Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Covington strip club zone a no-go

NKU, planning staff prompt city to reconsider proposal

By Cindy Schroeder,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — A plan to locate sexually oriented businesses near Park Hills is apparently dead.

        Covington officials — facing opposition from Park Hills residents and Northern Kentucky University — said Tuesday that they no longer plan to pursue a zone change that would allow businesses such as strip clubs and adult bookstores to locate on 37 acres at the end of Mount Allen Road. The site, which includes NKU campus buildings, borders Park Hills. It is within sight of Park Hills Elementary School and numerous homes and businesses.

        On Tuesday, Covington officials notified Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission staff that they were withdrawing their application to rezone the area near Park Hills as urban industrial/technology, a newly created zone in Covington that allows adult businesses.

        Covington City Solicitor Jay Fossett also asked that area planners table a second request to rezone 78 acres along Mary Laidley Road in southern Covington for the same purpose.

        “We knew no matter where we suggested a zone, people would be upset,” Mr. Fossett said. “This has nothing to do with Park Hills' opposition. It has everything to do with NKU's future plans and the recommendation of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission staff,” which recommended against the change.

        Whatever the reason for Covington's change of heart, Park Hills Mayor Michael Hellmann was pleased.

        “That's great news,” Mr. Hellmann said.

        Before the item was withdrawn, he had predicted that more than 200 opponents would pack Thursday's meeting of the Kenton County & Municipal Planning and Zoning Commission.

        The commission's regular meeting will still be held. County planners will withdraw the plan that has Park Hills residents upset and move to table the rezoning of the Mary Laidley Road site.

        Mr. Hellmann, who had sent 1,500 fliers to Park Hills residents to keep their residential community “pornography free,” offered Tuesday to help Covington and Kenton County officials find other possible sites for adult businesses.

        The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that adult businesses are protected under the First Amendment and that communities must designate areas where they can opera te.

        “This is not just Covington's problem,” Mr. Hellmann said Tuesday. “It's everyone's problem.”

        Mr. Hellmann said that Park Hills would send a representative to next week's meeting of a multi-county task force studying the issue. Task force members will meet with a nationally recognized expert on sexually oriented businesses to look into designating all of Northern Kentucky as a “ community” when it comes to designating areas for sexually oriented businesses.

        Covington officials had originally suggested locating adult businesses downtown. But some business owners and civic leaders feared that would hurt redevelopment efforts. So city officials spent months researching and creating a zone proposal for sites away from downtown.

        Most of the acreage near Park Hills i s owned by Northern Kentucky University, while the NKU Foundation — a nonprofit group that supports the university — owns about 17 undeveloped acres along Dixie Highway. Of that, about four acres are developable, said Donna Grey, coordinator of the NKU Foundation.

        “An appraisal done a couple of years ago said that the highest and best use for that site would be multifamily housin g,” Ms. Grey said. “But we have no plans to develop that (as multifamily housing). Our first duty is to support NKU if the university feels there's a need to expand that campus. If the university said they didn't feel the need for us to hang onto that for expansion, multifamily housing would be the preferred use.”


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