Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Walker Street retaining wall closer to Council vote

Last week, all but two residents of the properties between 1815 and 1847 Walker Street in Mount Auburn took part in a public hearing in an attempt to convince the City that building a retaining wall along their street would save the hillside and preserve home values.

The retaining wall would correct problems resulting from a 2005 landslide caused by a burst water main at two vacant properties owned by Michael Kelley at 1843 and 1845 Walker Street that damaged decks and sewer lines at seven properties.

Since 2005, the landslide problem has spread to encompass more properties, and City building inspectors issued orders against each property owner to repair the damage and stabilize their portion of the hillside.

But in consulting with geotechnical engineers, the residents have been told that, to fix the landslide problems, any retaining wall would have to be done as one project.

Due to property damage and the high cost of repairs, two owners have had their properties go into foreclosure, and the properties at 1835, 1837, 1839 and 1847 Walker Street recently were appraised at $0.

Public hearing

The residents of Walker Street have been working closely with staffers from the offices of Councilmembers Chris Bortz and Roxanne Qualls.

Prior to the meeting, residents were advised by City staff to frame their arguments as a quality of life issue that could have an effect on the City's ability to attract and retain residents.

"The City is trying to attract new residents, people want to live on Walker Street, the problem of the landslide is keeping that from happening," one staffer advised by e-mail. "The City is trying to promote new development, there has been new development in the area and there has been interest in more development in the area, but this is stopping that from happening. This is causing major problems to the City sewer lines, etc."

At the hearing, the City had representatives from the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, city solicitor John Curp, Richard Pohana from the Department of Transportation and Engineering, and Department of Community Development director Michael Cervay.

The committee asked several City departments to assemble more information on the matter, and asked the Law Department to begin drafting legislation to be considered by the committee within the next couple of weeks.

City council will make the ultimate determination if the retaining wall is a public purpose worthy of City funds.

'Walker Street will be saved'

Residents have tried to collect on a judgement resulting from a three-and-a-half year legal battle against Michael Kelley in which they were awarded $318,000, but the defendant has no ability to pay the judgement and no insurance on the buildings he owned.

City estimates for the wall are around $600,000, or about $2,000 per linear foot.

One Walker Street resident says that, although his $54,000 assessment would be steep, it's not so bad if it's spread over 30 years -- and makes his street viable again.

"All in all, we left the meeting feeling like Walker Street will be saved," he says.

Photo credit: Bryan Sherman, courtesy of Flickr.

Previous reading on BC:
Resident: 'Please help us save Walker Street' (2/24/09)