Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Mount Adams: Public views

Preserve public assets

Developers of that prized Cincinnati possession - a house with a Mount Adams river view - have slammed into a mountain of opposition from residents seeking to save a panoramic view of the Ohio River.

Developers Craig Liebel and Michael Warner own three lots on Carney Street and want the city to sell them "right-of-way" public land for $21,000 to make their project possible. Residents say the proposed house at that scenic bend would block the "public view corridor" long popular with locals and tourists.

Councilman David Crowley, whose family owns Crowley's Irish Pub in Mount Adams, has moved that the administration define the criteria for "public view corridors," identify where they are and recommend how Cincinnati can protect such public assets. One sure way to protect public views from hilltops is make it clear the public already owns the land, and put the burden squarely on developers to show they will not harm the public views.

Clearer criteria could help council better balance conflicting interests. It's City Manager Valerie Lemmie's policy that the city shouldn't be in the land-holding business. The city should sell unused land to promote more housing and home ownership. We generally agree with that position, but public view corridors can be exceptions. Cincinnati's scenic views are part of what makes this city distinctive from flatlander towns such as Indianapolis and Columbus. The city has an interest in preserving the beauty of the hillsides and should not be too hasty in selling off public lands that offer river views and hillside greenspace for all.

This issue resonates beyond Mount Adams - to Price Hill, Walnut Hills, Clifton Heights and other hillsides. River views figured in Saylor Park residents' objections to the riverside Lone Star cement plant whose permit is now on appeal in federal court.

Mount Adams residents propose raising private funds to build and maintain a scenic overlook on the public land on Carney Street. Cincinnati could draw up restrictive covenants and deed public view lands to the Hillside Trust, a nonprofit group devoted to saving our hillsides from landslides and risky development. The intent of Cincinnati's environmental quality districts was never to block development but steer it in safe, sensitive directions. Cincinnati should avoid over-development of the hillsides and preserve public lands that afford spectacular views.

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