Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Housing project lacks support

City Council delays action

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Despite pleas from Carthage residents, a majority of Cincinnati City Council says it doesn't want to spend any more money to turn a failed industrial site into a subdivision.

        Members said Tuesday that they have already promised $8 million to clear the land and move businesses and aren't willing to put out the $4 million needed to build about 60 homes on the 14 acres once owned by Carthage Mills linoleum plant.

        “I'm glad it's on hold,” Councilman John Cranley said after council's finance committee delayed action two weeks. “But I'm very skeptical.”

        He questioned whether the city should be subsidizing a housing project that would cost taxpayers about $75,000 per unit to build. And he said it makes sense for the council to stop the city's involvement now, before any homes are started.

        Mr. Cranley was the fifth member of council to suggest alternatives for the site, which include building a park or turning it over to private developers.

        “If you want to spend $8 million on vacant ground, you've got it,” said Carthage resident Robert Hartlaub. “The horse is coming around the bend; you don't want to shoot it in the homestretch.”

        Mr. Hartlaub, who is a past president and a member of the Carthage Civic League, said the city has committed to building the homes. If the plan is killed, he said the community will lose all of the momentum it has built since the project was approved in 1999.

        The city has so far spent $6 million for the project. But cost overruns — mainly to pay for raising the site above a flood plain — have pushed estimates above $12 million.

        Mayor Charlie Luken, who did not attend the finance meeting, said Tuesday that the city had delivered its promises to the residents by moving businesses and cleaning up the site. He also said it is possible that project costs could go even higher.

        Councilman Pat DeWine said housing was not part of the original plan and wants to see the $4 million spent on housing somewhere else in the city.

        Other council members promised to fight, saying they think the delay is an attempt to help downtown. They said Tuesday that neighborhoods are constantly pitted against downtown for a finite amount of money.

        “The only time neighborhoods are important is in November,” said Councilwoman Alicia Reece, referring to election bids and describing the issue as a political football. “We've got to examine if we want to be supportive of neighborhoods.”


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