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Saturday, July 31, 2010

More Fodder for Noise Ordinance Nuisances

I was going to just post a comment on Darrin's previous post, but I had a little too much to post and that font is just too daggone small.

It was merely coincidence that in the July 13th NKY Life Section of the Enquirer, an article ran on Newport's goal of having more outside dining. But with anything, when an issue is brought to the front burner, it seems as if it just gets talked about more.

The article basically talks about how Newport has realized that due to zoning restrictions, businesses on Washington Ave (Pompilio's, Mansion Hill Tavern, et all) has not previously been able to have any outdoor dining in the public right of way.

Instead of the city councilmen and mayor turning a blind eye, they have become engaged and been proactive in helping these businesses to succeed.
"They (the restaurants with with outdoor dining such as Newport Pizza Co. and Sis's on Monmouth Ave) have done quite well," said Newport Mayor Jerry Peluso. "Not only do people see others outside enjoying themselves, I think it also tells people it's safe out."

For the most part, the safety aspect is already taken care of in Fort Thomas, but when Pergola's was humming last summer, it was nice to see the patio packed with your neighbors. It is nice to people carousing and carrying on at The Pub or The Midway. It's a shame that our local government hasn't gotten this right.

Shortly after Darrin ran his post about the ridiculousness of the noise ordinance this past week, I received a message from a business owner thanking us for getting this message out. Businesses are responsible for their patrons. This should be an easy fix.

(Author's note: Now if the city would impose a noise ordinance of blaring car stereos that ride by my house, that would be ordinance I would welcome with open arms. Rant over)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Noise Ordinance & Impact on the Midway

The picture on the left (top) was taken at 9:57pm tonight and the picture on the right (bottom) was taken at 10:01 pm tonight just outside the Midway Cafe.  This is the impact of the current noise ordinance that renders the recent Midway streetscape useless.

I happened to be seated at the table in the foreground and was told by our waitress that we had to vacate the sidewalk at 10 or they would be fined.  As it turns out the Pub was recently cited and fined as well and a hearing is scheduled for next week that could lead to even more troubles for Midway businesses.

A little history on the ordinance; it apparently began in response to the 915's request to have outdoor dining several years ago.  The ordinance was put in place to protect those homeowners surrounding the 915.  I believe these residents can still be protected by designating certain business districts with varying noise time frames.

Of the people that were on the outdoor patio tonight - 80% left and went home.  Is this really how we want to support our businesses in Fort Thomas? 

A friend recently asked a council member about the noise ordinance and they didn't even know about it - talk about being out of touch with the needs of the community.  How do we make council aware?  Many are gathering at the council meeting this coming Monday night - August 2nd - to let their voice be heard.  You can as well.

To further illustrate how absurd this ordinance is for the Midway, after 10pm those that did stick around could move to the back patio on the Midway's property.  This patio overlooks several homes that were insulated from the noise when the patrons were on the front patio and facing the traffic.  All this ordinance has accomplished is creating more noise for the residents that live behind the Midway that could have been blended into the passing traffic on Fort Thomas Avenue.
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Economic Matters

Catchy title for a blog, huh?

Fort Thomas resident, Janet Harrah, the senior director for economic analysis and development at Northern Kentucky University, started blogging yesterday for Cincinnati.Com.

The blog, titled Economic Matters, will explore how national and local economic trends impact our everyday lives. To date, she's posted 3 times and the information so far has been Northern Kentucky slanted - which is definitely good news for us. Wonder if Janet will let Darrin guest blog regarding some thoughts on Fort Thomas.

A few examples of her statistical data thus far. Click on the picture to view it larger Or just go here, to view her blog, and tell em Fort Thomas Matters sent ya:

One more point before I sign off. In "You Have To Laugh Because It Keeps You From Crying" news, Janet's latest chart details the change in jobs from June 2008 to June 2010. Only 2 job sectors out of 12 had positive growth. Education and Health Care were combined and grew 2.7%

The biggest gainer in jobs: The Federal Government at a whopping 13%. No more commentary necessary. I'll let you take that up in the comments section.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Quarterback High School

In the same way the University of Kentucky is quickly becoming Point Guard University with guards like John Wall and Brandon Knight - Highlands' football team is becoming a hot bed for coaching prospects. Two of its former gunslingers are starting to climb their coaching ladders.

