By Cindy Schroeder
Enquirer staff writer
CRESTVIEW HILLS - The transformation of a near-vacant mall into an outdoor "lifestyle'' center has prompted the first contested City Council race in this Kenton County suburb in six years.
Candidates say redeveloping the 24-year-old Crestview Hills Mall - now home to just one tenant, Dillard's - and managing traffic and related issues will be the new council's main focus.
By the 2005 holiday shopping season, Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estateplans to transform the mall at Dixie Highway and Interstate 275 into the developer's seventh outdoor "lifestyle'' center. Besides the 200,000-square-foot Dillard's department store, the Crestview Hills Town Center will have 275,000 square feet of sit-down restaurants and specialty retail.
Incumbents David Kramer, Ralph T. Laird, Joe Maloney and Frank B. Sommerkamp Jr. and first-time council candidates David Lawrence Meier II, Thomas A. Moser, David Thiel and Joanne Meehan Hann are running at large for six seats. The two-year council terms will pay $2,800 a year. Mayor Paul Meier, who is no relation to the council candidate, is not up for re-election.
Several challengers entered the race after two-term councilmember Terri Jameson and Harold "Hal'' Ries, a 12-year councilman and 13-year mayor, decided not to seek re-election.
Council candidate Meier, 32, an accountant at Toyota's North American Manufacturing headquarters and an adjunct professor at Thomas More College, says the city's main challenge will be managing the development around the mall.
"I think the current council has done a great job,'' said Meier, a six-year resident and community activist who lives in College Park. "All the services are great. They have an excellent administration. And the tax rates are the lowest in Northern Kentucky.''
The father of three said he wants to help guide future growth so the community continues to prosper.
Joanne Meehan Hann, a 12-year resident who lives in Old Crestview, said she offers new ideas and more than 20 years of experience as an architect and manager for large projects.
She pledged to maintain the high quality of life that residents have come to expect.
"I see the main issue as the development in and around the Crestview Hills Mall and its impact on the quality of life in Crestview Hills,'' she said.
Hann, 53, wants to make sure the city studies how extra mall traffic will affect adjacent roads, especially Dixie Highway.
Thomas Moser, 79, a consulting engineer, agreed that redevelopment of the mall is a key issue. He said that he would closely monitor the project, if elected, especially its impact on nearby neighborhoods.
When Panera Bread and Carrabba's Italian Grill were built, he attended a city meeting to express concerns about the loss of green space.
A resident of Old Crestview since 1961, Moser is a former secretary-examiner for the Kenton County Police Merit Board and said that he will "put residents first'' in any city votes.
The fourth challenger is David Thiel, 35, an architect who lives in Old Crestview.
He has served on the city's building development and green space plan committees and is active in civic concerns.
He has pledged to work for "smart, quality development'' and to see that residents' needs get priority over developers' wants.
The incumbents said city council is losing nearly 30 years of experience between the two members who are leaving in January.
Among those left - incumbents Laird, 65, a salesman who lives in College Park; Maloney, 70, a retiree from Crown Distributing Co. who lives in Old Crestview; Sommerkamp, 75, a retired Cincinnati Bell executive from Summit Lakes; and Kramer, 44, a lawyer who lives in Lookout Farm - there is a combined total of 52 years' experience in city government.
The incumbents said they are familiar with the economic development issues facing the city in the next two years, and can help balance Crestview Hills' residential and commercial needs as the mall is redeveloped.
They also pledged to continue providing excellent services at one of Northern Kentucky's lowest tax rates - a rate that's stayed the same since 1998.
Council is working with the state to reduce traffic problems and accidents on Turkeyfoot Road and Dixie Highway, especially at the exit ramps from Interstate 275.
City officials also have supported a study aimed at improving traffic flow on Dixie Highway in Kenton County, Mayor Meier said.
"I think, to some extent, that experience is an issue with two people leaving council and four new people running,'' said Kramer, who heads council's zoning and economic development committee.
Kevin Black, who recently moved out of state, has dropped out of the race.
Even though Black's name will be on the ballot, any votes cast for him won't be counted, said Kenton County Clerk Bill Aylor.
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