Bike trail relocation stalled in Lebanon

The delay came after a councilman encouraged residents to join him in voicing opposition to the project.

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A split city council delayed - for at least a week - a decision on the purchase of a sliver of land needed to relocate a stretch of the local bike path in Lebanon.

The 4-1 vote Tuesday night prompted the council to schedule a special vote at next week's work session on the ordinance authorizing the shift of $82,500 from the general fund to pay for land and a small house at 1113 Deerfield Road - part of which apparently dates back to the 1800's, when road tolls were collected from passing travelers.

The delay came after Councilman Stephen Kaiser sent post cards to Lebanon residents urging them to call and urge council representatives to vote against the shift of funds, which would be reimbursed through a state grant.

Kaiser has opposed the project - and others in which the city uses state grants to buy land - and sent out the letter, in anticipation of the vote, after learning of the historical connection.

Mayor Amy Brewer said she was “extremely shocked” by Kaiser’s tactics which prompted phone calls, emails and a handful of residents - and one man from Kettering - to speak at the meeting.

The vote was part of a plan, unveiled last November by staff for council, to relocate a stretch of the Lebanon Countryside YMCA Trail off Deerfield Road.

Opponents charge maintenance will further burden the city’s general fund budget and argue for preservation of the historical structure. They also question the value of taking the trail off the road and whether the new section will be better for users.

Greg Orosz, a resident and head of the Main Street Lebanon group, called the existing trail section “the flaw in the jewel”. The city trail connects Lebanon with the Little Miami Scenic Trail, which runs between Clark and Hamilton counties.

Other advocates said it was also part of a plan to create a network connecting the trails along the Great and Little Miami Rivers, augmenting a network already exceeding 330 miles in length.

The relocation was among projects identified by the Lebanon Turtlecreek Trails Initiative, a plan to develop a network of trails through the city and township and leading to places including the Cincinnati Zoo's Cheetah Run & Encounter.

While the city plans to demolish the building, City Manager Manager Pat Clements said the building could be converted for historical display or a stop along the trail, if council so desired.

There were only five votes cast. Kaiser and Councilman Jim Norris recused themselves. Norris because his brother, Scott, had a land contract for the property; Kaiser because Norris’s brother is a client.

Brewer was joined by Mark Messer, Jim Dearie and Jeff Aylor. Wendy Monroe cast the lone vote against the ordinance.

Monroe questioned the need for the relocation, which would take another property off the tax rolls, and supported the building’s preservation.

“I didn’t realize it was a historic toll house until a week ago,” she said.

The final vote is scheduled for 7 p.m., Tuesday, May 3, at Lebanon City Hall, 50 S. Broadway.