I graduated with Gino Guidugli, so I've always kept up with his career. After a record breaking 4 years at the University of Cincinnati, Gino had tryouts with the Tennessee Titans and stints in the Canadian Football League and arena leagues. I was always astounded that he couldn't catch on in the NFL. He always had all the tools.

Now, it seems that Central Michigan has stolen one back from UC. Gino has signed on this year as a graduate assistant for the Chippewas. Gino was always a leader and had a way of relating to all types of personas. Great addition for Brian Kelley ankjd Butch Jones' former squad.

Marc Hardin from did a update on Jared Lorenzen yesterday. Great to see one of Kentucky's most prolific collegiate and high school QBs back at Highlands as the team's quarterback coach after almost 3 seasons in the NFL.

In a related story, I say almost 3 years because Jared was let go by the New York Football Giants a few games short of being eligible for the NFL. Had he finished his third season with the team, Lorenzen would have been guaranteed to receive at least $1,275 per month in today's dollars from the NFL Players Association pension fund starting on his 55th birthday.

For franchise players like Carson Palmer or Chad Ochocinco (I still can't believe we are calling him that) that $1,275 would seem like something they might find in their couch, but for other players, who now average 4.5 years in the league, the pension is a cornerstone of financial security.

The topic remains taboo for players like Lorenzen. Perhaps it's because a sense of invinsibility is vital for those who play the violent game. Or maybe it's because they just don't want to jinx it. Whatever the case, Jared got the short end on this one - coming up a few games short.

The optomist in me thinks that maybe Jared can pull a "Jim Morris comeback" (aka Dennis Quaid in The Rookie). The one known as JLoad, The Hefty Lefty, The Round Mound of Touchdown, or simply BBQ (Big Beautiful Quarterback) would look good in Bengal stripes.

Who's coming with me?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Newport Pavilion Target Construction Underway

There are signs of progress at the Newport Pavilion.  The above picture was snapped by friends of the Newport Pavilion Fan Page on Facebook and indicate fairly significant progress in a very short period of time.

The large drainage pipe has still not been fixed and according to Kroger there is no opening date yet for the Fuel Station.  However, Target must have enough confidence in the location and traffic counts at the Pavilion that they are willing to take a chance.  This despite a conflict between the City of Newport, Sanitation District, and Bear Creek which will likely end up in court.

Target is generally able to complete construction on a store within 9 months which puts a potential opening date in April 2011.  I have reached out to several contacts and no one can confirm that this is Target.  However, judging by the size of the footprint and the location of the building this matches what was expected with the Target.

Who knows - we could be a matter of months from your choice of Michael Graves cookware, Isaac Mizrahi clothing or Amy Coe baby items.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fort Thomas Trash Pickers & Craigslist Gold

Tonight I watched a team of 3 men descend upon my neighbor's trash pile.  Three prospectors panning for gold on the curb.  They plucked a table, what must certainly be a broken grill, and any number of other things.

Who needs Freecycle when you have the legacy that is the night before Fort Thomas trash pickup.  You have probably seen them in their pickups stalking the streets of Fort Thomas with the Rumpke pickup schedule as their map to long lost treasures.

Here's to you Fort Thomas residents - your trash is another man's treasure!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Impact of Vacant Properties on Fort Thomas

The past two years has seen a plethora of headlines discussing the housing crisis and its impacts on local communities across the country.  While this hasn't been a major issue for Fort Thomas it is one that has created some problems in isolated cases across our community.

A recent search of the Realty Trac database of homes indicate that as of Friday July 16th there were 25 foreclosures in Fort Thomas.  The 25 properties include 4 bank owned properties, and 11 in pre-foreclosure.  Twenty-five properties is not enough to have a real negative impact on housing prices but what about the other social impacts of having vacant homes next door or down the street?

These social impacts are more pronounced in more urban, higher density areas as these vacant properties become a haven for drug or other illegal activity.  These are not the social impacts Fort Thomas must face down but properties that go unmaintained are a haven for rodents and create an eye sore for the entire street with uncut lawns and other maintenance issues.

As it relates to these unintended consequences, I ran across an article from American Banker magazine that talks about a joint initiative to help municipalities with these issues:

An initiative designed to keep better track of vacant properties, and in turn, alleviate the mortgage industry from code violations, is making headway.  The MBA Vacant Property Registration Mers Initiative was established in January 2009 and since that time nearly 550 cities and government organizations around the country have signed up to participate.

