New ideas, bigger roads, new shopping places and possibly new people at the helm of West Chester Twp. are all on tap in Butler County’s largest township in 2020.
Last year work began on the mega UCB interchange project, motorists will be driving on the diverging diamond bridge over Interstate 75 and a widened Tylersville Road at that interchange this year. Officials undertook a multi-year plan to get input from its residents and business on the future of the township, an information gathering effort that will continue this year. And two of the three township trustees announced they will seek higher office. All items that will have a major impact on the future of the largest township in Butler County.
Two township trustees seeking statehouse seats
Trustee Board President Mark Welch threw his hat in the ring late last year, hoping to fill the seat his former colleague and township trustee Ohio Rep. George Lang is vacating, in hopes of winning a state senate office. Welch told the Journal-News he can do even more for the people he has served for six years, in Columbus.
“What I hope is that having an impact on the 52nd District, West Chester, Liberty and Fairfield Twp. that we can take care of some things that are really important to the three townships,” Welch said.
He will face Jennifer L. Gross in the Republican primary race in March.
Trustee Lee Wong is running against Lang and Ohio Rep. Candice Keller for 4th Ohio Senate District. Ohio Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Twp. is term limited and running for the 12th District Court of Appeals.
Wong had no comment about his bid for higher office.
Two major roadways should be open for business in 2020
The Butler County commissioners awarded the $20 million contract to the John R. Jurgenson Company last spring for a project that is entirely funded with West Chester’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) money.
The early estimate for the project was $14 million but County Engineer Greg Wilkens had to revise the projection a couple times due to the construction market this year. The township is paying $6 million in cash and sold $14 million in TIF-backed bonds.
Motorists may have noticed the cramped spaces while traveling along the interstate are no longer as confining, Welch said, a sign the end is near.
“They’re moving ahead, they’re ahead of schedule right now,” Welch said. “”It’s supposed to complete at the end of July this year which is great news.”
The final phase of widening Tylersville Road at Interstate 75 was supposed to start last year, but Wilkens tossed the bids because they came in $1 million over the $2 million estimate. He rebid the project and the commissioners are expected approve the low bid of $3 million soon.
The second phase of the Tylersville Road project was initially delayed because acquiring right of way needed for the widening was challenging.
The project entails adding a westbound lane on the north side of the road from the interstate to Cox Road. To make that happen, access driveways to the rear of the eateries near Home Depot must be moved. There will now be two access roads to the rear service road, the current one at Dudley Drive and a new one that will run through the old Sunoco gas station site.
New Kroger Marketplace moving along
The giant new Kroger Marketplace in West Chester Twp. cleared a major hurdle late last year and still negotiating to bring the complex development deal home.
The township trustees finalized a $1.8 million deal with Kroger’s landlord, Regency Centers, in September to sell the former township Activity Center to clear the way for a giant new grocery and retail center. The acquisition allowed for a new 95,545-square-foot Kroger to replace the existing store, but the grocery giant and retail center owners needed two other properties to build a 117,166-square-foot Marketplace.
Regency has to purchase the Providence church and a portion of the adjacent Chesterwood Village property, which is owned by Hillandale Communities to build the giant store. If those purchases don’t materialize the agreement with the township is void.
Ryan Ertel, senior leasing agent for Regency said they have an agreement with the church but that is just one hurdle.
“We have accomplished a lot in a very short time but unfortunately there are other stakeholders involved that may not necessarily have the level of motivation/sense of urgency that we have to see this project materialize,” Ertel said.
Welch said he is confident Regency will satisfy the conditions of the agreement with the township.
“If they didn’t think there was a possibility of getting this thing done they would have just walked away, I think, at the beginning,” Welch said.
Replacement fire station on track for completion this year
West Chester is replacing its cramped, dilapidated and in some respects dangerous fire station at the southern edge of the township.
Trustees toyed with adding on to Station 73 but eschewed that idea after estimates were in.
Preliminary cost estimates to build a new station are about $3.5 million. Renovating the structure that was built in 1970 and then expanded through the years would cost $3.6 million.
Township Administrator Larry Burks said the hope is to start construction early in the spring and hopefully finish this year.
“That’s the goal, it may take a whole year, so maybe early, early January, February of ‘21 if things don’t go well, weather permitting,” Burks said. “It also depends on the bids we and things have been coming in a lot higher than normal.”
West Chester wanted to know what people think of the township
West Chester Twp. is already ranked as one of the top places to live in the country, but officials surveyed the community to help plan a vision for the future of the township.
The township commissioned a survey from the National Research Center for $15,600 — they received $8,500 from the 2019 Duke Energy Powerful Communities Local Impact Grant to put toward the project — and 1,500 residents were randomly selected to answer 132-question survey.
The survey is just one piece in a larger visioning project that will be ongoing, culling more community input throughout this year and into next.
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