By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FORT MITCHELL - A Kenton County judge's ruling has cleared the way for construction of upscale homes to begin on the Krumpleman Farm, the last major undeveloped acreage in this suburban community.
Last August, Fort Mitchell City Council and four adjacent property owners appealed county planners' approval of a development plan for a 25-acre produce farm in the 1900 block of Dixie Highway. They argued the procedure was flawed.
More than 225 neighbors signed a petition last summer opposing a plan to have access to the proposed Olde Fort Mitchell Subdivision via St. Johns-Ridge Road and Fortside Drive because of traffic and safety concerns. They argued - and Fort Mitchell City Council agreed - that sole access to the development should be via Dixie Highway. County planners disagreed. They approved the developer's plan, subject to six conditions.
On Friday, Kenton Circuit Judge Patricia Summe ruled against the city and two of the four neighboring property owners who'd appealed last July's decision of the Kenton County & Municipal Planning and Zoning Commission. She wrote that "procedural due process was afforded all parties ... in that substantial evidence was before (the county planning body) to support its decision," except for two neighboring property owners who claimed they were adversely affected because of access issues - Wagner Real Estate and Matthew and Tobias Toebben.
The judge ordered that Wagner and the Toebben's issues be sent back to county planners for review and further determination.
Fort Mitchell Mayor Tom Holocher and several council members said they had not yet seen the ruling late Monday. Holocher said he expects city officials will ask special counsel Frank Wichmann to discuss the city's options at Fort Mitchell City Council's next regular meeting on July 7. Council has 30 days to decide whether to appeal the ruling to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
"For our homeowners, this means that the builders will be able to go ahead and start building the houses," said Kurt Keeney, president of Keeney Development Co. in Erlanger. "They'll probably break ground on the first homes in the next 60 days."
Keeney added that 51 of the 58 lots have been sold for the subdivision.
Five Northern Kentucky builders, including Drees Co's Zaring Premier Homes subsidiary, plan to build houses selling for an average of $500,000.
The homes will be built on land that had been a family farm for 137 years.
One of the five builders involved in the project has purchased the old farmhouse at the site and plans to renovate it, Keeney said.
He added that Keeney Development Co. will continue to work with Fort Mitchell officials "to come up with agreeable solutions" to the city's concerns.
Keeney said his company also will continue to meet county planners' requirements as it has "on every item presented from the beginning."
"Personally, I don't see (Fort Mitchell City Council) pursuing this any further," said Kathy Groob, one of five council members who supported the original appeal.
She added that city officials will continue to work with the developer on issues of concern.
"From my opinion, it was never about trying to oppose the Keeney development - but to accomplish some of the city's objectives as far as issues like road access, the subdivision layout and sidewalk widths," Groob said.
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