Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Mobile-home owners upset

By Travis Gettys
Enquirer contributor

CRESCENT SPRINGS - Residents who could lose their homes to a proposed shopping center left Monday's City Council meeting complaining that officials have ignored their concerns.

Cincinnati developer Bear Creek Capital offered to help pay relocation costs for residents of Crest Mobile Home Park, at the site of the proposed $56 million shopping center.

So far, the developer has released no specifics for relocating the 129 residents, many of whom feel shut out of the discussions.

"The city has really treated us dirty," said resident Pat Barnett. "Any time anything we have to say is brought up, they shoot us down."

City Councilman Jim Collett asked a representative from Bear Creek how developers intended to communicate relocation plans to residents, but Mayor Claire Moriconi interrupted him.

"I'm asking you to stay away from that," she said as the standing-room-only crowd reacted angrily. "They're working on that."

Moriconi said she didn't want the large crowd to take up too much time of a full agenda, so she limited the number of speakers during the meeting.

Some opponents weren't buying her explanation, however, saying the meeting agenda was lighter than many recent ones.

"This meeting has been the shortest meeting I've been to," Barnett said, noting that it lasted less than an hour.

Only one trailer park resident, Debbie Billiter, was allowed to address council, her voice cracking with emotion as she described the offer she received to relocate.

"Bear Creek offered me $1,500 to just abandon my home, but my home is worth so much more and it's my home," she said.

"(The offer) isn't enough to cover utility deposits, first and last month's rent and the other initial costs of renting - much less cover a down payment on a place for me to buy," Billiter said.

Opponents urged city officials to reconsider the development by presenting a petition with 1,021 signatures. "People who pay taxes in Crescent Springs would like to have a say," said Dr. Irene Morrison, co-chair of Concerned Citizens for Traffic Safety and Responsibility.

Critics say the development would introduce more vehicles to an already congested Buttermilk Pike and take property tax money away from the city and Kenton County.

The city plans to issue industrial revenue bonds, which the developer would pay off over 25 years in lieu of property taxes.

Bear Creek has entered into a contract to buy the 46-acre lot trailer park from the Erpenbeck family, which owns the land, and city officials say they cannot stop the sale.

The developer hopes to begin construction by mid-July, and will present the next phase of its plan at the May 10 council meeting, said Bear Creek representative Steve Kelly.

In addition to landscaping and lighting designs, the next phase will likely include the relocation offer, Moriconi said.

"I'm hoping it's made before then," she said. "These people have a right to know."

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