Thursday, April 1, 2004

Housing hiatus gaining support

Some in Warren dismayed by boom

By Perry Schaible
Enquirer contributor

TURTLECREEK TWP. - When Bob Buffenbarger heard about a developer's plan to build a large new subdivision in Turtlecreek Township, he says, his hair stood on end.

"We'd like to die here, not be driven out," he said Wednesday.

Buffenbarger is not alone among longtime Warren County residents in his concern over continued development of Ohio's second-fastest-growing county.

Commissioner Mike Kilburn said Tuesday he is close to recommending a housing moratorium in the county - prohibiting the issuance of building and/or zoning permits - to freeze residential development.

His suggestion comes after the planning commission's decision to approve a Turtlecreek Township development, with 970 homes and 109 multifamily units, near the Shaker Run Golf Course.

Kilburn said development in Warren County is "getting scary" and burdening residents with taxes, crowded schools and congested roads.

Mike McMurray, communications director for Lebanon City Schools, said a moratorium won't affect plans in the district where officials closely follow population projections.

"We feel very satisfied that we're prepared for anything that comes our way," McMurray said.

In August, the school district will open a high school and elementary school to accommodate the growth. The high school will open to 1,400 students, but will be built to accommodate 2,400 with the ability to add academic wings.

Glen Brand, the Midwest regional representative for the Sierra Club, said Warren County has suffered from "poorly planned suburban sprawl."

"The Warren County commissioners are finally waking up with the sprawl hangover from years of allowing poor planning to overwhelm the county's quality of life," he said.

Buffenbarger supports a moratorium. He is one of 100 members of the Residents Association of West Central Warren County, a group that focuses on "anything that affects the quality of life that we are now experiencing." He wants to see a rational approach to growth.

"It will help some people to stand back and take a breath and see what they can accommodate reasonably," Buffenbarger said.

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