Saturday, August 18, 2001

Proposed housing site has residents indignant

Petition would put decision in voters' hands

By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ST. BERNARD - Seniors in this small city would rather preserve a piece of history than see precious land disturbed for a senior housing project.

        After failing to get the city to listen, they gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.

        “We had to get 175 signatures, but we turned in about 500,” said Kevin Meier, a lawyer, who lives next door to the proposed site.

[photo] (From left) Bill Burkhardt, Kevin Meier and Dolores Rutemueller, and others who advocate keeping the Erie Canal bed as is, walk through a stretch of the proposed site for a 36-unit senior housing complex.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        A seniors' group was formed in March to protest the building of a $3.8 million senior housing project with 36 units on 1.3 acres, the last piece of the Miami-Erie Canal bed in St. Bernard.

        The small strip, which starts at 4801 Andulas Court and runs south about 1.3 acres, is sandwiched between trees and a neighborhood of single-family homes. It presents a scenic greenspace the residents want to preserve.

        “We are not against senior housing, but we don't want this spot destroyed,” said Dolores Rutemueller, who lives on one of the streets that abut the property. “This spot represents a rich piece of history in St. Bernard.”

        The seniors referred to the City of St. Bernard 1998 Comprehensive Plan, which recommended developing a park with the concept of a historical trail in the old canal.

        That plan noted that St. Bernard developed as a successful industrial community and is tied to the history of the Mill Creek as part of the Miami-Erie Canal.

        The Miami-Erie Canal connected the Northwestern territories to the Great Lakes and from there to the East Coast along an active trade route. The canal was formed in the early1820s in Middletown and later stretched to Cincinnati. At the height of its operation it stretched from Cincinnati to Toledo.

        “After other transportation methods developed, much of the canal area was later covered by Central Parkway in Cincinnati and Interstate 75,” said Nancy Gulick, a trustee of the Canal Society of Ohio.

        Councilman Bill Burkhardt of the First Ward, which includes the proposed housing project area, said the city developed the idea without talking to the citizens.

        Other concerns are that the project would create traffic and parking problems, and that access would be bad because only one street leads to the area, shared with five other streets with more than 200 homes and apartments.

        The leading advocate for the project, Councilman Mike Schildmeyer, chairman of the public improvement committee, said he is willing to listen to suggestions of another location, provided it could offer the same tax credit the city thinks it can get for the Miami-Erie Canal Bed.

        He said if approved, the tax credit on the project would be $3.8 million. The city would put in $250,000 to $500,000 to clear the land for development.

        “This is definitely not the location for a senior housing project,” said James Rutemueller, president of City Council and a Harvey Court resident. “We have other locations that are suitable for a seniors' housing project. We would like to see this spot kept as it is.”


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