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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Lawsuit Filed to Stop Deer Hunting

Additional news has broken since my post yesterday. First there is word from Channel 5 that a lawsuit has now been filed to stop the deer hunt. I have attached a link to the article here. Additionally, those mentioned in my previous post continue to gain momentum in there efforts to overturn deer hunting in the city. The most recent update email contained over 100 email addresses and growing.

Kathy states in her latest email, "I want to thank everyone for your overwhelming response and feedback to my email regarding Ft. Thomas' deer management program."

I have found the same to be true. While there are some that I have spoken with that could care less one way or the other - the majority that I have spoken with think this is the most ridiculous idea our city council could have proposed.

Lastly, according to Channel 12 there have been two reported deer killings since the hunt began. The one thing that stuck out to me in the article is the fact that the city administrator is trying to compile a list of those allowing deer hunting on their premises. This underscores the hasty nature of which this ordinance was passed. These are the types of things that should have been handled prior to the beginning of the hunt. I would love to hear from anyone who has been contacted by the city to determine whether they are allowing hunting on their property.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Opposition Mounts to Deer Hunting

I recently received an email from a friend who received an email from a concerned mother, Kathy Surrett. In this email, which she sent to many local news media outlets, she outlined some of her primary safety concerns:

1. There will be no minimum requirement on how large of a tract of land the owner must possess to allow hunting on their property. The restrictions placed in the ordinance are unacceptable and inadequate, based on typical lots sizes in our city (see #2-#3 of city ordinance 0-35-2007 section 95.05). With these minimal restrictions, there will be many lots in Fort Thomas that are eligible to be hunted on.
2. There is no restrictions to the number of hunters that are allowed on each property at one time.
3. No background checks will be performed on the hunters coming into our city. This means we could have criminals of all kinds in our city.
4. No proficiency tests will be required for the hunters.
5. There is no mention of who will be liable for any damages to property, people, or pets resulting from hunting.
6. Hunters do not have to check in or out with the city.
7. It is not mentioned that the hunters should retrieve arrows from missed or stray shots.
8. Property owners do not have to notify neighbors that hunting will be taking place on their land.
She continues by saying "I will include links to a few successful programs that have very strict hunting rules and regulations below. You will see, most require at least a 4-5 acre tract of land with no other residences in close proximity. They do background checks on the hunters, limit the number of hunters on a property at a time, make sure the hunters are aware of the property lines, hunters must attend a safety education course, carcasses must be covered as being transported, hunters must check in and out with the city, and the cities have an appointed official in charge of the entire operation to ensure safety and measure success of the program."

Kathy provides the following links to other cities that she references:

City of Indian Hill deer management program:
City of New Albany, OH:
City of Granville, OH:
Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries:

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Fort Thomas Walkability

One thing that makes Fort Thomas such an attractive community is the walk-ability of the community. A recent article in the Ground Floor - a blog on Urbanism - talks about how Gen X sees walking communities as attractive places to live. In the last paragraph of the post there is an interesting quote:

"In his presentation, Leinberger stated that the reason for the new market demand for more urban walkable places can be attributed to Generation X. Leinberger claims that this generation grew up on shows like Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends, and Sex in the City, where city living is seen as hip. In comparison, the Baby Boomers grew up with shows like Leave it to Beaver. Gen-Xers view living the walkable metropolitan life as trendy instead being previously viewed as "dirty" by generations past."

Along this line of reasoning there is a new site - Walk Score - that gives a walk-ability score for communities using an algorithm that is a bit skewed but useful to some degree. It inventories things such as schools, grocery stores, coffee shops, libraries, parks, etc and calculates the distance between each and the location you submit for a walkability score on a scale of 0 to 100 where 100 is highly walkable and 0 has you hopping in your car to get anywhere.

The results for Fort Thomas is a bit disappointing - 58. This is even more disappointing considering some of the flaws probably worked to inflate the score. For instance it lists Chik-fil-A at Tower Place Mall as .82 miles and adds to the restaurant score. It also listed Fort Thomas Independent Schools - the Board office - as a school. By comparison some scores of neighboring or even comparable communities:

Bellevue - 65
Newport - 82
Milford - 45
Mariemont - 80
Fort Mitchell - 58
Loveland - 28

While not fail proof this site can be a good tool for policy makers to determine the types of retail that should be attracted to the business districts. If I were to create a second generation of the tool I would incorporate more weighting for locally owned businesses that are unique and create a sense of community. A location that adds to the live-ability of the community.

