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COLERAIN TWP, Ohio - The stage has been set for a legal showdown over what is and isn't legal to have or store on Colerain Township properties.
In one corner is Mert Raisch, whose six generations of family members have lived on and farmed acreage along East Miami River Road since the Civil War.
"My grandpa moved here when he was 3 years old," Raisch said Tuesday. "Morgan's Raiders, when they come through, had my great-great grandpa shoe their horses down here on Fick Road. He had the first farm on Fick Road."
On the other side is Colerain Township Administrator Jim Rowan, whose goal is to clean up its properties and image.
"This particular property has been a challenge for us for a number of years," he said.
The controversy revolves around cars and other items the Raisch family began collecting and storing on the land during the 1940s. Many of the items can be seen by passersby driving along the Raisch land.
The township has issued numerous citations for non-compliance with zoning ordinances and ordered things to be cleaned up.
Now, officials have gone to what they're calling their last resort — filing a civil suit in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.
"It seems like harassment to me," Mert Raisch said. "I always thought we was grandfathered in for stuff that was here."
Jake Raisch said he believes the township is incorrectly trying to force compliance with residential zoning codes based on complaints from those who want to develop housing in the area.
"This was a farm even before the zoning regulations were existent in this part of the country," he said.
Rowan said the township isn't targeting any particular part of the community.
"While I can't speak to the issues specifically because of the litigation, we just want to make Colerain Township a much better place to live and we're going to do everything we can to enforce our compliance," he said.
Mert Raisch said he's doing his best to meet the township's requests. He brought in a dumpster from Garden City Recycling to haul items away. He's not accepting new items that he could sell for scrap.
"I've been working -- trying to move stuff out -- clean it up," he said.
A hearing is set for January 2, 2013, to determine if the township will get a preliminary and/or permanent injunction against the Raisch's. If that effort is successful, the family could be fined $500 a day for non-compliance.
"There's no way I could comply with paying that kind of money on something like that," Mert Raisch said. "In one day they could find enough stuff to take the farm and everything on it. That would be the end of it the way I look at it."
Jake Raisch added, "This stuff's been here for generation after generation and it's like they expect us to wave a wand and it will all disappear overnight. That's just absurd."
Rowan said he's pushing ahead with his plans.
"Our overall goal for 2013 as we look to move our township forward is to identify residential and commercial challenges -- properties that aren't meeting our code with regards to property maintenance, nuisance violations and zoning issues," he said. "We want to change the image and perception of this township and make it a great place for people to want to live, work and play."
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