The MBA Vacant Property Registration Mers Initiative enables cities to access the Mers database for free and see who the titleholder and servicer of the property is as well as the property preservation company and the point of contact.  This information has helped foster better communication between city code enforcement officials and servicers.

The committee was established to address concerns over the patchwork of city ordinances that sprouted in response to the growing volume of vacant properties across the country. Frustrated with the difficulty in contacting parties responsible for abandoned properties, and the resulting blight and safety issues they caused, nearly 450 municipalities have enacted ordinances, each containing different regulations and fee structures. Companies like Merscorp were forced to act as fines for violations in some cities escalated to as high as $1,000 a day.

In a somewhat related note, the state of Kentucky recently held their property tax rate at 12.2 cents per hundred.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Woodfill Being Demolished at 8AM Wednesday

With the nice new wing nearly completed that runs perpendicular to Fort Thomas Ave it is time to make way for the wing that runs paralell to the Avenue.  The demolition of these remaining buildings (originally built in 1922 and 1950's) will occur in the morning to make way for the construction of the rest of the planned school.

Demolition did begin earlier in the week but an official ceremony is planned for 8AM.

The Woodfill Elementary PTO organization will be selling bricks from the demolished building. Anyone interested in purchasing a brick should contact Laura Tate by e-mail at

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Collinsworth, Hoge, Chambers: The Decision

1997 Highlands Graduate Will Chambers

In a week that saw the world being captivated by the decision of one Lebron James deciding where he was going to play basketball for the foreseeable future, Fort Thomas resident Will Chambers chose where he would be taking his broadcasting talents next year.

"After several weeks of weighing my options by talking with a number of people close to me and understanding that what is paramount for me is to continue to develop my craft, I agreed to a new deal with Georgetown College to return as their lead football analyst and #2 play-by-play announcer, paired again with my partner and great friend Randy Phillips," Chambers said.

The last time Fort Thomas Matters chronicled Chambers' broadcasting in January, Chambers was finishing up school and trying to decide which road he would take next. After being nominated as one of the top 20 collegiate sports broadcasters in the country, that decision is now behind him.

"I have endured an incredibly tough several months leading up to graduation and pursuing my dream of being a national level broadcaster, but I am put at ease knowing how much Georgetown wanted me to return and the fact I am going back to a place that feels very much like home to me."

Cris Collinsworth. Merrill Hoge. Will Chambers. Let's get behind him.

Here's an example of Will doing his thing.
My favorite part has got to be the fact that the background music is the very same as the score in Major League. Classic.

Taste of the Season Event for Highlands Theatre & Henry Hosea House

Mark your calendars for Saturday August 14th (6:30pm - 11pm) for a special fundraising event called 'Taste of the Season'.  The event will be held at The Inn at Oneonta, 7729 Mary Ingles Hwy, Melbourne, KY 41059. and will feature the following events and treats:
  • Special Performances by Highlands Theatre Program
  • Dinner (pig roast)
  • Live Music
  • Wine, Bourbon, and Cigar tastings (priced separately) featuring Elk Creek Vineyards, Straus Tobacconist, and more
  • Cash Bar
  • Live Auction
Tickets are priced at $25 each and can be purchased by contacting Scott Colvill at or by phone at 513-444-7535.
The two beneficiaries of this amazing event are the Standing Room Only Theater boosters program and the Henry Hosea House. The event will be a celebration of Highland's talented students and preview of the 2010/2011 HHS theatre season.  I have written in the past about Standing Room Only and the Highlands Theater program and the amazing progress they are making at creating a first class high school program and this is yet another step toward achieving that mission.

The Henry Hosea House is also a great charitable organization in Newport that was started by the Hosea family of Fort Thomas.  The Henry Hosea House is dedicated to serving those in need in the Campbell County area - specifically Newport.  The charity was started in 1992 when ECHO was given a tremendous gift by the Henry Hosea Family. David and Marcia Hosea bought and donated a former VFW hall that is memorialized for David Hosea's Father and Grandfather. Thus, the Henry Hosea House was founded at 901 York Street in Newport, Kentucky.  The house now serves on average about 150 meals an evening to those that are less fortunate or having a difficult time.

Puchase your tickets today to support these great organizations.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Google Streetview & Fort Thomas

I noticed a few days ago that Google has completed its Streetviews of all Fort Thomas streets.  In 2007 Google made their first pass through Fort Thomas hitting the primary streets such as Fort Thomas Avenue, Grand, etc.