Fort Thomas Demographics

As I mentioned in a previous post, Focus on Retail, one of the three main ingredients to attracting retail is the demographics. Also in a previous post we compared socio-economic numbers for Fort Thomas to comparable, model retail locations. In this post I would like to focus on the age demographics of the community.

According to the US Census Bureau the following represents a summary of the percentages in the various age categories from the 1990 and 2000 census:

Categories 1990 2000
Total Population 16,031 16,495
Under 18 23% 25%
18 - 24 8% 7.8%
25 - 44 31% 29.1%
45 - 64 19% 22.3%
65+ 18% 15.8%

From these statistics there are a couple of things that stand out. The first is the shift from the over 65 age group to the 45 -64 age group. We see a 2.2% drop in the over 65 age group that is shifted to the 45 - 64 age group with an increase of 3.3%. The second shift that stands out is an increase in Under 18 age group of 2% that is off-set by the subsequent decrease of 2% in the 25 - 44 age group.

My opinion is that this paints two stories. The first is a decrease in the age of the community. The second is what appears to be the attractive nature of the school system in Fort Thomas. As I have seen from people I have met in Fort Thomas, it is the school system that caused them to move to the area. While it could also be families having more children I think the corresponding increase in the 45 - 64 age group shows it is more people moving in than just an increase in children to the same families.

This is the type of analysis that we need to communicate to potential retail investors. This is an attractive demographic for retailers. It is also important for the city to understand that with the shifting dynamic of the residents of Fort Thomas, they expect different things such as retail that they can have dinner at, a bakery they can buy fresh breads from, specialty groceries, or a relaxing night spot.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Deer Hunting in Fort Thomas

OK - this is my last post on deer hunting. This blog was supposed to be about development and working to try to bring retail to Fort Thomas but I can't ignore a very short-sighted decision by our city council last night as this has ramifications on our ability to attract retail. The reason I say it has ramifications is because it distracts our city leaders from working hard to bring retail to town, it is a divisive issue, and it creates a negative perception about our community.

I am dumbfounded as to why we are going to allow bow hunting on private property in our city. As I mentioned in a previous post about demographics Fort Thomas is densely populated and when you have arrows traveling at over 300 feet per second this poses a public safety threat. I never thought that the very people charged with protecting its citizens would put them in harms way. And all this for 4 extra car accidents per year. I would love to hear from anyone out there who knows someone who has had a car accident with a deer in Fort Thomas because I know no one. The potential cost of this proposal absolutely does not outweigh the benefits.

Here is a link to the Cincinnati Enquirer article. Some of my favorite quotes from it include:
  • Jeff Sudkamp apparently can't pull into his driveway because of the large deer hurds that prevent him from doing so. He indicates he has multiple people interested in hunting deer on his property which is located at Woodland off of Highland and .3 miles away from Ruth Moyer Elementary, Highland Park, and the Swim Club.
  • "Our primary concern is safety," said Councilman Roger Peterman. "We were faced with issues of increased traffic accidents and human-deer confrontations." Again - anyone out there have a recent human-deer confrontation? I'm not even sure what that is and it is almost laughable that our councilman's primary concern is safety when he has now endangered the community with the solution.
  • Violation of the specific ordinance will result in a $250 fine. This seems like a slap on the wrist if an arrow ends up in my yard or a dead deer carcass.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Deer Hunting Vote Tonight

Tonight is a final vote by city council on the deer hunting proposal that has worked its way around the council and committees now almost a year. The council meets at 8 tonight to take a final vote. If you feel strongly about this issue one way or the other then be sure to attend. I have attended meetings in the past and it is a very open atmosphere so if you have anything to share you don't need to feel intimidated. More after the final vote.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bellevue Incentives

A recent article in the Cincinnati Post provides another great example of an area town thinking outside the box in regards to defining an objective (promote more owner occupied housing) and then offering real incentives to affect change (initially $2,500 per unit and now $5,000). In this case the objective is reducing multi-families and helping the off-street parking situation.

The results for Bellevue have been modest (20 conversions) - no numbers were given for the number of off-street parking spots but the incentive is $500 per parking spot. The quote from the city administrator: "By encouraging people to convert the homes back, we might be losing density, but we are gaining a possible homeowner which increases the value of the neighborhood and the quality of life for the whole community,"

A similar model could be used for attracting retail in the 3 defined business districts in Fort Thomas to convert rental units to store front retail. Incentives could be offered for current street-front owners that are currently renting to office use or residential multi-tennant use. If, and I believe it does, begin with the decisions landlords make about what type of use they rent their commercial space for then a similar model could have an impact.

