|Resident Mary Healy addressed Fort Thomas City Council about the vision for the south end of town.|
Tension was high at the July Fort Thomas City Council meeting concerning a text change amendment for the city’s general commercial zoning ordinance.
About 40 people attended the council meeting to voice their continued concerns about the impact of the text change that would allow self-storage facilities to be added to permitted uses within the zone.
The text amendment affects all areas zoned general commercial within the city, but came about as a request from a local business owner, Bob Heil, who would like to build a storage facility near the south end of Fort Thomas.
The city’s Planning and Zoning Committee held a public hearing on June 20 to discuss the text amendment. At that time the public was invited to speak for or against the text change to add self-storage facilities and a definition to the list of permitted uses in the zone. The committee voted to recommend the text change and sent it to city council for a vote.
RELATED: Zoning Change Could Clear the Way for Self-Storage Facility
City Attorney Jann Seidenfaden reminded those present at the council meeting that city council would be entertaining a first reading of the text change, which would impact all areas designated in the zone, and that it was not specific to any particular facility or area.
By law, she said, council cannot discuss the issue further or look at any new information provided after that hearing was completed. Those who came to speak against the specific issue of the storage facility proposal would not be permitted to do so at the council meeting.
"At the conclusion of the hearing on June 20, that is our record and the record ends there," Seidenfaden explained. "That is the record city council reviews to make a decision whether they will follow the recommendation…The council members have a definite limitation."
Copies of the transcript of the text amendment hearing had been given to council members for consideration. The transcript included testimony from neighbors who attended the hearing including a letter that was read into the record and a petition with the signatures of 18 residents in opposition to the proposed text amendment.
Many in the room who had come prepared to speak on the topic expressed frustration that they could not do so. Some addressed council on related topics, including questions about the process of making text amendments and zoning changes and about city communication avenues, as well as comments on the importance of ongoing planning and a citywide vision.
Concern for the south end of town
Mary Healy of Holly Woods Drive visited council in May to express concern that the south end of town be a part any future plans for the city. She reiterated her concern, urging council to "keep the south end in mind when planning any changes or additions in the future. We want to contribute to the city’s reputation, not deter from it," she said.
Michelle Knight of Woodland Place is on the Land Use and Zoning and other committees created for the Fort Thomas visioning project. She is also a member of the city's Renaissance Board. She shared plans and ideas from the visioning process.
"When we’re talking about smart growth, we’re talking about walking paths, talking about medians, talking about road diets, talking about bike lanes, we’re talking about connecting communities in such a way that people eight to 80 can enjoy."
She referenced regional collaboration as key in moving forward, "If we’re going to create this mecca of health and wellness trails system that we want, we need to be able to connect NKU with Riverfront Commons…You have to be able to get people on foot, on bike over here without them risking their lives. And you can’t do that today."
City communication requirements
Many who spoke said they did not know about the hearing. City Administrator Ron Dill explained that by Kentucky law, the city is required to publish notices in the official paper of record, the Campbell County Recorder, no less than seven days and not more than 21 days before the meeting.
Several residents said they had expected to see a notice on the website or posted in their neighborhood. Dill explained that for specific properties, residents would receive a letter and a posting according to Kentucky statutes on communications, but with a broader change, the requirement is to publish in the designated newspaper of record.
Mayor Eric Haas agreed the procedure was not ideal, "There have been attempts in Frankfort for years to try to change that so we can use other methods of notification instead of the Recorder. A lot of papers are still in business just because cities by law have to give notice in those papers."
Hawthorne Drive resident Tom Morrison said, "I’m hearing that there is a legal obligation to post in the Campbell County Recorder. Is there a legal limitation on other mechanisms? Could you provide a system on your website that people can sign up and be on an email distribution list?"
Council members affirmed that additional avenues could be taken. Council member Ken Bowman proposed the city form a committee to look at the issue of communications and come up with a plan for the website and additional outlets.
Healy had a message for her neighbors concerned about a proposal for a storage facility that could follow if the text amendment passes. "Let me assure the people in this room who feel like I do that there is another opportunity," she said.
For that specific project to move forward, a zoning change request may have to made, and a hearing for that change will be announced. "I think we will be far more ready for that at that time," she said.
City council heard the first reading of the text amendment and will vote on the matter at its next meeting on August 20. The next meeting of the Planning and Zoning Committee is scheduled for August 15. Call the city to check on the meeting and agenda.