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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Fort Thomas Planning and Zoning Accepts Changes to Development Plan

The most recent public hearing on the Central Business District addressed proposed changes to the development agreement plan.

By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor 

Fort Thomas Planning and Zoning Commission members voted to accept specific changes to the Central Business District development plan at a public hearing held August 21 during its regular monthly meeting.

Developer Rick Greiwe requested an amendment to make two changes to the original stage one plan of the development along North Fort Thomas Avenue. The changes involved putting a set of residential-style garage doors on the condominium garage that empties out onto Woodland Place and providing a bump out that would shield the garage entrance from the street.

Greiwe said he had met with two residents of Woodland Place to discuss a list of about 20 issues of concern for the neighbors. A larger group of neighbors had met previously with Mayor Eric Haas and City Administrator Ron Dill to outline their concerns. These were shared with Greiwe who then met with Woodland neighbors Laura Reynolds and Brent Niese to try to find solutions to some of the issues, he said. 

Changes to the residential garage

Many of the concerns, such as hours of construction, notice to residents about construction, safety and related issues have been addressed in the development agreement passed by city council by a 4-3 vote in late May, Greiwe said. The changes he was proposing at the hearing were in response to four key concerns outlined by the neighbors. These were:

  • A concern about light pollution and noise emanating from the residential garage.
  • Masking the appearance of the garage so it is not mistaken for a commercial space or in some way making it clear that it was for residential use only.
  • Concerns about speed of those entering and exiting the garage.
  • Safety issues for pedestrians as they walk near the garage entrance. 

Although the city had approved a 20-foot open archway to the garage in the original plan, he proposed a change to add nine-foot residential-style garage doors that would need to be opened with a pass code similar to other residential garage doors. The light for the garage would then be inside the doors and aimed down, away from the street.

"It would be just like entering the garage at your house, same kind of feel and same kind of look, same kind of operation. We have a project in Hyde Park we do that way. Visitors must stop and press a code to get in."

He claimed that, since most of the residents would be retirees, he did not anticipate the stop at the doors would cause backup of cars trying to get in or out of the garage. The stop to enter or exit the garage would also address concerns about speeding and about awareness of pedestrians crossing near the garage.

Neighbors voice concerns and opposition

Although Greiwe said he worked out solutions with the Woodland Place residents, Reynolds wanted to make clear that she and Niese did not work with the developer on the solutions. She did not address the specific changes directly.

"I’m not a spokesperson for Woodland Place, but I want to speak for myself,” she said. “We did not help and as far as I know no one else on Woodland Place helped put this design together. We were presented this design, and I forwarded it on to my neighbors...Yes, this is a little better, but it’s still not great because it’s still on our street. I just want to set the record straight that I did not help... and nobody is excited it’s on our street."

Other Fort Thomas residents spoke, but did not address the changes. They did present broader concerns about the project, especially parking and traffic issues. Dan Fehler, chairman of the Planning Commission, said the hearing was only to discuss the two changes. He noted that the overall stage one development plan was approved by the city.

The amended changes are approved

The commissioners voted to accept the two changes amending the current development plan.

Members of the Planning and Zoning Commission are Chairman Fehler, Dan Gorman [who recused himself on the vote for the development], Dave Wormald, Jerry Noran, Tim Michel, Larry Schultz, and Hans Tinkler.

The commission meets at 6:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month. For next meeting, the date is September 18.

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