Sunday, October 31, 2004
Lakeside Park candidates oppose possibility of merger
By Cindy Schroeder
Enquirer staff writer
LAKESIDE PARK - After two years of debate about a possible merger with neighboring cities, spending issues and whether to allow commercial zoning, Lakeside Park City Council will have at least three new members next year.
John Nienaber, a 12-year city council member; Thomas Neltner, who's held office since January 1997, and first-term Council Member Debbie Henrickson are not seeking re-election Tuesday.
The eight candidates who are running at large for six two-year terms include Frank Smith, 77, a former mayor and council member who lost to Mayor Karen Gamel two years ago; David Hentz, 66, a former council member who lost by two votes in 2002; and first-time candidates Paul Markgraf, 47; Ken Padgett, 51, both lawyers; and Aimee Pelletier, 37, a stay-at-home mom and community activist who said that she would make sure residents' views are heard by council.
Incumbents in the race are two-term Council Member Katherine Terwort, 61; David Van Deren, 73, a 20-year council member, and first-term Council Member Brian D. Waite, 32.
In an Oct. 26 letter to Lakeside Park households, Henrickson said that she was elected two years ago "on a campaign of change and being responsive to the will of the community.''
Henrickson noted that she was the only council member this year to vote against a 10 percent property tax increase. She wrote that she lobbied for a merger study with Crestview Hills because she thought Lakeside Park - which has one of the highest overall tax rates among Northern Kentucky cities - would benefit from Crestview Hills' development and growing tax base. Any talk of merger died earlier this year when Crestview Hills officials opted not to participate.
All eight Lakeside Park council candidates say they would oppose any attempt to re-open merger talks, especially if it meant more commercial development along Dixie Highway and Buttermilk Pike.
When talk of a merger study was first brought up, Padgett, a 19-year resident, characterized it "as a backdoor move to commercialize Lakeside Park,'' an allegation that Henrickson and other supporters of a merger study denied.
Hentz, a semi-retired vice president of Federated Department Stores who's lived in Lakeside Park 30 years, said that he doesn't think Crestview Hills, which has one of the lowest overall tax rates in Northern Kentucky, wants or needs Lakeside Park.
"This idea was raised during this past term and was born from a request by one resident to one member of council,'' Waite said. "While we should all be open to new ideas, I do not believe a merger is appropriate at this time. The overwhelming majority of residents who contacted me were very strongly opposed to the idea, and I voted accordingly.''
"There was never anything brought forward to the public that said, 'We have a fiscal emergency,' '' Markgraf said. He said it was word of mouth that prompted residents to pack a Lakeside Park Council meeting where officials voted unexpectedly to move forward with a merger study.
Markgraf, a former prosecutor who says he's had experience dealing with government bureaucracy, said he thinks council could do a better job of communicating with residents on issues, especially those affecting specific neighborhoods. As an example, he noted the recent dispute over who should pay for trees cut down on Arcadia Avenue in September. About 20 trees, most of them large silver maples, were cut down because some of their root systems were harmed by the recent installation of curbs, which followed the enlargement of a water line beneath the avenue. Some owners were upset by plans to bill them about $500 per tree when it was the city council that chose to cut them down.
At the time, Gamel said the city's engineer recommended the trees come down before the curbs were installed, but city officials opted to install the curbs first, to see whether the trees could survive. The city attorney told residents that entities that provide public service have right of way in the area near the street, but the homeowner owns and is responsible for the area.
"We had a professional opinion from an arborist, and we didn't have much choice,'' Terwort said. "It was unfortunate and I know that people are not happy about it, but I felt we did the best we could do under the circumstances.''
Henrickson also said in her letter that she had suggested a change in city zoning law that would have allowed Barleycorn's restaurant to make restrooms handicap accessible and expand its freezer space but "would still prevent other business from coming into the city.'' However, some residents "fought it aggressively,'' she said.
All of the council candidates said they want to maintain the residential nature of Lakeside Park, which has only four commercial properties.
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