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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Parking Problem?

There is a question that has come up time after time over the past couple of years that I have been involved with pushing for more retail in Fort Thomas; Is there a parking problem in Fort Thomas?

The question came up again during the candidate forum in the campaign for Fort Thomas City Council when current council member James Doepker answered a question about retail development by saying he would make more parking a key piece of attracting more retail.

Speaking from personal experience, I have never had a problem finding a parking spot either in the central business district or the Midway district. The most difficult time I have finding parking is when I go to the 915 and have to walk at most a block. THIS is not a parking problem. Parking problems are circling for 15 minutes to find a spot on Hyde Park Square only to pay $10 for valet or parking 6 blocks away in the pouring rain.

Despite ample parking the city still has zoning that makes it more difficult for small businesses to start and grow with investing additional money in off-street parking. I have included a comparison of Fort Thomas' off-street zoning compared to other communities across the country:

City / NeighborhoodOff-street Parking Requirement (# off-street parking spots)
Fort Thomas3.3 per 1,000 sq ft of retail space
NYC - South Park Neighborhood1 per 1,000 sq ft of commercial floor space
Denver1 per 500 sq ft of floor space
Hermosa Beach, CA1 per 250 sq ft of floor space - general retail
Aspen, CO1 per 1,000 sq ft

Aspen, Denver, and South Park NY all have less onerous zoning than Fort Thomas - how does that make sense?

In addition to the cities summarized in the table above additional findings include:
  • City of Akron reduced their requirement by 50% in April ’06 as part of a comprehensive urban renewal plan. This plan encourages the use of on-street parking to create a sense of a vibrant and active downtown area.
  • Norman, OK completely eliminated their off-street parking requirements in May 2000.
  • Denton, Texas reduced their requirements by 50% in 1999 as part of a plan to encourage the conversion of residential uses to non-residential / commercial uses.

The current restrictive zoning discourages retail and encourages banks, insurance agents, realty offices, etc.

In a survey sponsored by Fort Thomas a couple of years ago residents concluded that there is no parking issue in the main business districts. The survey results seemed to indicate a perceived parking problem with no real basis. When compared with a list of reasons that residents did not shop in the city the overwhelming response was the lack of selection or shopping options as the number one reason. Parking finished a distant 4th.

What do you think - parking problems or perception?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Another Area Deer Hunt

There was an article on today about the town of Mariemont becoming the latest Cincinnati area community to sponsor a deer hunt. In addition to the details of the hunt the article presented a pretty good synopsis of all area deer hunts. Here are some observations:

1. Other areas with proposed / past / current hunts include:

  • Amberly Village - started the program last week. A firm deer count was performed prior to the vote on the hunt that showed 115 deer, 28 more than the states recommendation per 3.5 mile area.
  • Indian Hill - since 1999, coincidentally the article mentions that this past year there were 28 accidents, four less than in 2006. I am not sure you can say the hunt has been successful with stats like that.
  • Hamilton County - have data indicating an increase in deer accidents from 44 in 1980 to 705 last year. The county has 2 programs; one in parks and the other in nature preserves. Both programs use bow hunting after park hours. All hunters must pass a qualifying test, a safety test, and attend a presentation on the rules. A record is kept of all kills and 445 were recorded last year.
  • City of Cincinnati - currently in 2 parks and will expanded next year to 2 more parks. All but 7 of the 217 reported kills by Cincinnati cops occurred in Mt Airy.
The Mariemont program will utilize bow hunting by 8 'certified' bow hunters in a private land area along the Miami River.

All of the programs, with the exception of maybe the city of Cincinnati's program, are more responsible than the current Fort Thomas program. None of them occur on private property, all of them require 'trained professionals', it appears that all of them also had very detailed counts and objectives.

By the way, apparently the deer in Fort Thomas are wreaking havoc on.... the Fort Thomas Police Department. 3 cruisers damaged this season, and I still know of no one who has had an encounter with deer in Fort Thomas.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Our 1 Year Anniversary

I started this blog on November 20, 2007 and it has been a fun ride. I thought I would share some interesting statistics with you:

The site has had over 5,300 page views from over 1,500 different visitors.

The most read stories and their topics are:
1. Newport Pavilion
2. Newport Pavilion
3. Fort Thomas Conservancy
4. Deer Hunting
5. Fort Thomas Demographics
6. Fort Thomas Demographics

The day with the highest traffic to the site: November 3rd, 2008. It was apparently driven by last minute voters searching for information on candidates. This was confirmed by a look at the search terms used on that day to get to the site.

I also have some exciting news to share. We have an additional domain name that you can use to go directly to the site. In addition to the current URL that you may be using today -, you can now type in the address to get to the site. If all else fells visit Google and type in Fort Thomas Matters.

Thanks for reading!

Fort Thomas Home Prices

I am a registered user of Zillow - a real estate website that uses a unique way of valuing properties across the US. As a registered user I received an email today that indicated that my house had increased, YES - INCREASED in value. As you could imagine I was a bit skeptical even though I have invested thousands of dollars into improvements including a finished basement and a new deck.

