Sunday, April 18, 2004

Township battles growth

By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CLEARCREEK TWP. - This northern township is following the Warren County commission's lead in an effort to slow the rapid residential growth.

At the request of township trustees, the zoning commission is considering increasing the lot size requirements on new subdivisions. The change will increase lot sizes 50 percent in residential areas with and without sewer access.

"We have always had growth, but over the past 12 or 13 years, it's really been on the rise," said Jeff Palmer, the township's director of planning and zoning. "We never stop or go steady with the year before."

According to census figures, the township's population jumped from 13,347 in 1990 to 20,974 in 2000.

Continuing growth is the case for most of Warren County, where the population has jumped from 113,909 in 1990 to 181,743 people, according to the latest census figures.Warren County commissioners last year boosted the standards for five townships under their zoning control - Franklin, Harlan, Turtlecreek, Union and Washington - in an effort to halt the growth. New homes there must be on at least 2 acres for areas without sewer access and on half-acre lots in areas with sewers.

"You have to assume that, in the end, developers are going to develop every inch of the land," Commissioner Mike Kilburn said. "If it was up to me, we'd have five-acre lots so we could only have so many homes."

Kilburn has raised the possibility of a county residential building moratorium, and Clearcreek is also considering one.

Clearcreek is proposing changing their standards to 1.5-acre minimums in areas with no sewers and three-fourths of an acre for areas with sewer connections. In Hamilton Township, a group of residents is considering putting an initiative on the ballot forcing their township to increase lot sizes as well.

When the county pushed for the zoning change, homebuilders contended that the move would reduce the value of farmland and cause more sprawl by spreading the houses over more land.

"What we think addresses that problem is to have smart planning and smart growth and include a variety of lot sizes," said Alex Tarasenko, senior vice president of Rhein Interests, which has developments across Warren County. "That's the way you preserve the greenspace. We didn't think the answer was larger lots."

Neither do some Clearcreek Township residents, several of whom spoke against the increasing lot sizes at a recent township zoning commission meeting. The zoning commission will discuss the issue again May 4. The decision is then up to township trustees.

Just the talk of changing the minimum housing requirements has caused a surge of submissions at the county's Regional Planning Commission, as developers are hoping to get proposals in before Clearcreek makes changes, said senior planner Robert Ware.

The township also is updating its land use plan.

"Our current land use plan is talking about a rural character," Palmer said. "Everybody knows it when they see it, but they can't describe it. We've been trying to refine that concept."


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