I happened to notice though that it appears all streets including small and rarely traveled side streets such as the one I live on - Lumley has now been imaged by Google and their odd multi-camera van.

Why is this interesting you might ask?  It is interesting for several reasons including:
  • It makes it easier to find things around town
  • If you are house shopping it helps give you a feel for who your neighbors would be
  • It feeds the voyeristic tendancies of our information culture
  • Lastly, it proves my hypothesis that there are always at least 18 people on the sidewalks in Fort Thomas at any given time.   
By way of reference, as I moved down Fort Thomas Avenue on Google Streetview from 248 N Fort Thomas Avenue to 4 N Fort Thomas Avenue I counted 27 people on the East side of the street alone.  One could argue that Google's images were taken during the middle of the day when you would expect a lot of people to be on the streets.  However, my experiences include going for a run at 5am and walking home from friends' houses at midnight and I have never been able to count less than 18 people over 1.5 miles or so of streets.

Walking communities are truly great! 

Back to Google streetview - if you are bored someday and looking for something to do take a trip down your street and see if you can find a neighbor out in his front yard or a friend walking down the street.

A couple other features that Google has added to their maps program include a terrain map and bicycle routes.  You can find these features under the 'More' Options within Google Maps.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bicycle Bandit Caught!

Update: I always like to see a picture of the criminal, and as much as the cartoon above adds to this story, I think the mugshot helps paint a picture more accurately. This is what the Bicycle Bandit looks like:

Larry Hamilton, 48, a homeless man who was living at the Travelodge in Newport

Per Nixle:

Burglar on bike apprehended

The subject riding a bike breaking into homes on the north side of the city has been apprehended. Delhi Township Police in Ohio located a subject breaking into homes using a bike as a get-a-way. Fort Thomas Police learned of the arrest and investigators responded to Delhi where the subject was interviewed. During the interview, the subject admitted to breaking into numerous homes in the Fort Thomas area.

Obviously the bicycle bandit does not read Fort Thomas Matters or he would have known that Fort Thomas Police Will Catch You! Give the assist to Delhi Township, but I'll give Chief Daly and crew some credit here. Keep these fools off the streets!

On a somewhat related note, my dog and my alarm system would pretty much keep these thieves at bay, but if they were stupid enough to get into my house, I want this girl on my side.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Other Changes in Fort Thomas Retail

A few other notes regarding changes in retail options in Fort Thomas:

1. Fort Thomas Pizza is now serving lunch.  Everyday (including Sunday) from 11am until the normal closing date.  I have written about the craziness that was a 4pm opening time on football Sundays and it is good to see Fort Thomas Pizza responding. 

2. There had been some consideration in moving the location of the Earth Mother Market away from the Stables Building and on to the newly completed plaza on the corner of River Road and South Fort Thomas Avenue across from the Olde Fort Pub.  The move happened today and I am sure the higher visibility had to have helped the foot traffic.  As I mentioned in a previous post the bread from Blue Oven Bakery has been a huge success and is generally sold out by 5pm and the gelatto from the Frommeyers has also been a big hit as well.  My only and continuing complaint is the hours - my work schedule (especially lately) doesn't have me getting home until 6 most week days.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

New Candy Store Opening in Fort Thomas

A new candy store is opening in Fort Thomas in the vacated space left behind by the Tracy Davis agency who recently moved next to the 915.  The store will be called the Candy Cottage and current plans are for an opening on August 7th. 

The owners were in over the weekend and even put up a sign indicating their impending opening.  They also were active during the 4th of July parade over the weekend passing out some homemade candy of their own.

Initial plans are just for candy put ultimately the Bucklers hope to expand to other confectionaries such as soft serve ice cream and slushees.   I would hope that they put some unique twists on soft serve and slushees since the Convenient Market is more or less a go to for the standard cold treat. 

Any suggestions for Fort Thomas' soon to be newest business?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pergola Menu at the Pub & Support for Businesses Beyond 10pm

Danny Krebs is at it again.  Pergola may have closed some months ago but he is now cooking some of his best foods at the Fort Thomas Pub.  Starting this past Thursday the Pub began serving some of his best dishes to their patrons. 
If you thought you would die without Pergola's flatbread and humus then fear not as you can now buy it at the Pub and sit on the patio and enjoy.  The hours for food will be from 5 o'clock until late.  The menu includes several types of burgers, chicken sandwiches, and a couple types of pizzas and now provides another dining choice in Fort Thomas.  And if the weather cools off another outdoor dining option.

