Thursday, September 23, 2004

Planning board stalls swap of jail site

By Kevin Aldridge
Enquirer staff writer

Vice Mayor Alicia Reece thought approval of a proposed city-county land swap - which could stop plans for a juvenile jail in Bond Hill - would be a slam-dunk.

Instead, the city's planning commission is holding up the deal because the board doesn't want to trade away a city-owned parking lot near the Hamilton County Justice Center.

Councilman Jim Tarbell, a member of the planning commission, said the B&B parking lot at Eggleston Avenue and Reading Road is one of the most strategically important pieces of property downtown. Tarbell contends the triangular parcel is the gateway to 30 acres of undeveloped land on the eastern edge of downtown.

To trade it away could jeopardize future development projects, he said.

"It was a mistake to bargain that piece of real estate away," Tarbell said. "We need to insist that we get this property. It's critical that it stays under our control."

Under the deal, the city would take ownership of the former Mill Creek Psychiatric Center for Children in Bond Hill - the site of a proposed 60-bed jail for youth. Hamilton County would get the B&B parking lot, Drake Hospital and the former Hillcrest School site in Springfield Township.

The city would also pay the county $300,000 and the county would promise to try to locate future detention centers outside of the city. County commissioners approved the deal this month and have indicated it is their best and last offer.

Commissioner Todd Portune said he wants to use the site for jail expansion, but the board has made no formal decision.

Tarbell and some other council members said they were under the impression the county wanted the land for parking. The county rents the parking lot from the city.

"Our position should be that we do not want more jail space in the city or downtown," Councilman John Cranley said.

City Manager Valerie Lemmie said the city controls zoning over the parking lot. Any plans to expand the jail would require council's approval for a zoning change, she said.

Reece said she plans to present the deal to council for a vote if the planning commission doesn't approve it by Oct. 1. Reece said residents in Roselawn, Paddock Hills and Bond Hill have fought the proposed jail at the site for 10 years.

"I would hope that we are not going to hold Paddock Hills hostage," Reece said.


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