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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Fort Thomas Ordinances Pass: Fairness for All and Clearing the Way for New Eatery

Fairness Campaign Executive Director Chris Hartman thanks Fort Thomas City Council for careful consideration on the Fairness Ordinance vote.

 By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor

At its first meeting of the new year, the Fort Thomas City Council voted on new ordinances that brought positive news for many in our community.

In a unanimous vote, the city joined several other Northern Kentucky cities in passing a Fairness Ordinance.

Terry Webster, of Earnscliff Court, was one of the first community members to bring the idea to the city council’s attention last summer. Since then, the city’s Law, Labor and License Committee did extensive research and charged city attorney Jann Seidenfaden with developing a Fairness Ordinance tailored to Fort Thomas.

Webster was back at the council meeting to witness the vote on the new ordinance. "Several months ago, I brought the idea of the Fairness Ordinance, and I was completely unsure of how it would be received. With a chance to observe the process, I have been thoroughly impressed by your committee and the work you have done...I want to tell you as a dad how much is it means to me knowing my son will have the same rights and protections as I did...I just want to thank you very much."

Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign, was on hand for the vote, too. He noted how the discussion and reception of the city ordinance to add protections for people in the LGBTQ community has evolved.

"It used to be a year and a half, two years ago, I’d come to a city where they were passing a fairness ordinance or considering it. We’d show up two hours early and the room would already be full with people who had very strong opinions on both sides, and we’re not seeing that any longer," he said.

"You will become the fifth city in Northern Kentucky and the 17th city in the commonwealth of Kentucky to pass this ordinance to protect LGBTQ people the same way you protect all people in your community — and it will happen with little fanfare, and that is the true progress of the way we see this movement work and the way I’ve seen legislation get passed here in Northern Kentucky."

He added his praise for the process and work involved. "I’ve been incredibly impressed with the respectful tone here and in the other cities that we’ve seen passing these ordinances recently and I just want to again extend my incredible gratitude for all of your thoughtfulness, for the time you spent on this, and once again to councilman [Ken] Bowman for bringing it up and to all of you for having the conversation."

Mayor Eric Haas said he appreciated everyone’s efforts. He admitted that he had some personal concerns about city liability and about feelings some shared with him about the topic being a more appropriate one for the state level rather than a city issue.

Council member Roger Peterman said he agreed some city resources and time was needed to consider, research and craft the ordinance but he said it was well worth it in what it brought to the community.

"If somebody doesn’t feel safe, that’s a real problem...I hope it never comes up, but we certainly want people that may have a feeling of not feeling welcome to feel welcome. And I think that has some value...I feel, despite the fact that it’s taken some staff time, some of my personal time to review this and so on...that people feeling welcome in a community like Fort Thomas is a very important value."

RELATED: Residents Ask Fort Thomas to Consider Fairness Ordinance

Zoning amendments passed will support potential new business

Zoning amendments clear the way for a new restaurant by the owner of Padrino in Milford

Another note of positive news for the community came in the form of the unanimous passage of three related zoning amendments that would clear a path for a proposed new restaurant. In September Fort Thomas resident and restaurateur Hunter Thomas publicly expressed his strong interest in opening a new restaurant in the 14 North Grand Avenue building.

He took the first step in the process by requesting some zoning changes and amendments that would make a restaurant in that location possible. Three ordinances passed at the January city council meeting that will make it possible for Thomas to continue with his plans:

  • A text amendment of the official zoning ordinance to include outdoor seating as a permitted use in a General Commercial zone
  • A text amendment to add residential uses as permitted in a General Commercial zone. Residential space cannot exceed a ratio of two to one with other permitted uses and are restricted to floors other than the ground floor.
  • An ordinance accepting recommendation by the Planning Commission to amend the zoning ordinance for the real estate at 14 North Grand Avenue, changing it from Professional Office to General Commercial.

In September Thomas said he envisions the space for a family-style Italian restaurant very similar to his successful and popular restaurant Padrino, which is located in Milford. He also owns 20 Brix in Milford, an upscale bistro and wine shop.

At that time, he said he plans to take it slow, start with what he knows and craft it to meet the interests of the Fort Thomas community. His plan included outdoor seating. For the time being he would keep the apartment that is currently rented on the second floor but would reassess in the future as the business grows.

RELATED: Local Restaurateur Looking to Open Restaurant on Grand Avenue

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