Then I received an email later in the day from Robinson Realtors (I am not sure how I ended up on their email list) with sales and price statistics from communities all across the Cincinnati area. I was surprised to see the following statistics:

Fort Thomas

The columns are as follows; # of sold homes, # of listed homes, avg list price, avg sales price, and average # of days on the market. These statistics were on par (in regards to the % of homes on the market that was sold and average days on the market) with other great neighborhoods in the area such as Anderson Township and better than Blue Ash and Kenwood. Given the bad press it was better than expected. I understand this is still well below what we have seen over the past few years but I thought homes were not selling at all.

What is your perspective on the Fort Thomas housing market?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Election Recap

As you surely know by now I will not be one of six people representing Fort Thomas for the next two years on City Council. I did however want to offer my insights and thoughts on the process, results, and where we go from here.

1. The result - We basically switched out Barbara Thomson-Levine for Lisa Kelly which in my view was a net loss for the city. Barbara did a great job coming from no where in the last election and winning a seat on council. This was much to the chagrin of the current council members and the mayor who feels there is a process to represent those in the community and it comes by appointment (a la Jill Steller). I say the people choose and Barbara gave us confidence that the people still choose - not the elite in the community. Barbara had a tough job from day one and her voice was never able to rise above the old mentality that exists among the leadership.

Lisa will have an extremely difficult time getting anything accomplished. I imagine it will an incredibly difficult two years being a dissenting voice. Lisa is generally a one issue candidate that I feel was largely elected on the strength of her ballot position (1st) and the hard work she showed in the final two weeks of the campaign.

2. The process - I had a great time campaigning. I enjoyed knocking on doors and meeting so many people - over 2,000 homes with the help of the firefighters. We worked very hard on this campaign. I was the only council candidate to march in the Independence Day parade, I was the only candidate who knocked on doors (and many people indicated the only candidate in decades that did so), and we had more yard signs than any other candidate. With that being said, we misjudged five important things that affected the outcome:
  1. Demographic shift - I really thought there was a bigger shift occurring in the community that would carry the day for me. I believed that like me there were many young families with small kids that had moved into the community and wanted to be engaged in it. Based on the results I have to include that the older demographic is still the largest population group. I also believe that many of those younger families are just not engaged enough to know which candidates to vote for.
  2. Over-estimated how influential some issues apparently were - I really thought the deer issue, the lack of contract for the fire fighters, the lack of retail, and the apparent feeling that council wasn't listening would carry me as well. I had hundreds of people ask me if I was an incumbent when I knocked on their door and my answer was always no. Their reply was universally 'then you have my vote'.
  3. The power of incumbency (especially at the local level) - The majority of Fort Thomas residents have lived in Fort Thomas for a very long time, in many cases grew up there and are the second or third generation of residents in that family. The power of having run multiple times and having gone to school with or done business with or lived next too is too strong even for the issues. I have only lived in Fort Thomas 4 years - apparently much too short to have the name recognition needed to win a seat.
  4. The impact the national races would have on this race - I believe the national race pulled out more voters who were primarily interested in the presidential race and knew nothing about the local race which only exacerbated point number 5....
  5. Ballot Positioning - having the last spot on the ballot stinks. I am disappointed that our democracy comes down to who is listed first on the ballot. I had hoped that like myself more people would want to know the issues and vote for the candidate that mostly closely represents them. Unfortunately it comes down to what is most convenient and that is the first six spots on the ballot.
3. What I learned

A. Fort Thomas is a great community and much more diverse than I ever thought.
B. There are many issues in the community that are not being addressed
  • People want trash cans all around the city - not just in the Midway and Central Business District. Many people walk their dogs or eat ice cream cones on their walk and want a place to deposit their trash when they are blocks away from the intersection of Highland & Ft Thomas Ave. A good location for these additional trash cans would be at the bus stops.
  • While we are talking of trash cans - they need to be emptied more often. The cans are always over-flowing and it provides a bad impression for visitors and residents alike
  • The folks on Willow Dr feel completely ignored
  • The city owns a right of way between two homes on Fort Thomas Ave that run between Fort Thomas Ave & the school. This is not a problem in and of itself but the city refuses to maintain the asphalt on the right of way.
  • Many residents on Lumley want a speed hump to stop people from driving 45 mph where children play
  • The firefighters need a new contract. Two years is too long without a pay increase
  • Many people hate the hunting ordinance. Despite what council thinks there is a large number of people all across town that have horror stories - not just a small vocal minority that attended council meetings last winter.

C. How difficult it is to get good information on local candidates. This is something I heard time and again.
People generally want to be informed about local elections (beyond standard candidate bios, although that is difficult to come by as well) but can't find a good source for that information. They want to know what the issues are and where the candidates stand on those issues. Hopefully this site can continue to be that for the community - beyond the stale news about the local charity dance that is found in the Recorder or Fort Thomas Living.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Halloween

I thought you might like a fun picture of the mayor poking fun of the deer hunt during trick or treat. The hunt begins again today and I hope it truly is a laughing matter.