By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FLORENCE - Strip malls, gas stations and fast food restaurants line busy U.S. 42 here west of Interstate 75.
Except on two vacant parcels on either side of Dilcrest Drive.
And that's how residents in Dilcrest, one of Florence's oldest subdivisions, would like to keep it.
"That's part of Dilcrest Manor," said 77-year-old resident Robert K. Lawrence. "We have been fighting this since back in the mid-90s."
The latest fight is over a proposed 6,000-square-foot office building on the east side of Dilcrest.
Florence City Council is set to vote on a zone change to allow the building Tuesday night. Boone County Planning Commission already has approved the change.
The 0.8-acre site is currently zoned for residential use, but building a house on busy U.S. 42 isn't practical, said landowner Dennis Helmer, a Florence attorney.
"I think (an office) is essentially the only practical use," Helmer said. "The problem is that a residential use is going to be very undesirable."
Helmer has been trying to develop the land for more than 10 years.
Dilcrest Drive leads to the 120-home subdivision with mostly brick two-story homes on large lots. It's home to two city council members and a city council candidate.
"We wouldn't be opposed if they were going to build houses up there," said Lawrence, who has lived in Dilcrest for 28 years. But a parking lot and large building will "throw water all down through here."
The backyards on North and West Dilcrest drives are eroding from storm water, residents say.
Other residents are concerned that an entrance to the building on Dilcrest will make it harder to get in and out of the subdivision.
"My opposition is more to the traffic than it is anything else," said Larry Brown, who has lived in the subdivision for 16 years.
"I believe that Dennis (Helmer) has a right to develop that property," Brown said. "But what he's asking for is too big."
Brown, who is running for a seat on city council, said he would like to see the city buy the land in anticipation of widening U.S. 42 from the interstate to Hopeful Church Road.
That project is No. 1 on the local state transportation district's wish list of un-funded projects, said District Design Engineer Mike Bezold.
There is no timetable for the $12-million project. The earliest the state could begin buying land for the project is more than six years away.
"It won't be happening tomorrow," Bezold said.
To make matters worse, the light at Dilcrest, Mall Road and U.S. 42 "only allows two to three cars through," said resident Leisa Hickey.
To help the residents, Florence City Council asked Helmer to add a right turn lane out of the subdivision.
But Helmer said Friday building the lane would be too expensive - about $36,000 - because utilities including a fire hydrant, telephone lines, and traffic signals would have to be moved.
"I'll give them the land if they want to do it," Helmer said, "But it's just too much."
Residents also say the lots in the subdivision have deed restrictions making them forever residential.
But in 2001, the Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed a decision of Boone County Circuit Court that said the restrictions on the Dilcrest lots on U.S. 42 were not applicable.
The council members who live in Dilcrest, Melodee Merrell and Dale Stephens, will not be precluded from voting on the zone change, said City Attorney Hugh Skees.
Councilman David Osborne already has recused himself from voting on the issue, Skees would not say why Osborne took himself out of the vote.
City Council can either affirm Planning Commission's decision, reverse it, or do nothing - in that case the zone change will take affect April 6.
If you go
Florence City Council will hold a caucus meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Florence Government Center at 8100 Ewing Blvd.
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