Wednesday, March 03, 1999

Demolition battle moves out of court


Dispute goes to mediation

BY RACHEL MELCER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LAWRENCEBURG — City officials and historic preservationists turned from the courtroom to the negotiating table Tuesday in a dispute over the future of three downtown buildings.

        At the end of mediated talks, scheduled to begin March 9, they hope to put an end to the lawsuit over demolition of the dilapidated yet historic Elm Street homes.

        They also are working to create a review system that would prevent similar disputes, said Kris Krider who, along with Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, is working to preserve the city's bricks-and-mortar past.

        “I think part of the realization is that when you take action like this, there are a lot more issues than just the three buildings,” he said.

        The city and the preservationists would like to come up with a local review process that would kick in before a historic building could be demolished, he said.

        The lawsuit filed by Mr. Krider and Historic Landmarks claimed the city used casino gaming revenue — which they see as state funds — to buy and demolish abandoned homes in an eight-block district listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

        State law prevents state money from being used to alter or tear down recognized historic structures without a review by the state Department of Natural Resources.

        If the parties can reach a local settlement, they will avoid the thorny issue of whether gaming-tax revenue should be legally classified as state money.

        Such a decision could set a statewide precedent changing the way casino-rich municipalities can spend their gaming windfalls.

        Lawrenceburg Mayor Melvin Gabbard and Historic Landmarks have negotiated in the past, over the future use of three blocks of historic buildings on High Street. But those talks faltered.

        City officials said they favor historic preservation — but only if it does not drive up the cost or get in the way of redevelopment.

        Dearborn County Circuit Court Judge Gary McCarty readily agreed Tuesday to extend a temporary restraining order prohibiting the city from tearing down the Elm Street homes, so long as the parties are in mediation.

        “I can't imagine a better choice,” he said.

        Attorneys spent most of the day behind closed doors and declined comment when they emerged.

        “We don't want to kick the fish out of the net” and derail negotiations by talking too soon, said plaintiffs' attorney Jan Carroll. “... What we're trying to do is move away from antagonism.”

       



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