Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lower Price Hill facing another fight?

Residents of Lower Price Hill again are engaged in a battle to stop unwanted land uses in their neighborhood, this time a group home for troubled boys coming from the foster care and court systems.

Lower Price Hill Community Council (LPHCC) adopted a motion at its Monday night meeting directing LPHCC President Dr. Jack Degano to draft a letter to the Lower Price Hill Community School board president voicing the neighborhood's concerns about the school's proposal to open the home in a three-story building on the west side of its St. Michael the Archangel Church campus at 2104 St. Michael Street.

The neighborhood first learned about the proposal in a March 22 letter to Degano from the Community School asking Degano not to oppose the plan.

"It is for the people of LPH, not I, to decide if they want the group home," Degano says.

Residents in the dark

Over the last two weeks, residents have been in the dark about who would be admitted to the group home and who would administer it.

LPHCC had hoped that representatives from the Community School would attend Monday's meeting to answer residents' questions and quell community concerns.

But despite a formal invitation, nobody from the Community School was in attendance. Degano says that the refusal of a board composed of mostly non-residents to face its neighbors is breeding mistrust.

"There was a clear disappointment that nobody from the Community School or its board came to answer their concerns," he says. "Strong opposition for the troubled boys home was voiced by several attendees, noticing that the plan was in line with a general unresponsiveness on the part of the Community School leadership."

Georgine Getty, executive director of complex co-owner Interfaith Hospitality Network, did attend.

"She claimed that the deal was sort of new to her and that she could see why the neighborhood was concerned," Degano says.

Possibly the strongest opposition came from Oyler School Principal Craig Hockenberry, who saw the plan as an imposition on a neighborhood already facing its own problems.

"No concern seems to be harbored by that board about its effect on the neighborhood and on Oyler school itself," Degano says. "The unspecified types of 'court cases' of these boys make one wonder the level of delinquency they might carry with them to our neighborhood."

Meetings never happened

Degano says that the Community School's director was invited to come to the LPHCC offices to discuss the proposal on March 25, but that she canceled the day before the meeting.

"The director responded that her board of directors does not want her to talk to us on the issue," Degano says.

Instead, she invited Degano and LPHCC Treasurer Jim Gooding to a private meeting. No one else from the neighborhood was invited.

"Jim Gooding and I do not play private command performances," Degano says. "Community council is the venue for discussing neighborhood concerns."

Will not be a 'dumping ground'

Degano says that there has been a good working relationship between the Community School and the neighborhood since the school first opened in 1971. But even good neighbors do not get a free pass.

"Lower Price Hill is not a dumping ground for the profit of others, or to enable others who do not live or work here, to shove off problems," Degano says.

Degano says that there is great power in the community council, and in the neighborhood's residents and business people. After all, they got Queen City Barrel Company shut down, stopped a jail and a used asbestos warehouse from being built on State Avenue, stopped "rampant corruption" in a neighborhood agency, and helped kill an ill-fated plan to construct five ten-story buildings at Eighth Street and State Avenue that Degano says would have "warehoused" poor people.

"We the people of Lower Price Hill did all that," he says. "We are volunteers who pool talents and solve problems. We do it with very little money. Money is not a factor. This is our neighborhood. We all choose to live here. When a questionable situation arises, we talk it through, agree on a plan of action, and get to work."