Thursday, March 22, 2001

Monmouth St. businesses to appeal assessment

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — A group of Monmouth Street businesses and property owners has pledged about $2,000 to pay a lawyer to file an appeal that could stall the city's $4 million Monmouth streetscape plans.

        Tom Bell, owner of Cobb Inc. printing firm at Ninth and Monmouth streets, held a meeting Tuesday night attended by 24 property owners and a group of city officials.

        Mr. Bell said those attending voted to chip in a dollar per front foot of their property. They oppose the assessments for the streetscape project.

        Mr. Bell said no date was immediately set for filing the appeal in Campbell Circuit CourtLawyer Anthony Brinker, who attended the meeting, said the appeal must be filed within 30 days of the date city commissioners enacted the ordinance, March 12.

        The Monmouth Street project calls for paver-style sidewalks, new curbs and removal of overhead wires from 11th Street to Fifth Street. Utility lines are to be run underground.

        Under the ordinance, property owners along Monmouth would be assessed $35.98 per linear foot annually for 10 years to pay for part of the estimated $4 million cost. The city has about $1 million in grant money.

        “We are not opposed to the project itself, although we do have some questions about portions of it,” Mr. Bell said. “What we oppose is the amount of the assessment. The city says it will obtain additional grant money for the project, which would lower our assessment. We think the city should wait for that money.”

        City Manager Phil Ciafardini said Wednesday the city still intends to move forward with the project unless a judge orders a halt. “All we can do right now is wait to see if anyone actually contests the project,” he said.

        “What the city has said all along is, we have so many things going on in the community ... other needs, such as infrastructure,” he said. “We will spend more money on Monmouth Street in the coming years, including parking, facade improvements and marketing. We will work to get new investors, new business. But we can't pay for everything.”

        Mr. Ciafardini, who attended the Tuesday night meeting with Mayor Tom Guidugli and other city officials, said he talked to several Monmouth Street business owners and emphasized that the city is committed to obtaining additional funds.

        “Our plan is based on property owners paying for sidewalks and private electric,” he said. “If we get all the grant money we've applied for, the lowest assessment figure could be $15.77 (per linear foot), or it could be somewhere in between that and the $35.98 figure. That would be based on sidewalk-only assessment, with no private electric work. I think that is much more palatable to most property owners.

        “But we won't know how much grant money we are getting for a couple of months. We need to move ahead with the project now or miss a construction season that could result in higher construction costs next year.”


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