By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer
MOUNT LOOKOUT - In Cincinnati's latest neighborhood development battle, residents are upset over a builder's plan to pack five homes on narrow, hillside lots.
Gene Goes sits on the side steps of his Mount Lookout home.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/JEFF SWINGER
Robert Fritzsch of Fritzsch Custom Builders Inc., of Mount Lookout, wants to put three homes on Kinmont Street off Linwood Avenue and two homes on Crocus Lane. He also plans to buy a home that is up for sale between the lots and resell it as part of the development, located near Mount Lookout Square.
But Crocus Lane homeowner Gene Goes opposes the plan, saying it will destroy an open feel in the neighborhood and chase off wildlife that scamper about even though the area is just seven minutes from downtown Cincinnati.
"Jamming five houses in here is going to change the whole ambiance," Goes, 53, said. "It's going to mess up the neighborhood. There's not enough room for the houses and driveways and the street is too small."
The city's chief building official, Bill Langevin, is expected to rule on the case within a month. At a zoning hearing Thursday, Goes said the hillside has been slipping.
As part of the city's building code review, an engineer will conduct a required soil study, the builder and Langevin said. If built, the foundations of the new homes will improve the stability of the hillside, not hurt it, Fritzsch stressed.
But some neighbors still aren't convinced.
"Whoever owns that property has the right to develop it within the code," neighbor Susan Sopp, 51, said. "But it's just awful to think that in a neighborhood as charming as this one, with lovely older homes, they are building side-to-side houses without anything in between."
The builder has asked the city for variances, or exceptions, to the zoning code for smaller setbacks than typically permitted so he can fit all the homes into the land.
Most of the lots are 40 to 45 feet wide; the homes will be from 25 to 28 feet wide.
Fritzsch, who also lives in Mount Lookout, says he is trying to improve the neighborhood.
"People are moving out of the city at an alarming rate and the city wants nice new homes so people want to stay here," he said.
Property values, he maintains, will increase once his homes are complete. The 2,500-square-foot, three-story homes with two and three bedrooms will sell from $399,000 to $499,000.
One neighbor, Jeff Wilhite, backs the project.
"I would support this before someone comes in and puts up apartments or inexpensive housing," Wilhite, 27, said.
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