112-foot screen atop 11-story hotel delays $100M racino expansion vote

Warren County commissioners were ready Tuesday to approve plans for an 11-story hotel as part of an $100 million expansion of the Miami Valley Gaming racino but unready to allow a flashing 112-foot-long screen along the roof line.

The commissioners postponed their decision, at least until next Tuesday, while staff analyzes a sign package delivered Monday, including the 112-by-11-foot, 6-inch LED sign proposed on the west and part of the north side of the hotel.

“It may alter the flavor and character of the community,” Commissioner Shannon Jones said.”This requires a little more review and a little more reflection on my part.”

RELATED: Proposed 11-story racino hotel would be tallest building in Warren County

Jones said technology had revolutionized the capabilities of such signage.

“It’s like watching a big-screen television,” she said.

Consultants working on the project - a 194-room, 160,000 square-foot hotel, 12,000 square-foot gaming expansion, 7,500 square-foot restaurant expansion and 1,000 space parking garage - urged the commissioners to approve the plan, on the condition that terms could later be reached on the proposed signage.

“It would be a banner facility with a banner at the top,” said architect Nick Schoenfeldt.

The racino is just east of the Interstate 75 interchange at Ohio 63 in Turtlecreek Twp. The Premium Outlets Mall, two prisons, a large industrial park, the Union Village and Otterbein Lebanon complex are along the stretch of Ohio 63 headed east to Lebanon.

Commissioner Tom Grossmann agreed to join the other commissioners in delaying the project after expressing hesitation at “being too hard on regulating.”

Commissioner Dave Young applauded the racino operators on the success so far, as well as the expansion, but hesitated on the sign “lit up like a Christmas tree 24-7 at the top.”

The commissioners are scheduled to continue the public hearing on the proposed development at 9:30 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 17.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners approved plans by the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden for a 25 megawatt solar array and an outdoor education center, campground and trail about four miles south of the racino.

The zoo plans to use proceeds from solar electricity produced to pay for development and programs at the Warren County zoo properties, west of Mason.

“The money we get from this array stays up here,” Mark Fisher, vice president of facilities for the zoo, said. “It gives us financial stability.”

In addition, each year, from the solar power generated, the Lebanon school district is expected to receive $100,000 a year, the county and township $50,000, Fisher said.

Neighbor sheep are to “mow” the grass around the solar array.

No buildings are proposed with either project.

The education center, campground and trail are to be built north of a cheetah run where private viewing of “the fastest land animal in the world running full speed in your county” will be held, Fisher said.

While the camping and outdoor education center are to be for private use, Fisher said the zoo hopes to develop a 5k running trail through this part of the zoo’s more than 600 acres, about four miles south of the racino in Turtlecreek Twp.

“I envision a cheetah 5k,” Commissioner Dave Young said.

There were no opponents speaking at the meeting, but Fisher acknowledged neighbors have raised questions.

“We’ve listened to our neighbors. We’ve made adjustments,” Fisher said.

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