Thursday, October 7, 2004

Symmes Twp. trustees OK using park land for road

By Sheila McLaughlin
Enquirer Staff Writer

SYMMES TWP. - Despite objections from a group of residents, trustees agreed to release 3.5 acres bought with park levy funds to the state for widening of Montgomery Road.

Trustees on Tuesday designated the land along Blong Road as "insignificant" to the park system, paving the way for the property to be turned over.

Administrator Jerry Beckman said 2.72 acres of the township property is in the right-of-way and 0.75 acres would be deeded to the Ohio Department of Transportation. That's roughly half the land the trustees bought using $500,000 in park levy funds since 1999 with plans to build a parking lot for Union Savings Bank and a memorial to victims of the 1999 tornado.

Officials in Symmes Citizens for Responsible Improvements said they are considering a lawsuit against trustees as a result of Tuesday's actions. They also vowed to campaign against an upcoming park levy and may ask the Attorney General's Office to investigate the township for misuse of park funds.

"We can't trust trustees to spend the money appropriately," member Ken Bryant said Wednesday.

The group, which has opposed the state's plan to widen Montgomery Road to five lanes at Kemper Road near the Calumet Way subdivision, had hoped the park would be their trump card to stop the project in that location.

Trustees could have designated the Blong Road land as a significant part of the park system, which could have forced the state to look at alternatives in its road plan.

Beckman said township officials want the Department of Transportation to apply the value of the land toward any matching funds the township would owe on the road project. The township already has paid about $600,000 toward engineering fees for the widening because a large portion of the project is in Symmes.

Beckman said he did not know the value of the land or if the state had completed an appraisal.

Bryant said he would prefer that the state take the land by eminent domain and pay the fair market price back into the park fund.



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