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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Fort Thomas City Council Holds First Reading of Ordinance to Amend Fort Thomas Plaza Zoning

Owner of the Fort Thomas Plaza, Ken Perry, asks the Fort Thomas Planning Commission  to grant Active Day a text amendment change in January. Fort Thomas City Attorney, Jann Seidenfaden (right), looks on during the proceedings. FTM file.
By Amanda Dibiaso

It’s been a bumpy road for those in favor of allowing an adult day care to open in the Fort Thomas Plaza.

The issue, which involves a text amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance that will allow an adult day care center to open in a General Commercial zone, arose when the owners of Active Day Senior Day Care showed interest in relocating to the plaza.

The relocation of Active Day, currently located at 725 Alexandria Pike, to the plaza was met with opposition from several local residents and business owners including Ron Robinson, the owner of the Fort Thomas Antiques and Design Center, which is located in the plaza.

Robinson, representing all residents of Overlook Drive, raised concerns about gas emission, noise and traffic and other issues they feel would occur if Active Day opens in the plaza.

“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.”

RELATED: Tenants, Landlord at Odds Over Zoning at Fort Thomas Plaza 

After lengthy discussion by concerned parties at their December meeting, which was then tabled and continued at their January meeting, the planning commission voted 6-1 in favor of the text amendment.

RELATED: Second Time Around, Fort Thomas Planning Commission Ok's Adult Day Care to Fort Thomas Plaza 

But the issue’s bumpy road continued Tuesday when city council members received the planning commission’s recommendation.

Councilman Ken Bowman said he thought the council should consider waiting to do the first reading of the ordinance. Due to the complexity of the issue, he felt the council needed more time to digest the information that they received at the meeting and discuss it, noting that he had also received some other information regarding the issue.

 “There are a lot of reasons this should be up for discussion,” Bowman said. “This could have great long-term implications.”

City Administrator Ron Dill said changing the city’s zoning is a legal process where the planning commission is tasked with collecting information and getting input from the community. The commission then presents their recommendation to council, who can approve it, reject it, or schedule another hearing hear a debate of the pros and cons.

City Attorney Jann Seidenfaden cautioned council that their decision should be limited to the minutes from the planning commission’s public hearings and their recommendation and shouldn’t include information from the general public at this point.

“You’re really not gathering your own personal information at this point,” Seidenfaden said.

According to Seidenfaden, taking information outside of the commission’s minutes/recommendation into consideration when making decisions like these have led to courts reversing council’s decisions in cases outside of Fort Thomas.

Councilman Roger Peterman spoke out in favor of having the first reading, given what Seidenfaden said.

“This is a legal process, we have to listen to our attorney,” Peterman said.

Council will hold the second reading at their next meeting Monday, March 21.

At that time, they must decide to either accept or reject the planning commission’s recommendation. The third option – holding a hearing to hear a debate of the pros and cons – is something that Seidenfaden said Fort Thomas has never done as far as she knows.

Craig Mehnert, Chief Operating Officer of Active Day, said that if the measure wasn’t passed, Active Day could explore moving out of Fort Thomas and into a neighboring community.

“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.”

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