Monday, September 20, 2004

Groups seek to protect viewing

Mt. Adams spot getting attention

By Steve Kemme
Enquirer staff writer

MOUNT ADAMS - Many people driving down Pavilion Street slow almost to a stop as they turn onto Carney Street.

The reason? A panoramic view of the Ohio River and the Kentucky hills that unfolds before them.

"You'd be amazed at the number of people who walk over here to look out at this view," said Mount Adams resident Dave Zimmerman, standing at the overlook.

Zimmerman is a member of a citizens' group that - with the help of a city councilman - is trying to have this site declared an official public overlook. That designation would prevent anyone from obstructing the view.

A non-profit group, the Mount Adams Community Urban Redevelopment Corp., wants the city to build a walkway and a railing to encourage people to come there and safely enjoy the view. The Redevelopment Corp. also wants to protect and enhance at least three other overlooks in the hilltop neighborhood.

"This is probably the best-known overlook in Mount Adams," Jerry Tokarsky, president of the Mount Adams Civic Association, said as he stood on Carney Street.

He and other Mount Adams residents stress that the general public, not just a handful of people lucky enough to own high-priced homes with views, will benefit from their fight to protect these overlooks.

"The views are for the citizens of Cincinnati and its visitors," said Larry Boberschmidt, an officer with the Redevelopment Corp. "The views have been here for many generations. To destroy them would be a crime."

The group recently posted on a pole at the Carney Street overlook a sign showing a preliminary design for a revamped overlook.

"We're trying to save something that's important to the city," said Tina Russo, president of the Redevelopment Corp. "The city is known for its hills and views, and that's what makes Cincinnati unique."

Overlooks on Hill, Filson and Parkside streets would be improved after Carney. The battle to protect overlooks for the public isn't confined to Mount Adams.

The city wants to hire a private firm to conduct a study identifying Cincinnati's prime public view corridors. Walnut Hills, Price Hill, Clifton, Clifton Heights and Fairmount are among the neighborhoods with good vistas.

Councilman David Crowley, who grew up in Mount Adams, is leading the effort to launch this study.

Crowley said the city probably would restrict designating official public overlooks to those sites with views of the Ohio River or downtown.

But the problem is money. The city doesn't have $100,000 to spare to finance it.

The Redevelopment Corp. has begun raising funds to help pay for the cost of the study. The first fund-raiser, which occurred three weeks ago with little publicity, generated about $2,000. More fund-raisers will be held.

The controversy over recent development proposals at the Carney Street overlook spurred the effort to consider protecting prime overlooks throughout the city.

Craig Liebel and his architect, Tom Hefley, want to build a bridge over a strip of city-owned property from Carney Street to inaccessible property Liebel owns downhill.

Liebel owns a house on Celestial Street, but wanted to build a smaller, low-maintenance house to live in below Carney Street.

A year ago, he tried to buy the city property, but the city refused to sell it when residents objected. Recently, he asked the city for an easement to build the bridge over the city's property.

But this past week, City Manager Valerie Lemmie rejected the request because of opposition from residents and city officials who complained that the bridge would ruin the view.

"That's a disappointment to me," Hefley said of Lemmie's decision. "My contention is that a property owner whose property abuts a public right of way has the right to access that property from a public street."

But Crowley said that view from Carney Street should be preserved for the public.

"Anybody should be able to go up there and enjoy that view," Crowley said. "It's something that should not be given over to private development."

Tokarsky said he and his group are not anti-development. But he said that with property values in Mount Adams hinged on the views, there has to be a reasonable balance between what's good for the neighborhood and what's good for developers.

"If we lost our prime views, it would hurt development," Tokarsky said. "The problem is, once a view is gone, it's gone. You can't reverse that."



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