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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Cold Spring Moves Ahead With DAV Purchase, Offers Schools Assistance on Finding Alternative Sites

A new development in the battle over the Disabled American Vets property may bring Cold Spring city and Campbell County School Board officials to the table.

by Robin Gee, city council beat editor 

The friction continues between the city of Cold Spring and the Campbell County School Board over the Disabled American Veteran’s (DAV) property. Actions and reactions to recent developments were the focus of the January 25 city council meeting. Yet, it appears the city has extended a hand.

While city officials approved agreements related to the city’s purchase of the property—as well as a motion to file a complaint against the school board—they also gave the go ahead to an item under "new business" authorizing the mayor to reach out to school officials to offer some alternatives and assistance in the quest for a second middle school.

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Escalating tensions

While the school board awaits a determination by the Campbell County Circuit Court on whether it can use eminent domain to seize the DAV property, the city has been continuing with its plan to purchase the property through an agreement between the city and developer Al. Neyer, and between the developer and the DAV.

In short, the developer has a purchase agreement with the DAV, but at the same time has an agreement to assign the purchase to the city, resulting in the city becoming the official owner of the property and Neyer remaining on as the developer.

City council gave final approval to these agreements clearing the way to proceed with the purchase of the property. They also approved the filing of an "Intervening Complaint" asserting the city’s right to be involved with the DAV purchase. This comes after several weeks of correspondence and complaints by both sides.

In the intervening complaint, the city claims the school board went ahead with filing for condemnation to allow the taking of property under eminent domain, despite knowing of the city’s interest in the property and in an effort to block the city from purchasing or being involved with the purchase.

The complaint outlined the city’s interests in the property for economic development. It also laid out why the city felt the school board did not have the right to condemn the property under eminent domain.  

RELATED: Cold Spring to File Suit Against School District Over DAV Property

The latest volleys

Fort Thomas Matters has obtained a packet of information about the dispute including correspondence between the city and the school board.

In an email sent December 30, City Attorney, Brandon Voelker, informed Board of Education Attorney, Jason Reed, that the city was filing suit against the Board for interfering with the city’s purchase contract and for ignoring a 1965 restriction on the original deed for the property that assured the city a say in the future uses of the property for economic development.

Voelker also noted the reasons he felt the school board had not followed the letter of the law in terms of the condemnation, in particular that the Kentucky Department of Education had not approved the purchase of the property and, therefore, the board did not have the right to interfere with the city’s purchase of the property.

"As you know, I filed to intervene in the case to protect the city’s rights and instead the District responded Cold Spring does not have an interest in the property, regardless of the contract to purchase and the deed restriction. While I do not agree with the Board’s response, the response also accused the City of collusion and other acts, essentially said 'sue us.' In as much, the City authorized such a suit."

In response to Voelker’s letter, on January 4 Reed said, "There is nothing in the response which 'essentially said [to the City] sue us.'...To the contrary, the overwhelming point of the response is that the city has no legal claim to assert against the Campbell County Board of Education in connection with the condemnation action, and any substantive objection the city has with the condemnation can be raised by Disabled American Veterans."

He went on to say the school board was not prepared to purchase the property at this time, and that condemnation (the taking of property under eminent domain) was not a purchase anyway. And, because it is not a purchase, final KDE approval is not necessary at this point in proceedings.

He went onto explain the condemnation would give the board time to explore and research the property before determining whether or not to proceed. The question of whether the school board can condemn the property will be determined by the courts within the next 90 to 120 days, he said.

He noted the DAV has not vacated the property yet, and that any plans for the building would not come to fruition for nearly a year. He suggested the city wait for the ruling. 

Is ice beginning to thaw?

Despite the contentious language and filing of motions between the city and school board, city officials approved a move that could go a long way to mend the relationship between the two entities.

Under new items on the meeting agenda was a request to authorize the mayor to negotiate with the Campbell County School Board to help find another parcel of land for a new middle school and for the city to provide some infrastructure or financial assistance to aid in building a new building. The most promising candidate would be land adjacent to Crossroads Elementary, but council members made additional suggestions on potential properties.

The measure passed, and Voelker sent the offer to school board officials after the meeting. In the email, obtained by Fort Thomas Matters, he described the 28 acres available near Crossroads and noted that the owners of the property, CMC, recently outlined plans to extend Crossroads to the AA highway, which would be a plus for the school.

He also noted that the city would be willing to "help financially offset any additional monetary requirements associated with other sites in Cold Spring."

He extended an invitation to meet to Superintendent Dr. David Rust who has since responded that he would be happy to meet and requested some figures from Neyer on property values.

The city is finalizing its purchase while the school board awaits the eminent domain decision, but the two sides said they are ready to sit down together to open discussion.

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