Tuesday, June 27, 2000

Port Authority's role in riverfront plans gets OK




By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hamilton County's Port Authority is one step closer to being the organization responsible for taking The Banks riverfront development project from paper drawings to concrete reality.

        The Banks is a plan to build housing, offices and businesses along the central riverfront, between the two new sports stadiums.

        Members of the city's Community Development Committee approved a draft motion Monday that would empower the Port Authority to oversee the development, while also strengthening its original mission of developing old industrial sites known as “brownfields.”

        The specifics of the arrangement will be tweaked before a final vote is takenin August.

        But Monday's vote is important because it gives City Manager John Shirey and his staff permission to begin working with Hamilton County on drawing up the final version of the plan.

        Jack Rouse, chairman of the Riverfront Advisers Committee which drew up The Banks, had originally said the city and county would need to come to an agreement by July 1. Mr. Rouse said after the meeting that an agreement in August will work.

        “The world doesn't end on July 1,” Mr. Rouse said. “We'll be OK if we get it in August.”

        Although there will be some changes along the way, much of how the new Port Authority will function is set.

        Under the motion:

        • The Port Authority would have taxing powers, although Mr. Rouse said there is no call to use funds from a special levy on The Banks project.

        • The organization is renamed to Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority and is two-headed — half the agency will be devot ed to brownfields redevelopment, with the other half focused on The Banks.

        • It will have a 10-person board of directors, half appointed by the city and half by the county.

        • The organization will have to abide by the Ohio Open Meetings Law.

        • It will not have eminent domain powers, but can ask the city or county to use its powers to acquire property.

        Randy Welker, director of the Port Authority, said he thinks the general outline will work. “I think this is something that can work for us because it keeps the brownfields side,” he said.

        Still, there are several issues to work out. For example, the Port Authority has been housed in the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, and Mr. Welker works for the chamber.

        That relationship will have to be examined and probably changed, according to Mr. Shirey.

       



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