Speaking of outdoor dining options, I do like the new wider sidewalks along the Midway and they now can accomodate diners or happy hours but it is dangerously close to street.  Here is a picture I took with a few friends the other night at the Midway which should give you some perspective.  (Apologies to John Homer and Marc Kirschenbaum - this was the best picture I had)

The City Continues Anti-business Actions
I have also heard complaints from business owners along the new streetscape of the Midway that they are being told to close down the patios at 10pm by the Fort Thomas Police to enforce the city's noise restrictions.  10pm?  really?  During the summer (which is when these new patios are most in use) there is sometimes even still sunlight left at dusk at 10pm. 

While streetscapes make the area look nice it alone does not create a vibrant business community.  It must be accompanied by rules and regulations that support businesses and this is a great example of such a code that absolutely kills the culture of fun that could be created with expanded patios for our local businesses.

A great example of where this worked well is in Olde Montgomery (pictured above).  When they renovated their main street several years ago they even built in a small performance pavilion at the intersection of Cooper and Montgomery Roads for live prformances.  This is now a key part of the life and activity that you can see when you walk among the shops - and well past 10pm.  A 10 o'clock curfew for fun not only doesn't support businesses like the Midway, Fort Thomas Pizza, and the Pub but also kills the very atmosphere that you would want along your business district.

This rediculousness along with other anti-business codes such as the requiremnt to complete additional off-street parking has to be changed if the city wants a real return on their streetscape investment.  Otherwise we just wasted millions of tax payer dollars to put a nice facade on the status quo.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Bicycle Bandit Strikes Again

 While we have to commend the Fort Thomas Police for cracking the bank robbery from 2 weeks ago - another bandit continues to give the police fits.  It appears the same guy that we reported on a few weeks ago after breaking into the house on Tower Hill continues to burglarize homes and get away on a bicycle.

Seriously Fort Thomas?  We can't catch this guy?  What is he even burglarizing?  I can't imagine that he is riding down the street with a large flat screen tucked under his arm.  Just read the Fort Thomas Police description of the incidents:

It is believed that the subject knocks on the door of a home and if someone answers he may reply that he is looking for a dog.  If no one comes to the door, he makes entry.  The suspect is described as a male white, 5'10",around 30 years old, thin build wearing tan shorts and a brown tank top.  Ths suspect is also believed to be riding a bicycle to and from the crime. 

So the next time someone matching this description rides up to your home on a bike, knocks and asks if you have seen his dog please let the police know.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fort Thomas Real Estate Update

As I am currently in the process of trying to re-finance my home to a 4.75% interest rate and taking a few years off my loan term I thought it a good time to refresh a few data points on the current housing market in Fort Thomas.

It has been a crazy couple years for the housing market.  A total crash in late 2008 and an associated credit freeze followed by massive rebate programs that began with first time buyers (and then extended to anyone) that recently expired.  So where are we at now?  Most analysts are so uncertain about the path of the housing market that they just shrug their shoulders and hope for the best.

I thought it best to offer up a few data points to evaluate where the Fort Thomas market is:

1. Sales data - I continue to get monthly stats on the market of all the area towns and community surrounding Cincinnati.  Fort Thomas generally ranks near the top of that list in terms of number of sales behind larger and faster growing communities such as Mason and West Chester.  Looking at the sales numbers for Fort Thomas it is clear the market is past the bottom but a return to the sales volumes of 2005 - 06 will not be happening anytime soon.

2. Median Home Price - one of the key characteristics of the current market nationwide is the fact that the lower end of the market is the only part that is seeing any action.  The tax credits are supporting the lower sales prices and with financing still fairly dry for 'jumbo' loans and the additional incentive for first time home buyers the houses that are moving are those with a smaller sales price.  For this reason I look to median price per square foot for a measure of how well the market is supporting price in Fort Thomas.

3. Rental market - one area of the market that does not appear to be doing too poorly is the rental market.  Anectdotally, I have been following Gettysburg Square on Twitter and am surprised that they keep their occupancy rate so high despite what I think of as being expensive rents, especially for an aging apartment complex.  A 1 bedroom for $595?  How about 2 bedroom for $749?  Don't forget a 1 bedroom with den for $729.  Seriously, excluding escrow my house payment would be less than $100 more.