Taylor Mill Loosens Zoning to Make Way for UDF; 2 Roads May Be Re-Named
Thu, 02/16/2017 - 20:56 RCN Newsdesk
In a reversal of roles, new Taylor Mill City Commissioner Phil Peace found himself on the receiving end of public criticism from former Commissioner Roger Reis, as the issue of a proposed United Dairy Farmers development on land owned by Peace was revisited.
At its monthly meeting Wednesday night, the city commission adopted an ordinance relaxing some of its more stringent zoning regulations related to the Downtown Taylor Mill (DTM) area. Peace's property is located in what is known as DTM-2, and for years prevented the proposed UDF development from moving forward because of setback rules and prohibitions of gas stations, among other issues. In November, Peace was elected to the city commission and Reis, an opponent of the project, lost.
Peace abstained from Wednesday's vote but it had the support of Mayor Dan Bell and Commissioners Sarah Frietch, Mark Kreimborg, and Dan Murray. "I believe the past commission had the best interests of the city in mind when they put those regulations in place," Kreimborg said. "Now we are going to loosen the guidelines to allow less desirable businesses than the first class developments. But the people want the UDF. I want the UDF."
Taylor Mill crated the DTM zoning over a period of several years in an effort to create a sort of urban-style development in the suburban city. The rules call for a more pedestrian-friendly environment. The first building constructed in the area is known as the Trifecta Building, sits close to the road with parking behind it, and is named for the "trifecta" of Cincinnati iconic brands that opened there: Graeter's Ice Cream, LaRosa's Pizza, and Skyline Chili.
But United Dairy Farmers is also a beloved Cincinnati-area brand and now Taylor Mill is poised to have one of those, too.
Some of the support on the commission is more begrudging than enthusiastic, and seemingly mandated by November's election results that saw newcomers Peace and Frietch elected and Reis and Ed Kuehne voted out.
Continuing that theme, another commission challenger, Matthew Martin, who was unsuccessful in November, was appointed Wednesday to represent the city on the Kenton County Planning Commission, beating out Kuehne and two others.
The issue of development in Downtown Taylor Mill is still contentious. Kreimborg said that the UDF development would do little in terms of bringing revenue to the city. At one time, an attorney representing Peace said that the development would generate $80,000 a year for the city, but Kreimborg said that the BP gas station and convenience store - the only such business in this part of the city - only brings in roughly $11,500, and that number is reduced by police and fire protection.
"Am I in favor of the development? Yes I am," said Kreimborg, the former mayor who returned to city government after being elected to the city commission in November. "Is this going to bring in money? No, it's not."
There was a smattering of applause.
Former Commissioner Reis had come to the meeting in regards to another matter, he said, but spoke up on the UDF issue.
"I hesitated to get up and say something," Reis stated. "I didn't want it to seem like I was a disgruntled former commissioner."
Reis directly asked Phil Peace if he ever got the information together that the previous commission had asked for. Peace tried to answer with other information and Reis cut him off, saying that was not what he was asking for, and to answer the question. Peace said no, he did not get the information to the commission about his plan for the UDF. Reis asked if there was any reason why he never got the information to the commission. Peace said the plans never changed. Reis then rhetorically asked now that he had gotten on commission, what was he going to do?
Police chief Steve Knauf brought up a problem about retention in the police department in spite of recent increases in pay. Knauf said that the department currently employs three retired officers, which is financially beneficial because state law dictates that the city doesn't have to pay into the retirement system for them. But because of that, they are attractive candidates for other cities due to their experience and lack of retirement commitment. Knauf proposed that they give the retired officers a $5,000 raise and an extra week of vacation just to keep in the running to keep the officers. The money would still be a savings since it would cost more to put a new recruit through the police academy only to have him be hired away after three years, or the cost of hiring another officer and having to pay into the retirement system.
Mayor Bell was clearly torn on the idea. He asked for opinions from the commissioners. Most of them did not like the idea either, but the thought of being down three officers like the city was a year ago, was a concern. Peace said he thought it was ill-concealed extortion, and a Pandora's box, and he was not for giving raises mid-term. He felt that it was not a real solution, and within months Knauf would have the same problem again. Knauf said he would tell the officers that that was all the city could offer.
A vote was taken on the matter and by a count of 4 to 1, with Peace dissenting, the raises were approved. Bell asked Knauf to hire a new recruit to be sent to the academy in the fall.
Fire Chief John Stager asked the commission to promote Rodney McKibben from part-time to full-time because the department had lost a firefighter to another city. Commissioners approved the move.
Stager said that the department had recently lost two other part-time firemen who went to other cities and he agreed with Knauf about retention problems.
In other news, one of the city's Roberston Roads may be re-named. Resident Rose Meritt said that an ambulance recently responded to the wrong Robertson.
"It is ridiculous to have two Robertson roads," she stated. "Now it is a safety issue."
Roger Reis, who lives on the other Robertson Road, spoke up and said he and a lot of the others on his street had thought up some other names for the street if the road name can be changed. Mayor Bell said that Planning & Development Services had recommended name changes for two streets that have duplicate names: Robertson and Old Taylor Mill. In this case, Bell told Reis to work with the neighbors to narrow down the list of names to one or two, and to bring them to the commission so that it can change the name.
As for Old Taylor Mill Road, Bell instructed City Administrator Jill Bailey to send out surveys to all the businesses and homes on the duplicate roads as to what they thought should be done. Some of the apartment buildings will also have to be renumbered.
Auditor Stephanie Allgeyer from VonLehman and Associates, gave a report on the audit of the city, and pronounced the city in sound financial shape. There were a few concerns, like segregation of duties, but with a smaller city that is common. The city has taken some steps, such as having two separate signers for checks, and having a part-time accountant from another firm to look over the accounts for irregularities, and having no electronic signature for checks. Mayor Bell said that the city has no debt, which he is proud of. There is the issue of the underfunded retirement account for the state, and Allgeyer said that Taylor Mill's portion of that is at $4.7 million, up $1.1 million since last year, a fact that had all the commissioners shaking their heads.
Commissioners also approved the $4,000 a year for the Open Gov program which will allow the public instant access to how the city is spending money.
Bailey reported on the handicapped playground equipment, which Kevin Novesl, from Knuk n Futz, has offered to donate to the city, saying the city has the right equipment, and that the city will prepare the base. She also said that she found a merry-go-round, to replace the one that had been in the park, and that it only cost $3,799, with free shipping and wanted to know if the city wanted her to order that since it was a replacement. Commissioners approved the purchase.
Commissioner Sarah Frietch wants the packets of information for the meetings to be given to commissioners earlier, and with more financial reports, so the commissioners approved getting the packets on Thursday evening instead of Friday evenings.
A proclamation was read declaring 2017 as the 60th anniversary of Taylor Mill, and there will be a photography contest held to focus on the beauty of Taylor Mill, with three age groups. Also, the annual Easter egg hunt will be April 1 and the shred event will be April 22.
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor
Michael Monks contributed to this story
Photo: Proposed site of new UDF in Taylor Mill (RCN file)