Sunday, February 29, 2004

Shopping mall opponents trying to rally the troops

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Helen Medves, 93, has lived in Crest Mobile Home Park, Crescent Springs since 1964. She might have to leave her home if a proposed $56 million Buttermilk Towne Center shopping complex is built on the site.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/PATRICK REDDY

CRESCENT SPRINGS - In the past six weeks, opponents of a proposed $56 million shopping complex that would replace a mobile-home park here have fought the project through petitions, a mass mailing and court action.

Tuesday, critics of the Buttermilk Towne Center hope to rally opposition to the project at a meeting at the Drawbridge Inn in Fort Mitchell.

"We don't believe the people in this area have had adequate information on this project," said John Pohlgeers. The Villa Hills resident is chairman of Concerned Citizens for Traffic Safety and Responsibility. "We want people to hear in layman's terms what will happen if this is approved."

Opponents of the proposed Buttermilk Towne Center say they're concerned about traffic and safety issues, a property tax break and the relocation of the 200 people in mobile homes who live where the project would be built.

"We're hoping for a big crowd at Tuesday's meeting," Pohlgeers said. "We feel that public opinion carries a lot of weight."

Critics in nearby cities say shoppers would cruise through their residential neighborhoods to reach the proposed development. They also worry about traffic backups and safety issues on Buttermilk Pike, especially between Anderson/Crescent Springs Road and Interstate 75.

"It's easy to sit back and criticize us for all of Villa Hills' traffic and Fort Mitchell's traffic, that, through no fault of our own, came into being the last 10 to 12 years," said Crescent Springs Mayor Claire Moriconi. "Our critics need to be part of the solution."

Members of the citizens group say developer Bear Creek Capital of Cincinnati has a moral responsibility to residents of the Crest Mobile Home Park. More than 100 mobile homes occupy the development site bordered by Beechwood Road, Anderson Road, a strip retail center fronting Buttermilk Pike and a set of railroad tracks.

"We're in limbo," said 93-year-old Helen Medves, who's lived in the mobile-home park for 40 years.

Medves and her neighbors learned late last year they might have to leave their homes to make way for trendy retailers and restaurants when Bear Creek representatives went door to door.

"I was all torn up when I saw Bear Creek's flier because I thought I was going to stay here until I go," said Medves. The retired nurse said she'll miss her flower beds, and her mobile home with its cherrywood ceilings and walls, Cincinnati Reds memorabilia and family photos.

Although Medves is on a waiting list for a one-bedroom assisted-living apartment at St. Charles Care Center Village and Lodge, she worries about her neighbors.

"Any of the nice mobile-home parks won't take anything but brand new mobile homes that are up to two years old," Medves said. "Where are all of these people going to go?''

Last year, a principal with Bear Creek said the company had hired the Florence consulting firm of Atkins & Elrod to pursue federal grants that could be used to move residents of the Crest Mobile Home Park.

But owner Dennis Elrod said last week he had not applied for any federal grants.

"No application's been made for federal grants and I don't think one will be,'' Elrod said. "We gave the information on (relocation grants) to Bear Creek Capital and the city quite some time ago, but we haven't heard from them."

Moriconi was among the city representatives who met with Bear Creek last week to discuss a final development plan for the Buttermilk Towne Center.

"I don't think that applying for the grant right now is an option," Moriconi said. "As far as I know, there will be some assistance (with moving expenses), but I don't know the details."

Moriconi said Bear Creek plans to send a letter to residents of the mobile-home park by early April "explaining what they hope to see happen."

Greg Scheper of Bear Creek Capital did not return a phone call on Friday.


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