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New I-75 interchange in Butler County takes huge step forward

A Millikin Road interchange remains a top priority for Liberty Twp. trustees. As they craft the 2020 budget they are also considering an additional $5 motor vehicle registration tax.
A Millikin Road interchange remains a top priority for Liberty Twp. trustees. As they craft the 2020 budget they are also considering an additional $5 motor vehicle registration tax.

The proposed Interstate 75 interchange at Millikin Road has been a top priority for Liberty Twp. trustees for several years, and the project just took a giant step recently.

The township has been informed the Ohio Department of Transportation has finally approved the interchange as a priority project, after almost three years of efforts by local officials.

“We are now officially a project that can go forward,” Trustee Steve Schramm said. “That to me allows a timeline that is something I can manage. Now it’s dialing for dollars, it’s getting all of our studies in for whatever beetle and frog and owl, all those environmental things you’ve got to go through. We can start stacking now all the things that need to happen that are kind of back in our court to work on.”

Why is the Millikin Road interchange is the township’s top priority this year?

There are about 1,200 undeveloped acres slated for commercial development in the Millikin Road area — which would hold the equivalent of 12 Liberty Centers — and another 1,200 acres would be opened up when Cox Road is extended to Ohio 63 and if an interchange is built at Millikin Road.

Schramm said the county would benefit economically the most from the interchange, primarily due to sales tax revenues, but in the long run it means stability for the township.

RELATED: Biggest stories of 2019: Liberty Twp. built for growth, made moves for fire department

“We pushed for a project that will yield us maybe a 15 percent return,” he said. “It seems a little counter-intuitive to why we care so much, but ultimately if you look at West Chester and the way their property tax dollars have grown exponentially since Union Centre finally developed out, that’s what we’re looking for 30 years down the road.”

The trustees were told when they started the “purpose and need” statement process with Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens’ office in 2017 that economic development wasn’t a good enough reason for the state to approve the interchange, but traffic predictions are.

Trustee Board President Christine Matacic said the traffic predictions for a rapidly growing area like Liberty were initially flawed, but once the right numbers were used, they were approved. She said the interchange itself will cost about $40 million but to create the entire road system they need could double the price. She envisions the interchange opening, if everything goes according to plan, in seven or eight years.

Township nearing completion of long-range facilities plan

In the township where the population has quadrupled over the past two decades to around 40,000, the trustees approved a long-range facilities plan in 2016. The plan included a new administration center, sheriff’s outpost, public works facility and Fire Station 112 replacement, all estimated to total around $10 million.

Things changed over the years and so did the cost, as various options became either impractical, too expensive or otherwise unacceptable. The $3 million public works facility is complete, the $4.75 million administration center/sheriff’s outpost should be finished by this summer and bids on the Station 112 replacement and renovations to the other two stations, estimated at $6 million, were due Jan. 9.

When the facilities plan was adopted the township planned to spend about $1.5 million to buy the building that currently houses the administrative offices and sheriff’s outpost and renovate the old township offices for meeting space. Negotiations failed on the purchase of the office park building on Liberty Centre Drive. The plan changed to tearing down the old administration center on Princeton Road and building anew, but site work alone would have cost about $1.8 million.

By moving to the new site that is under construction the township saved about $1 million. The township paid $954,000 for the land in an office park on Ohio 747 between Princeton and Millikin roads for the 15,000-square-foot building in 2018. Construction is estimated at $3.8 million. Taxpayer-backed bonds are funding the building.

The fire station replacement also had twists and turns but trustees believe the township will save more than $3 million by relocating to a more central locale at Princeton and Cincinnati Dayton roads.

The township is growing again

Trustee Tom Farrell ticked off a number of new developments/businesses that have either pulled building permits or are close to doing so early this year:

• The $230 million Village North mixed use development that sits within the jurisdictions of Butler and Warren counties and Liberty and West Chester townships is very close to becoming a reality

• The new Kroger that just broke ground on Kyles Station has prompted a flurry of outlot activity, including Tide Cleaners, Valvoline and a multi-tenant building to be developed by Oberer

• In The Game is a new entertainment venue coming to Liberty Center that features axe throwing, arcade gaming, boutique bowling and virtual reality

• Everest Rehabilitation Hospital has submitted plans for a 38,000-square-foot physical rehab facility along Bethany Road at Interstate 75

• Plex Solutions, a cyber security company, will be a new tenant at Liberty Center

The township is still seeking residents’ input into future development

The trustees hired American Structurepoint, Inc. for $85,000 earlier this year to steer the strategic plan process. The community engagement meetings the township held are just a fraction of the entire project that includes a comprehensive look at the township today and plans for the future.

Matacic said the end result of the comprehensive plan update process could produce important zoning changes in the future. All in all, she said this year is going to be important for the township.

“We’ve got a full plate this year,” Matacic said. “It’s transportation and road improvements, it’s economic development, it’s facilities and it’s the future of zoning and view of what our community will be in another 10 to 20, 30 years. And getting as much input from our residents as possible.”

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