The key however is getting the administration to agree that this is one of our primary objectives for moving the city forward. Apparently the current number one objective is controlling the deer population?!?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Fort Thomas Demographics

As I mentioned in my post on Friday entitled "Focus on Retail" I wanted to provide a comparison of Fort Thomas demographics as compared to other retail areas that have been mentioned as being a model district for what we are trying to achieve in Fort Thomas.

I looked at demographic data for Loveland, Mariemount, Milford, Bellevue, and Hudson, OH as compared to Fort Thomas. While most of those surrounding areas are probably very familiar to you I have posted a few pictures to give you a better idea of what these communities look like and to give you a vision of what they have done in case you have never visited there.

Hudson, OH - the first picture shows their newer development and the second is the older part of town. Store fronts are almost exclusively retail and they have a good mix of locally owned and chain. All retail seems to compliment the store front next door. Also notice how the newer development blends well with the older part of town.

Hudson had by far the best demographics for retail. They had a larger land mass and population. Not to mention they had far and away the largest median income. That being said the other demographic numbers were comparable to Fort Thomas.

The next town we looked at was Milford, OH

Milford could not even match the attractiveness for a retail business investor. Granted the data was from the 2000 census and Milford has grown quite a bit since then but Fort Thomas should still be a more attractive retail spot. Across the board from crime to total population to median income and college graduates Fort Thomas should win but take a trip down Main Street in Milford and you would have no clue it was so lopsided.

Next is Loveland.

While Loveland has the advantage of having the little miami bike trail running through its downtown the demographics point to the fact that again - Fort Thomas could be a more attractive place to set up retail. Ask anyone you know in Loveland and the picture above did not happen by accident. It took planning, vision, and a dedication to make the area a destination. My wife and I have stopped for lunch during a fall bike ride and loved the experience.

At the risk of sounding redundant I am going to stop now. I think you get the picture - all beautiful locations with differing assets but the one common thread that has created a great place to eat, play, and live is the vision by planners and leaders in these communities to attract the right types of retail for their communities.

Take one look at the table below (I apologize now for readability concerns since blogger doesn't have a good way to create a table) and see that Fort Thomas too has some great assets but has never had a vision to create the types of retail districts seen in these other photographs.

Demographics (according to the 2000 US Census)

CityPopulationMedian IncomeLand Area(sq miles)Pop Density(per sq mile)% HS Grads% Bachelors% MarriedDaytime Pop Change# Crimes# Banks
US Average
$ 50,185

211.7 index
Fort Thomas16,495$ 60,6585.67274489%37%57%-24%1737
Hudson, OH22,439$ 103,00025.690297%67%73%19%26210
Milford, OH6,284$ 39,0003.76168178%24%50%10%32812
Bellevue6,480$ 44,0000.94640181%13%46%-27%
Mariemount, OH3,408$ 61,8000.85365794%64%60%
Loveland11,677$ 56,6004.65241190%35%61%-13%2728

I would love to hear any ideas from you about how we can jump start this visioning process to allow others in the community to dream of creating a destination retail area for Fort Thomas residents.

Friday, December 7, 2007

"Focus on Retail"

Today there was a panel discussion called "Focus on Retail" held in downtown Cincinnati and sponsored by the International Council of Shopping Centers and Neyer Holdings. The focus of the panel was on attracting retail and hits on some great points that we should focus on in regards to attracting retail to Fort Thomas. A great summary was provided by our friends at the Business Courier and I reference some of the quotes from this article for this post.

