Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Judge orders halt on construction

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A federal judge halted construction of a concrete distribution center in Sayler Park on Monday and accused authorities of ignoring her previous order to revoke permits for the project.

Clearly angry that construction was still going on, U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott said the concrete company, Lone Star Industries, had used "sleight of hand" to circumvent her previous orders.

She also blasted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which granted Lone Star its permit to build, for failing to revoke the permit as she had ordered on Dec. 30.

"When federal judges order a defendant to do something, they are supposed to do it," Judge Dlott told lawyers for the Corps. "I'm mystified as to how a government agency can totally disregard an order of a federal court."

The judge's order Monday means Lone Star must immediately stop work on the project, which was to include concrete storage silos, several buildings and loading docks for river barges.

Sayler Park residents sued the Corps last year to stop construction, claiming the Corps violated its own rules for granting permits as well as the National Historic Preservation Act.

The residents say the distribution center is not appropriate for a residential area and would reduce the value of hundreds of historic homes in Sayler Park. They contend the Army Corps ignored concerns about the impact on historic sites when it gave Lone Star a permit to build along the Ohio River.

Judge Dlott agreed the permitting process was flawed and ordered the Corps on Dec. 30 to revoke its permit. In court Monday, lawyers for the Corps and the company suggested the judge may have overstepped her bounds, and that it would have been more proper for her to suspend the permit rather than revoke it.

They also argued that the Army Corps' permit only applies to the portion of the center in the river, such as the barge docks, and not to the land-based construction. Therefore, they said, the company continued building on land.

The residents' lawyer, Rhonda Frey, said the company was simply trying to circumvent a clear court order. The judge agreed and ordered an immediate halt to construction.

E-mail dhorn@enquirer.com

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