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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

City Council Roundup: VA Homes, Tax Incentives, Meeting Changes & More

The VA homes were a topic of further discussion at Monday night's city council meeting./FTM file

The VA homes and a possible tax incentive program dominated discussion at Monday night's city council meeting. Smoking in city parks, Red Bike Stations and a council meeting change were also discussed. Councilman Roger Peterman was not present.

VA Homes

The City is still hoping to find a developer for the VA homes. "The city staff is meeting with potential developers," said Don Martin, city administrator. "The purpose of these meetings is to identify barriers, things that were deal breakers. The first developer we met with indicated there was a $3 million gap of what they would put in it and get out of it."

Martin added that the developer went over the numbers with staff members who will discuss what they can do to lower costs.

"I have no doubt we are going to make this work some how, some way," said Mayor Eric Haas. 

It might have only been his third council meeting but Councilman Adam Meier has hit the ground running. "I have stayed up nights thinking of ways we can spread the risks while staying within the terms of the agreement with the VA."

Meier proposed allowing individuals an option to purchase knowing that the infrastructure and environmental requirements would be met. The city could contract those services out or a developer could take that on knowing they already had buyers. This process would eventually allow for smaller developers or even individuals to buy and renovate the homes.

Meier said this would allow for the sale of the homes without one developer taking all the risk. 

The homes are filled with history. Haas said he is looking into getting the History Channel or another station to do a story on the homes and project.

Martin said there is an area on the property large enough to build another house. It would have to match the current homes to a certain extent but this could also make it more appealing to a developer. He did state that the green area in the middle of the homes (in the street) is "historic lawn" and cannot be developed. It can be used as a common area for benches, a gazebo or even a swing.

Tax Incentives

Meier asked council to consider a tax incentive program. Those who turn a multi-family home into a single-family home, those who purchase a home/building that has been vacant over a year, those who conform a nonconforming building/home and those who invest $20,000 or more into repairs of a commercial building would not pay city property taxes for five years. He also suggested having a higher tax rate for those who own a building that has been vacant more than a year. 

"We don't have blighted areas but there are vacant homes throughout the city," said Meier, adding that the longer something sits vacant the more problems it has and the most cost inhibiting it becomes. 

Council voted to send the proposed incentive plan to the Labor, Law and License Committee for further discussion.

City Parks

Councilman Jeff Bezold said citizens have asked him to address smoking at city parks near the playgrounds and littering with cigarette butts. He would like to see "No Smoking" signs placed in certain areas of the parks. Council voted to have the Parks and Recreation Committee review this.

Red Bike Project

Martin said that residents have asked if the bike share program, Red Bike, will come to Fort Thomas. Several areas throughout the river cities (Newport, Bellevue, Dayton, Covington) have been identified as possible locations. Fort Thomas has not been designated as a possible location yet but the city would be open to discussion. Each station does cost about $50,000. 

Council Meetings

The first reading of an ordinance to change the council meeting from being held on the first and third Monday of every month to just the third Monday of each month, eliminating the first Monday meetings with the exception of June and September when there would be a meeting on the first and third Mondays, was read at the meeting. The second reading will take place at the next meeting on Feb 17. Council will vote at that meeting. 

Due to President's Day, the next meeting is Tuesday, Feb 17 at 7 p.m.

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