Among the points from the panel discussion:
  1. The primary message from the panel discussion was that there are three main ingredients to attracting retail (in no particular order):
    1. Demographics - we'll go into this later in a future post.
    2. Market research - again more in a future post as it goes well with the prior point
    3. Money
  1. David Birdsall, CDO at Phillips Edison and panelist, was quoted as saying "I've been involved in very few projects in my 15 years that make financial sense on face" We have to find ways to provide financial incentives for retailers to locate in Fort Thomas. However, part of the problem is the lack of recognition by the city that this is our number one priority to create a vitality in the community that is not only currently missing but that most new residents expect. I have heard a few (minority voices) within the city administration that recognize this fact but we need more leadership and planning at the council level to create incentives that are not too costly and take away from providing basic services but are rich enough to truly incentivize those that are passionate about a particular business to invest their time and resources into a store-front.
  1. Steve Brandt, CEO of the brokerage firm Brandt Retail Group agreed that most demographics are digested rather quickly. So he posts a series of questions to community officials looking to attract specific retailers, such as: What is the community support for this tenant? He also asks about zoning regulations, utilities and architectural guidelines, because that can get expensive. Again this needs to be a component of a larger plan to attract retail to Fort Thomas. How to streamline the approval process, avoid making regulations overly restrictive to getting started generating revenue, and minimizing any fees that may be associated. This has been evident as the NKY skyline has grown over the past couple of decades for Cincinnati. They were overly restrictive and bureaucratic and watched investment walk away and across the river. Again, I will go into a more detailed discussion of some ways to make this happen effectively in Fort Thomas in a future post.
  1. Also discussed in the article was Cincinnati's recently launched "Shop 52" campaign to attract retail to not only downtown but to its 52 area neighborhoods. In the article they discussed how the plan called for 4 basic plans of action:
    • Re-examined demographic figures to learn the local population is actually growing, not declining. While this is not a huge concern for Fort Thomas I do believe the demographics of our town and in relation to surrounding communities and the lack of retail provide an attractive option for their potential investment dollars.
    • They assembled a retail task force. While I don't believe in over complicating the situation it shows a level of commitment to attracting retail and provides focused attention on getting retail investment.
    • Began attending major retail and real estate trade shows. While chain stores is not exactly the type of retail we are trying to attract nor would it fit within the context of the community's needs we need to think about how we can cultivate retail business activity in Fort Thomas. This could include calling a summit of investors and interested retail business owners - possibly made up entirely of Fort Thomas residents but does not and should not be limited to that.
    • Hired a marketing specialist. Again, I am not sure this is the best use of tax dollars for a town the size of Fort Thomas but we need focused attention on truly trying to attract the type and quality of retail expected in Fort Thomas.
  1. In the Business Courier article Steve Brandt indicates that the demographic and market data is important, "because in the end, cities and townships need to be clear about their dedication to a project. It's really important to the retailers to understand the commitment." Not to belittle the efforts that have been given by a few in the city administration but up to this point the city has really only given lip service to wanting retail but the city has made little to no concrete steps to develop retail. These could include any of the actions taken by the city of Cincinnati listed in the previous post or a whole host of other options which we will continue to cover on this site.
  1. "Birdsall added in a question-and-answer session, do not forget about the local offerings. There are only so many national chains out there, and many of the best opportunities - such as Boca and Via Vite restaurants - were raised right here in Cincinnati. It is important to make risk-free opportunities for them as well, he said. We need to incubate and develop our own local retail." This quote pretty much sums it all up. We must find ways to provide incentives for the right types of retail to open in Fort Thomas to create the type of dynamic community we all desire.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Holiday Walk Rescheduled

The city has decided to move the event to this Thursday, the 6th. The tree lighting ceremony will be at 6:00 p.m. They will follow the same format as best they can. Here is a link to the city's site that has the new date and time.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Apartments on Memorial Pkwy

If you have driven down Memorial Parkway you have noticed the work going on along the road between 471 and Inverness near the Memorial Village Apartments. As reported by the Enquirer this summer the plans are for more apartments with views of the city to be built around the existing unit. The developers are Wessels Construction.

I spoke with a representative of Wessels today and identified the following:

1. The development encompasses just the east side (high side) of Memorial Parkway. I have some leads on the activity on the west side and will post more info on that later.
2. The expected completion time line is 24 months which puts it into 2009. They recently staked out a turn lane into the property but the weather and a backup with the paver will probably delay its completion.
3. As reported in the Enquirer a few months ago it is 120 market rate apartments - mostly two bedrooms but some one bedrooms as well.

In a few other notes he indicated that they have wanted to do this for some time but the apartment market had been soft but this year was their best year ever. As an editorial note I am sure the next couple years will only be better for them with the current foreclosure crisis and a small boom in the overall apartment market. He also indicated that the timing on the development was made much easier with the dirt from Bear Creek Capital and their development on the hillside in Newport. This same dirt is being provided for the land across the street and may hasten development on that side as well.

Holiday Walk

The Fort Thomas holiday walk is an annual tradition in Fort Thomas that brings the community together and gives business owners an opportunity to thank the community for their support. It is also just a great way for institutions such as churches and schools to connect with the community as well. Not to mention that it is the town's annual tree lighting ceremony.

While it is generally never good weather in the first week in December this year it was especially nasty .... thunderstorms? In December? It did really put a damper on the annual tradition and turnout suffered.