Saturday, November 22, 2003

Residents don't want to join city

They like small-town atmosphere

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS - Despite the limited resources of this tiny village, Loma Broxterman doesn't want the community where she has lived for 25 years to be annexed by Cincinnati.

"No way," she said, standing in the doorway of her home next to the village hall. "This is a nice, little community."

Virmorgan Ziegler feels just as strongly about any suggestions that Fairfax, her home for the past 82 years, should become a part of Cincinnati.

"A great big no - with exclamation marks behind it," said Ziegler, a village councilwoman.

Cincinnati Planning Commissioner Pete Witte lit the fuse to a powder keg when he recently said that annexing several financially strapped suburban communities near the city's borders could benefit those communities as well as Cincinnati.

He mentioned Arlington Heights, Fairfax, Lockland, Lincoln Heights, Elmwood Place and Addyston. Fellow Planning Commissioner Caleb Faux set off more explosions by advocating the annexation of a commercially developed portion of Columbia Township that would mean more tax revenue for Cincinnati.

Almost without exception, residents and officials in these communities reacted angrily to the notion of annexation - even though it's unlikely to occur soon, if ever. Annexation requires the support of the residents of the annexed incorporated community and the consent of the township trustees.

C. Michael Lemon, Columbia Township village administrator, said he plans to contact the other targeted communities to urge them to publicly denounce the annexation notion.

The section of the township Faux would like the city to consider annexing is the area around Ridge Road and Highland Avenue, where stores such as Lowe's, Bigg's, Walgreens, Home Depot and John Nolan Ford are located.

Lemon pointed out that if that section were annexed, the township would lose 60 percent of its property tax revenue.

"Cincinnati needs to fix its own problems before trying to expand its borders," he said.

Sean Cornell, a five-year resident of Elmwood Place, said he could see some financial benefits to his community becoming a part of Cincinnati. But he said it also would lose a lot.

"Many people have lived here their own lives," he said. "They like having a police chief and a mayor they can call and talk to about their concerns. In Cincinnati, they would be part of the backlog and would not be heard."

Witte said he suggested annexing financially struggling communities because he believes it would help them.

"I was going about it not so much as a power grab, but as a good neighbor," he said.

Cincinnati City Councilman David Pepper said no one on council is seriously talking about annexation.

"It's not even on the back burner," he said.

Annexation is such an emotionally charged issue because it touches on matters of loyalty, heritage, control, familiarity and community pride, said Gene Beaupre, a political science instructor at Xavier University.

"People are very reluctant to change, no matter how bad things are," he said. "They fear something that's unknown or bigger."

Beaupre said regional cooperation and limited forms of regional government can be effective and far less controversial ways to cut the costs of government than annexation.

Troy "Buddy" Williams, an Arlington Heights resident recently elected to village council, said he loves the small-town, close-knit feeling of his community.

"I grew up in a small town in North Carolina where everybody knew everybody," said Williams, who lives in a house built five years after the Civil War ended. "I found the same thing here. I don't think you find that in a big city."


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