneficiaries.

"That's for the rich people," said Joan Upchurch, a retired sheet metal worker. "We're the peons . . . But it's our type of people who keep things going."

David Ziegler, an Aston Oaks homeowner, said he'll save $200 to $400 a year in taxes for services the village already leases from Miami Township: "We're going to get the same level of service from fire, police and emergency as we do today...for less dollars."

In Milford, most voters agree that one of the common problems is flooding basements. Some blame new development on hillsides for the runoff that flooded homes and streets recently.

Betty Henry, 64, a retired nurse in Milford, said she wants a plan of action now. She said she voted for a mix of incumbents and new challengers who, she believes, are closer to solutions.

Betsy West, 57, has lived in Milford 30 years. Stormwater run-off is a symptom of a bigger challenge to Milford's way of life. In recent years developers opened a multiplex cinema, a Target, a strip mall and restaurants.

She voted for incumbents, she said, because they so far have maintained Milford's small-town appeal by beautifying its parks and public spaces, while not hindering such new growth.

Several West Chester voters said the parks levy brought them to the polls. They endorsed a proposed 1.95-mill levy increase to put $60 million into park improvements over five years.

But Charles Smith, 58, a retired thermal engineer, said he voted down additional taxes "out of frustration." "West Chester has raised homeowners taxes so much because of the growing pains that I'm overloaded with taxes," he said.


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