Saturday, May 11, 2002

Wal-Mart dispute is aired

Settlement now possible

By Cindy Schroeder,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT WRIGHT — The stalemate over development of a controversial Wal-Mart Supercenter got a nudge toward settlement from a judge Friday.

        Kenton County Circuit Judge Douglas Stephens ordered the two parties to try to settle a lawsuit battle over the proposed Ky. 17 store. Fort Wright officials, representatives of B&Z Development Inc., a representative of Regency Centers, and a lawyer for Wal-Mart ""met non-stop for six hours” in a jury room, Fort Wright City Attorney Pete Summe said.

        “The judge wanted to move the docket,” Mr. Summe said. “We were either going to litigate it or settle it.”

        Eighteen months ago, Fort Wright-based B&Z Development Inc. sued city council over its rejection of a retail development anchored by a Wal-Mart Supercenter. The project was proposed for a 60-acre hilltop site on Ky. 17 between Highland Pike and Orphanage Road.

        Despite the six-hour meeting, an agreement is at least a week off. At their May 22 meeting, council members will discuss a possible settlement of that lawsuit, Mr. Summe said. Until then, Fort Wright officials have agreed to let him be their spokesman on the issue.

        “Council basically has three options,” Mr. Summe said. “(Council members) could agree to settle the case, go back to the drawing board and refine the issues further, or decide that we haven't been able to reach an agreement and have the judge set a trial date (in the developer's lawsuit).”

        Among the issues discussed in detail Friday: how to deal with traffic concerns through additional lanes and traffic controls on nearby roads, and how to achieve a uniform appearance for the project. Also discussed were the types of uses allowed for the outlots. Mr. Summe declined to elaborate further.

        Opponents, worried that the project would create more traffic in an already congested area, had protested the plan from its first presentation.

        At a March 27 public hearing, Regency Centers showed plans for a scaled-down Wal-Mart that would have all the features of a supercenter but would be about 10 percent smaller. The plan also called for smaller businesses on six smaller outlots and additional traffic lanes on Highland Pike, Orphanage Road and Ky. 17.


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- Wal-Mart dispute is aired