Thursday, April 16, 2009

River West Working Group latest to oppose Queensgate Terminals

With word that Queensgate Terminals is again in court-ordered negotitations to bring a multi-modal transportation facility to the former Hilltop Basic Resources property in Lower Price Hill, more groups are voicing publicly their opposition.

The latest communication is from River West Working Group co-chair Tom Croft to Cincinnati City Councilmember Roxanne Qualls, in which he states that a barge terminal would be incredibly intrusive to the nearby residential areas and could hinder recovery efforts in the surrounding neighborhoods.

"We are starting to see real progress in the redevelopment of the communities along the western riverfront," he says, citing as examples:

  • The development of MetroWest light industrial park on the former Queen City Barrel site
  • A large investment in Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati's Mill Creek facilities
  • CPS's $17 million renovation of Oyler School
  • Reconstruction of the Eighth Street Viaduct
  • The designation of the Incline District in East Price Hill
  • The Incline Square development
  • Continuing development on the Cincinnati Christian University campus
  • Potential retail on "The Yards" site in Sedamsville
  • Harbor Lights, a proposed condominium development in Sedamsville
When negotiations over the 30-acre site broke up nearly two years ago, City Council directed staff to investigate the use of the property as a public park or housing.

Since then, residents and stakeholders in Lower Price Hill, East Price Hill, West Price Hill, Sedamsville and Riverside have voiced their opposition to the project, which would offload bulk cargo onto rail and truck and would service an even larger logistics center in Jeffersonville, Ohio.

"It is clear that the proposed Queensgate operation will destroy a great deal of existing and potential taxable property value, and consign Lower Price Hill, East Price Hill, Sedamsville and Riverside to permanent blight," Croft says.

Big negative for entire West Side, city

"Lower Price Hill has one of the longest-established residential neighborhoods in Cincinnati," says Dr. Jack Degano, president of the Lower Price Hill Community Council, in his neighborhood's April newsletter. "No one has the right to tell us our homes and way of life must be sacrificed to a hazardous operation that would make our lives unbearable. Political arrogance has no place in our small but civilized, well-organized neighborhood."

Sedamsville Civic Association president Susan Feldman agrees that the people most affected by the City's decision are being bypassed.

"Our neighborhood feels strongly that the City should not be making land use decisions without the approval of those people most affected," she says in an April 3 letter to council panning the plan. "We also believe the City should not allow threats of lawsuits to motivate poor decision making. This will only invite more of these tactics used by special interests."

But to Croft, the barge terminal would damage more than the surrounding neighborhoods -- it would hurt the entire City.

"[This site] is located at key gateways to and from West Side neighborhoods," he says. "In accord with the Cincinnati Scenic View Study adopted by City Council last summer, it must be protected because of its position in the line of sight from Mt. Echo and the City."

Croft contends that the area must be kept available for the Ohio River Trail, one of 45 projects approved by the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) for federal economic stimulus funding.

"[The Trail] is projected by OKI to be extended westward along the Ohio River from downtown along the western Hamilton County riverfront," he says. "It provides an opportunity to link the City together with a system of greenways and bikeways that use our riverfront to maximum advantage."

How will Comprehensive Plan define western riverfront?

Croft believes that the City's western riverfront will be a significant part of the City's upcoming Comprehensive Plan, and that one only needs to see the eastern riverfront to see what's possible.

And he rejects the "working riverfront" label that's been given to the property.

"When looking at Riverside Drive, the $45 million Theodore Berry Park is witness that residential stability and growth is the key to the City's long-term viability," Croft says. "On the West Side, the former Hilltop site is strategic, not only to our neighborhoods, but to the whole City. Residential growth is the key to the City's long-term viability, and businesses that encourage that growth are what we need, not activity that will make people flee."

Degano agrees.

"The East End has come back to life," he says. "There is no factual argument against similar development happening on the west side of downtown that has an even better view of the Kentucky hills, and of the city skyline. Lower Price Hill is no more dangerously within the flood plain than are the new homes in the East End. Construction plans for the new Waldvogel Viaduct envision expanded greenspace for Lower Price Hill, and public access to the riverfront."

Degano refers to past reports from city manager Milton Dohoney Jr. in which he advocated rezoning the 30 acres to RF-C Riverfront Commercial and jumpstarting the negotiation process, arguing that development of the site for public or residential use wass problematic due to the upcoming Waldvogel Viaduct replacement, its multiple active rail lines, its propensity to flood, and its surrounding light and heavy industrial uses.

An updated report from Dohoney is due before council by April 29.

Previous reading on BC:
Professor calls newest Queensgate Terminals report 'flawed' (3/18/09)
River West Working Group: Queensgate Terminals report 'unacceptable' (4/7/08)
Dohoney reports on Queensgate site options (12/26/07)
No contact between City, Queensgate since June (12/19/07)
Bortz offers newest motion to stop Queensgate Terminals (8/9/07)