Wednesday, November 15, 2000

Council says builder in violation

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HARVEYSBURG — Problems with Teen Reach brought more than 35 angry residents to Village Council Monday night demanding action.

        Council responded by revoking a building permit sought by a local builder working with Teen Reach, and setting a meeting next week to plot legal strategy.

        “This is our town, and you work for us,” Michele Cochran told council. “So what are every one of you going to do?”

        Pressured by the angry crowd, Mayor Perry Shepard announced village action against Paul Brothers at Monday night's Village Council meeting.

        Mr. Brothers did not return calls Tuesday seeking comment.

        The businessman is renting several Harveysburg properties to Teen Reach, an Arizona-based program for troubled juveniles, and has said he plans to build 21 more homes and a school for the group.

        Residents fear Mr. Brothers won't follow the rules with that construction on Maple Street because of other problems the village, Warren County and the state have had with him. For instance, he tapped into the water system without approval several years ago, according to county sanitary engineer Richard Renneker.

        Harveysburg zoning officials sent Mr. Brothers a letter Friday saying he is violating the building code in letting Teen Reach occupy a single-family house he owns on Loraine Avenue. The state fire marshal has cited Mr. Brothers on similar charges. He is appealing.

        By Teen Reach's own account, at least five unrelated teens and four supervisors live at the house. The fire marshal and neighbors say as many as 14 teens have lived there at one time.

        “Why is it that Paul doesn't have to follow the same criteria as everybody else?” asked Judy Tincher, who owns a business in Harveysburg. “Are we going to be able to do anything and tell you about it later?

        “If this council doesn't stop that (Maple Street) permit tonight, (residents) should fire every last one of you,” Ms. Tincher said.

        After an executive session, Mr. Shepard announced the permit for a shell building on Maple Street, issued last week, would be revoked. Officials had received misinformation about what the building would be used for — it has variously been designated for storage and a school, Mr. Shepard said — and the request did not go through the planning commission as required.

        Council also discussed Monday night what to do about the fact that the Lo raine Avenue house is occupied despite the lack of an occupancy permit — and occupied by a group of unrelated teens despite being in a single-family zone.

        Members adopted an ordinance in July declaring Mr. Brothers in violation of village codes on those two points, and directing its solicitor, Pat Long, to go to court to force compliance. Mr. Long has said he didn't do that because it was not in the village's best interest, and he has instead drafted a complaint that would ask the court to decide whether Mr. Brothers has violated the codes.

        But several residents and council members said Monday they'd rather see the original ordinance — which council never revoked — enforced.

        “Why should we go to court and ask somebody to tell us how to do our job?” Councilman Phil Trovillo said. “It's time somebody stood up to this man. He's got to be stopped.”

        Village Council scheduled a special meeting for 7:30 p.m. Monday to decide what legal action to take.

        Concerns about Mr. Brothers have spread outside Harveysburg to Massie Township, where he lives on a farm. Mr. Brothers has said Teen Reach participants come to the farm for vocational training such as caring for horses, gardening and other activities.


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