Tuesday, June 29, 2004

City wants input on Austinburg

Covington redevelopment plan subject of public comment session

By Cindy Schroeder
Enquirer staff writer

COVINGTON - Residents of Covington's Austinburg neighborhood can offer suggestions Thursday on a redevelopment plan aimed at eliminating blight and increasing home ownership.

City officials have proposed creating a 22-acre redevelopment zone that could result in the city buying two dozen properties, including some against the owners' wills.

City Planner Annalee Duganier said vacant and rundown industrial properties and homes would be replaced with new housing. Homes would be put on vacant lots and parks would be developed. Duganier said the hope is to eliminate blight and properties that don't conform to residential uses, such as a warehouse for pool chemicals, vacant commercial properties or homes, and a defunct pallet company.

Austinburg is in east-central Covington. It runs from 17th Street and Scott Boulevard east to the Licking River and south to Wallace Woods. The proposed redevelopment area is in the northeast, along the Licking River.

Covington lawyer Gailen W. Bridges, who owns the Covington Mobile Home Park, said city officials misrepresented their intentions in hearings last fall.

He said it's unfair that Covington officials want to buy property from unwilling sellers when they aren't sure if the land would be used for new housing or parks.

"They have never answered as to how taking away 26 homes and replacing them with five or six or zero is going to increase home ownership," Bridges said.

Supporters include the Austinburg Neighborhood Association, said Tom DiBello, executive director of the Covington Community Center.

"These are not big developers wanting to put a shopping mall in here," DiBello said. "This is literally the city working in partnership with the neighborhood association."

DiBello said comments at eight hearings showed "overwhelming neighborhood support" for the plan.

Acquiring the properties through eminent domain would be the city's last resort, he said.

Duganier has said the city needs to find private money to make the project work.

If you go

What: Meeting to get public comment on the Austinburg Special Redevelopment Plan

When: 6 p.m. Thursday

Where: Covington City Commission chambers, 638 Madison Ave.

Information: (859) 292-2163


E-mail cschroeder@enquirer.com

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