Thursday, April 8, 2004

Residents oppose houses that would block views

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Mount Adams resident Jerry Tokarsky is concerned about proposed development that might affect the view of the Ohio River from the Carney Street overlook. Tourists and passers-by are in the background.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/MICHAEL E. KEATING
MOUNT ADAMS - Despite recent changes to Cincinnati's zoning code to preserve city and river views, residents of this hilltop neighborhood are once again battling to protect their skyline.

A proposal is afoot to develop two single-family homes on adjacent parcels along Carney Street.

A 10 a.m. zoning hearing will be held today for a height variance. A city hearing examiner is expected to issue his decision within 10 business days.

Architect Tom Hefley has applied to build homes as high as 66 feet tall; the city's limit is 35 feet high in hilltop neighborhoods. Hefley is representing the property's owner, Craig Liebel, and Liebel's partner, Michael Wagner.

In order to build the homes, the developers would need to buy a 35-foot-wide strip of city-owned land between Carney Street and their property or acquire an easement to allow access to the building site.

Last year, the city wouldn't sell the strip to Leibel and Wagner after City Council's Finance Committee permanently tabled the sale. Hefley said he would ask the city for an easement through the strip.

Liebel and Wagner then wanted the property to build a house, but neighbors said it would block their views.

The men's latest housing proposal is also riling Mount Adams neighbors - and has reignited the debate over public view corridors. The topic was discussed Tuesday at the community's monthly civic association meeting, attended by Councilman David Pepper, who also lives in the neighborhood.

Residents want to know what happened to the $100,000 earmarked in the last City Council budget to study the best views and how to protect them.

"When does 'no' mean no?" says Jerome Tokarsky, president of the Mount Adams Civic Association.

Pepper pledged to look into the issue and find a way to end the corridor battles. He also indicated the easement request wouldn't be granted when it comes before council.

"Maybe in this case we should just take the Mount Adams problem and solve it and end the drama," he told residents.

"Can you write that in blood? I am tired of it," responded Sally Gronauer, chair of the civic association's zoning committee.

For decades, residents of this densely populated and upscale enclave have fought over development projects that they say threaten their views, including previous proposals on the Carney parcels.

Last year, a preliminary report by the Department of Community Development and Planning identified several views of downtown that should be protected.

City Manager Valerie Lemmie also last year proposed a moratorium on the sale of city property in view corridors while the city studies the issue. Councilman David Crowley says he still is trying to get money from the city for the study.

"The study will take awhile," he said. "I thought people understood that. There weren't going to be any immediate results from that, but it will give us the foundation."

Crowley predicts Hefley's proposal is doomed.

But Hefley, a Mount Adams resident since 1962, says property owners have rights to develop their land. The city, he contends, is politicizing its zoning code, particularly when it comes to corridor views.

"If this was the only view from Mount Adams from a public street, I might think about it twice or less - but I don't see that they have a right to have that," he said. "If you are concerned about your view and there is a vacant piece of property across the street from you, why don't you buy it to protect your view?"


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