Thursday, September 30, 2004

Bond Hill jail idea may finally die

By Kevin Aldridge
Enquirer staff writer

BOND HILL - Vice Mayor Alicia Reece appears to have enough City Council support to approve a land deal with Hamilton County that would put a stop to a 10-year-old plan by the county to build a juvenile jail in Bond Hill.

The city gets:
• Paddock Park/Mill Creek Psychiatric Center for Children. Hamilton County bought this site from the state with the intention of building a 60-bed juvenile-detention facility.
• Assurances from the county that it would make its best efforts to locate future detention facilities - other than those in the Central Business District - outside city limits.

The county gets:
• $300,000 in cash.
• Drake Hospital. The city sold the hospital to the county in 1927, but a contract clause gave Cincinnati the right to take the property back if commissioners decided to use the property for anything but a hospital. The agreement would terminate that clause.
• Hillcrest School. This 85-acre site in Springfield Township is a county-operated juvenile detention facility. Hamilton County has leased the building and land from the city since 1973.
• B&B parking lot at Eggleston and Reading roads.
Council members Reece, Pat DeWine, Laketa Cole, Sam Malone, David Crowley and David Pepper went on record saying they would support a deal giving the city ownership of the former Mill Creek Psychiatric Center for Children. Council members Christopher Smitherman and John Cranley are still undecided.

Under the deal, Cincinnati would get the Mill Creek site in Bond Hill - which the county owns and where it had proposed a juvenile jail - in exchange for three parcels of city-owned land and $300,000. Those parcels are Drake Hospital, the Hillcrest School site in Springfield Township and the B&B Parking Lot at Eggleston Avenue and Reading Road downtown.

Some council members fear the county could use the parking lot to expand the adjacent Hamilton County Justice Center. Council has said it does not want more jail space inside the city limits.

The deal appeared to be in jeopardy when the city's planning commission put it on hold because members did not want to trade away the parking lot. Councilman Jim Tarbell, who sits on the planning commission, said the parking lot is a key piece of property for future downtown development.

The commission is expected to vote on the matter Friday. If it votes against the deal, it would take a 6-3 vote of council to override the decision. Reece said she would push for a council vote next Wednesday regardless of what the commission does.

"We're going to stop everything for a parking lot?" Reece said. "I would hope that next week we could move forward on a deal that could end this 10-year nightmare."

More than 20 residents from Bond Hill, Paddock Hills and Roselawn showed up Wednesday for a town hall meeting to discuss the agreement.

Some said they would like to see the Mill Creek site developed into single-family homes, a medical facility or a school.

"It's a wonderful development, but no deal is done until the ink is dry," said Charles Houston Jr., president of the Paddock Hills Assembly.

Sam Nellom, former president of the Bond Hill Community Council, said he always knew the community would defeat the jail plan.

Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials have been in a court battle since 1998 over a proposed 60-bed jail for youth at the former Mill Creek Psychiatric Center for Children.

Hamilton County commissioners unanimously approved the deal this month.

Commissioner Todd Portune, who attended the town hall meeting, said there are no formal plans for the parking lot.

Pepper said the city needs to trust the county. He said the city still maintains some control over the parcel because it would have to approve any rezoning requests.

Tarbell suggested that the city place a restrictive covenant on the parking lot that would prohibit the county from building anything there for 25 years.


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