Thursday, January 8, 2004

Some want to shut door on retail

Neighbors of Harrison Ave. protest rezoning, gridlock

By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer

GREEN TWP. - In the latest boom area on the western side of Hamilton County - the northwest part of this township - any development that could add to traffic congestion on Harrison Avenue near the Interstate 74 interchange creates a stir among nearby residents.

A Tuesday evening discussion with the Hamilton County Rural Zoning Commission staff about a 75,000-square-foot retail store here drew 30 residents adamantly against any more development along the busy Harrison Avenue corridor.

"All these people bought out here because it was residential, it was a neighborhood," said Ed Lampe, who lives in the Chateau Lakes subdivision, near the proposed store and about a mile from the new Meijer and Kohl's development here. "Don't we have any right to keep it that way?"

As Russell Sparks, zoning administrator for the Hamilton County Rural Zoning Commission, tried to extract the residents' specific concerns, exchanges became increasingly heated about the zoning change for the property between Blue Lake Drive and Valley Ridge Road from residential to commercial.

"Green Township, regardless of what the trustees believe, doesn't need more retail," said Fred Betz, a Chateau Lakes resident. "There's not too much we can do about retail that's down there already, but we sure don't need any more traffic."

"If we're adding another big box retailer, all we're going to have is gridlock," said Valley Ridge resident Pat Zehnder, who says it takes her as much as 25 minutes to drive the Harrison Avenue hill near the interstate during rush hour.

The zoning change and proposed development for the property, an old used-car lot, comes as an engineering consulting firm begins its study of the economic potential, traffic patterns and aesthetics of the busiest still-developing road in one of Ohio's most populated townships.

Charles E. Mitchell, an attorney representing the property owners, said the exact retailer for the property has not been nailed down.

On Monday, Mitchell was appointed to serve the remaining two years of the recently vacated trustee position here. He said he will back off representing the land owners on the zoning change, saying it appeared to be a conflict of interest.

Mitchell understands the residents' concerns about traffic - his law offices are just up the street.

"A number of these people just don't want anything to happen there," Mitchell said. "But unfortunately, something is going to happen. We just want it to be as friendly as possible with the nearby community."


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