Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Newport Promenade development draws critics

Project may wind up in court

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Residents of the city's Cote Brilliant neighborhood for the second time in three weeks gave opinions for and against a redevelopment plan that would transform the neighborhood.

        No decision was reached Monday night by Newport city commissioners following a second two-hour public hearing on the plan for the Newport Promenade development just off Interstate 471 at 10th Street.

        Two attorneys addressed the commission, both threatening legal action if the city goes ahead with the redevelopment plan and declares the neighborhood a blighted area for the purpose of taking some properties through eminent do- main.

        The residents' comments were divided evenly between those who are ready to sell their houses to the developer, Neyer Properties, and those who either don't want to sell or want more for their property than has been offer- ed.

        Neyer has purchase agreements for more than 80 percent of the property needed and has begun clearing a large section of open land on top of the hill above Vine Street, taking out trees and scrub plants in preparation for bringing a street through the property and starting construction on the first of 52 upscale single-family homes.

        That work is a concern for Julie and Rick Laycock.

        The work is being done behind their home at 1105 Vine St., close to the backyard where their children play.

        “There's a huge pile of mulch, from the trees that were ground up on the hill above our house, and we're worried that if we get a heavy rain it could come right down on us,” Mrs. Laycock said.

        “We have had no contact with the contractor, no word about what they're doing,” Mrs. Laycock said.

        “They put a (portable toilet) right near our property and never talked to us.”

        She told commissioners she is concerned about protecting her property.

        Mayor Tom Guidugli said someone from the city would be at the Laycock home today to look at the situation.

        “It appears one of the problems we have here is communication,” said Commissioner Jan Knepshield.

        “We need better communication between the city, the developer and the neighborhood,” the commissioner said.

        In addition to the homes that will be priced in the $300,000-$500,000 range, the Newport Promenade project calls for a shopping area at the bottom of what is known as Wiedemann Hill along Grand Avenue, from 10th Street to Carothers Road.

        Attorneys Robert Blau and Kurt Meier, both representing property owners on Grand Avenue, told commissioners the neighborhood did not meet Kentucky Revised Statute stan- dards for a declaration of blight.

        Mr. Blau, who represented neighbors in Highland Heights who successfully challenged in federal court a similar effort in 1999 by that city to declare the neighborhood blighted, said he saw no difference between that area and the Cote Brilliant neighborhood.

        Mr. Meier objected to statements by city planning and development coordinator Greg Tulley regarding the findings of a consultant indicating that the neighborhood met standards for blight.

        “I believe this is illegal use of city funds for the purpose of the development,” Mr. Meier said.

        “If the redevelopment plan is approved, there will be federal litigation over this issue,” he said.

        “And I think a grand jury should look into the use of city funds.”

        The commission did not intend to take a vote on the redevelopment plan Monday night, and Mr. Guidugli said another public hearing would be held in the near future.


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