By Clayton Castle
After a lengthy debate and discussion by the Fort Thomas Planning Committee and the business owners and residents of Fort Thomas, the committee voted on Wednesday night to approve a text amendment that will allow an adult day care center to be placed in a General Commercial (GC) zone, in particular, the Fort Thomas Plaza.
The text amendement passed by a 6-1 vote.
City of Fort Thomas Building Inspector, Kevin Barbian, began the meeting by saying that before the vote, adult daycare centers were only allowed in professional office zones, but not in general commercial zones. This vote changed that going forward.
Craig Mehnert, Chief Operating Officer of Active Day, the proposed adult day care facility, flew in from Philadelphia to attend the meeting and address the committee. Mehnert stated that there are only three adult day care facilities in Northern Kentucky, which are located in Kenton and Boone counties. He noted that those are located in General Commercial (GC) zones.
Mehnert said that if the measure wasn’t passed, Active Day could explore moving out of Fort Thomas and into a neighboring community.
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“This zone is appropriate for an adult daycare program,” Mehnert said. “We want to stay in this community and not have to move to Kenton County or other communities.”
According to Mehnert, the Active Day facility in Fort Thomas has outgrown the facility and is need of expansion. Other communities were an option, but “none work quite like this (in the plaza).”
Rob Robinson, owner of Fort Thomas Antiques and Design Center was a vocal opponent of the text amendment. He spoke and stated that all of the residents on Overlook Drive, which abuts the property oppose the measure and listed multiple reasons why, including gas emission, noise and traffic, among others.
“We are not against Active Day,” Robinson said. “As a retail owner of a business in the plaza, I do not believe it belongs in a commercial area.”
Robinson also stated that the NKY Eye Center, which is currently located in the plaza, had a deal in place to move into the area which Active Day is looking to expand. Robinson believes that the plaza would be better served with a hotel, citing the proximity of the plaza to downtown Cincinnati, Procter & Gamble, the airport, and other major attractions.
Residents and business owners, both in support and in opposition of the text amendment, spoke to voice their concerns or support.
One of the final speakers from the audience was Ken Perry, one of the owners of the Fort Thomas Plaza and Ken Perry Realty.
Perry spoke in adamant support for Active Day to expand into his plaza, citing that all adult daycare centers in northern Kentucky are in GC zones.
“To say no to Active Day is to say ‘you have to leave,’” Perry said. “We’re not asking for a zoning change, we’re asking for a text amendment.”
|Ken Perry, owner of the Fort Thomas Plaza, asks the Planning Commission to allow the text amendment. FTM file.|
Many of the commissioners were in support of the zoning change, including Brent Cooper, who was the most vocal in the debate among the committee.
“Why would we tell a owner they can’t have a good tenant in there?” Cooper said. “Our job is to see if this is a good for the community. The government shouldn't be telling businesses where they should be.”
Jerry Noran was against the issue, and questioned what is considered “general commercial.”
“Adult day care wouldn’t fit into a retail plaza,” Noran said. “Adult day care is an institutional use.”
After a lengthy debate, the commission voted 6-1 to approve the text amendment to allow adult day care centers to be located in a GC zone. Commissioners Cooper, Tim Michel, Hans Tinkler, Dan Gorman, Dan Wormald and Dan Fehler voted to approve the amendment. Noran voted against.
Robinson said he is disappointed in the ruling, saying “we don’t feel like an institution or medical use facility that doesn’t take care of illnesses is compatibable to retail.”
Despite the text amendment Robinson commends the zoning board for being professional.
"The city is fortunate to have a very professional zoning commission and these guys have put a lot of thought into it,” Robinson said. “We’re going to discuss what options we have going forward and hopefully this city will rally behind this.”
The recommendation must now move in front of Fort Thomas City Council, where the six members will decide whether or not to approve the resolution. That will occur at the next meeting in February.
Currently, there are no dates for the possible opening of the new Active Day Senior Care facility in the Fort Thomas Plaza.