Thursday, May 23, 2002

Ft. Wright to settle suit over Wal-Mart

Neighbors' lawyer hints at new action

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer contributor

        FORT WRIGHT — A nearly 18-month-old lawsuit over a proposed Wal-Mart may soon be settled.

        Wednesday, City Council voted 4-2 to settle the November 2000 suit filed by B&Z Development against council over a rejection of a retail development anchored by a Wal-Mart Supercenter. It was to go on the 60-acre site at Highland Pike, Orphanage Road and Madison Pike (Ky. 17).

        Council's action still requires a formal ordinance and two readings.

        “We need to make a decision and move forward and do what's best for the city,” Councilman Jeffrey Wolnitzek said before the vote. Details of a proposed settlement were not revealed.

New suit threatened

        Crestview Hills attorney Richard Meyer said there may be some litigation left. Mr. Meyer, who represents about 16 families who live near the site, said Wednesday's nearly three hours of discussion is effectively repeating the planning process without residents' input.

        “I'm thinking this is totally illegal,” Mr. Meyer said. “They're starting the hearing over again with only one side, without any residents or traffic consultants.”

        Mr. Meyer said he would file suit either today or Friday..

        Two months ago, council considered another plan for a development by Regency Centers of Jacksonville, Fla., which called for a 183,000-square-foot Wal-Mart store, six out-lots, a road to connect Highland Pike and Orphanage Road, increased landscaping and extra lanes on Madison Pike, Orphanage and Highland Pike.

        On May 10, Kenton Circuit Judge Douglas Stephens ordered both sides to hash out their differences over the original development proposal in what turned out to be a six-hour meeting.

38 requirements

        Wednesday's discussion focused on two documents: a list of 38 requirements the developers will meet; and a letter to Fort Wright City Administrator Larry Klein from Wilbur Smith Associates, a Lexington engineering firm, which states that road improvements that developers must make will decrease the amount of new weekday traffic trips in the area.

        The requirements included:

        • Prohibiting fast-food restaurants and gasoline stations in the out-lots. Covington attorney Gerald Dusing, who represents Fort Wright engineer and B&Z owner Jim Berling, said that might make it harder to recruit tenants, but he said B&Z would continue to seek office uses.

        • Contributing up to $100,000 to a city escrow account for additional traffic improvements.

        • Requiring delivery trucks to use Interstate 275 and Madison Pike as their routes and prohibiting them from using Kyles Lane or Highland Pike.

        • Making parking spaces in front of Wal-Mart at least 9 1/2 feet wide and 18 feet long.

        Residents who attended the meeting had opinions on both sides. Virginia Schaaf did not like the decision.

        “I'm thinking they probably decided to let the Wal-Mart in, even though council voted it down (in 2000),” Mrs. Schaaf said. “I don't know what they did behind closed doors.”

        Eunice Rechtin said it's evident the Wal-Mart is coming.

        “Time goes on,” she said. “I am concerned about traffic, but I'm sure (Wal-Mart) is going to happen.”


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