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Friday, September 18, 2020

Beverly Hills Fire Group Files Lawsuit, "Blindsides" City of Southgate

A group of Beverly Hills Supper Club fire victims and their supporters have filed suit against the developers, city and county officials to stop development at the site.

by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

City officials in Southgate said they were "blindsided" by the announcement last night that members of a group of victims of the 1977 Beverly Hills Supper Club fire and their supporters have filed a lawsuit against the city and a developer planning to build a mixed-use project on the site where the supper club once stood.

The city issued a statement that read, in part, "The City of Southgate learned of the filing of the lawsuit challenging the Council’s decision to re-zone the property commonly known as Memorial Point only late last night. The City did not receive service of the lawsuit, nor even a courtesy copy of it, and only learned of the lawsuit itself through the press conference that the plaintiffs and their attorney unilaterally engineered."

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A statement by the developer, Ashley Builders Group, echoes the concerns of the city, stating they have been working with a group representing fire victims, as well as former Southgate officials, residents and first responders who were on the scene of the fire. 

The proposed development

In August, the city accepted a recommendation by the Campbell County Planning and Zoning Commission to approve a zone change for the $65 million development, known as the Memorial Point Project. The project involves about 78 acres, which includes the site of the former Beverly Hills Supper Club where a 1977 fire took the lives of 165 people. 

The project includes an assisted living center, a high-end luxury apartment community and a mix of single-family homes and smaller cottages. Also included are plans for two memorials to the fire victims — a permanent public memorial built at the base of the property near the intersection of Cannon Ridge and US 27, and a park on the actual site of the former club at the top of the hill.

The memorial at the top of the hill would be in a private park belonging to the project homeowners association. Some of the victims and their families and supporters objected to this part of the project in particular stating that they should not have to secure permission to visit the site where their loved ones perished. 

Two different views of agreements on the project


At a meeting to approve a zone change, some wore "Respect the Dead" tshirts to draw attention to their concerns over a proposed development on the site of the 1977 fire.

In their statement, the developers said they have been in contact with and working closely with members of the community who were fire victims to come to agreement with this most controversial portion of the project. Since its initial proposal, the developers have agreed to construct a fountain near where it is believed the Cabaret Room of the supper club stood, and provide access to the site on the anniversary of the fire. Still, the park would remain under the homeowners’ association control, and visitors would need to secure permission to visit at other times. 

A nonprofit group, Beverly Hills Supper Club, Respect the Dead, LLC, filed the suit against the Campbell County and Municipal Planning and Zoning Commission, the city of Southgate and Ashley Commercial Group to appeal the conditional use permit and the decision by the planning commission to grant a change in zoning for the property that would allow the project to move forward.

The group is asking that the site of the fire be left undeveloped as it is considered a burial ground. Victims brought up this concern at a public hearing on the matter in August. The developer agreed to stop construction should any remains be found. Kentucky law protects burial grounds, but the definition is broad.

Follow the story in Fort Thomas Matters:

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