By John Kiesewetter
Enquirer staff writer
WEST CHESTER TWP. - Examining alternative forms of government - including city status - will be the most important issue for the township's Vision 2024 committee, its leaders say.
"We see this as something critical: What are we to evolve into?" says Dan Woodring, a discussion leader for the 40-member volunteer group reviewing the township's 2012 Vision plan adopted in 1993.
Township residents have voted down incorporation three times since 1988. The most recent defeat was in 1993 by 375 votes.
In 1999, trustees adopted a limited home-rule form of township government, which gave them powers to pass ordinances, contract with legal counsel and engineers and borrow money at the same rate as cities.
Woodring says the committee will consider a broad range of options and make a policy statement in a preliminary report to township residents next spring. A final draft will be submitted to trustees next summer, he says.
"The question is: Is our current form of government the best way to manage and promote the growth? We need look at what our alternatives are," says Toni Sander, a 12-year resident and local business owner.
The township, which has grown 39 percent to 55,515 residents since 1990, is the third-largest in Ohio, behind Hamilton County's Colerain and Green townships. By 2010, it is projected to have more than 62,000 residents, becoming the state's biggest township and passing Hamilton as Butler County's largest community.
The group began in May by examining the Vision document written in 1992-93. Some of the dreams back then have been realized - a new Interstate 75 (Union Centre Boulevard) interchange, the Union Centre business district and the Keehner Park amphitheatre.
Through the end of the year, the committee will review the township's parks, mass transit and transportation needs; schools; police and fire services; tax base; roads; and infrastructure, Woodring says.
Larry Brueshaber, a member of the new and original committees, says Vision volunteers realize they're drawing up a blueprint for their future.
"The first time (in 1992), we didn't know if this was an exercise in futility or if someone would ever read it again. This time we enter with a confidence that this community takes it seriously," he says.
"To a great degree, we're leading the county," he says. "We want to keep this community at the leading edge. ... If we do it right, this will keep us from taking a downward spiral."
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