Monday, January 21, 2002

Park group set to appeal against YMCA

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LOVELAND — Save Phillips Park members want to sit down with YMCA officials before filing a court appeal that would halt the Y's plans for a $5 million building on public property.

        Members have left messages with Jerry Haralson, YMCA of Greater Cincinnati president, but no meeting has been arranged. If those requests keep failing, they will consider a letter cam paign to YMCA board members.

        They're also considering neighborhood meetings before Feb. 9, the deadline for member Paul Elliott to file his appeal in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

        “We're hopeful that such steps will not only show our good intentions (and) our honest intentions in this matter, but will also show our willingness to work with the Y. (The city isn't) doing right,” Mr. Elliott said.

        Save Phillips Park takes umbrage to the city's leasing, at no cost, 8 acres of park property to the Y, an agency that would charge annual fees of about $700 per family.

        But “we have always been more willing to speak with this group,” said Jackie Mathews, YMCA spokeswoman. “The YMCA has no plans in stopping Save Phillips Park from taking this to court. Our conditional-use permit is granted. Our request and paperwork for this project has been supported and upheld by the (city's) decision makers.”

        In October, planning commissioners granted the YMCA a conditional-use permit that would allow construction to begin. Earlier this month, the Board of Zoning Appeals denied Mr. Elliott's appeal — in essence, supporting the planning commission.

        The common pleas court appeal is Mr. Elliott's sole legal recourse.

        Assistant City Manager Tom Carroll said the city will continue to support the YMCA. Yet he's heard rumors that YMCA officials might nix their plans because of Save Phillips Park's continued protests and the agency's fund-raising problems.

        The YMCA must raise $5 million to build the facility. Officials were supposed to have the entire amount raised by October to satisfy deadlines established with the city in a development agreement.

        But fund-raising efforts lag by about $1 million. The city has extended the deadline by a year to accommodate the YMCA's financial struggles.

        Ms. Mathews said YMCA officials still want to build in Loveland.

        “Certainly community support and financial support are key elements (to the project). Both have not been at a level to keep this project moving forward,” she said. But, “we're still meeting with the city, and we're still coming to the table and having discussions on the next steps.”


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