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At Another Raucous Meeting, Villa Hills Approves Development Agreement

Mayor Butch Callery's gavel got a workout on Thursday night as he repeatedly attempted to calm a disruptive crowd during a special meeting of the Villa Hills city council.

Like other recent city meetings related to the forthcoming redevelopment of the St. Walberg Monastery site, council met at River Ridge Elementary where residents packed the cafeteria.

Over the continuous vocal objections from many in the crowd, city council gave its approval to a development agreement with Ashley Development. It also voted to contract with attorney Jim Parsons to create a tax increment finance district (TIF).

Edgewood-based Ashley Development is to buy the land from the Benedictine Sisters who live there and hope to use the new windfall to fund their retirement. Over the course of multiple phases, Ashley will build dozens of single-family homes, a 4-story apartment building with 187 units and a parking lot, and commercial spaces.

When the project was announced, some residents banded together to oppose it, forming a group called Defend Villa Hills. They oppose the scale of the apartment building and have expressed concern about increased traffic in the surrounding area, one that is already struggling with the volume of cars.

But, proponents of the project, including Callery and other members of city council, have argued that the city spend many months hosting public meetings and creating a small area study that were designed to create a vision for the nuns' property. The Ashley project fits those parameters, they argued.

The Kenton County Planning Commission - which had to move its monthly meeting to accommodate the large crowd - gave its blessing to the necessary zone change, and city council, in a previous meeting held at River Ridge, followed suit.

On Thursday night, another oversized crowd showed up to voice their displeasure with the project and to object to the plans for the possible use of city funds to improve traffic flow. The main road is a state road. City administrator Craig Bohman noted that the creation of a TIF, as approved Thursday, would open up the opportunity to use revenue created by the new project to offset some of the costs of the road project, which includes a roundabout at Amsterdam and Collins Roads.

Bohman said that the state would likely be more engaged and prepared to offer assistance if there was evidence that the city was financially invested, too.

He also noted that the roundabout is not required in the development plan until the second phase of the project is underway, which gives more time to prepare for that infrastructure project.

Some in the crowd wanted answers on how much money could be expected from the TIF as contributed by the city, county, and Planning & Development Services, and asked that the meeting be postponed until a thorough presentation of the financing could be offered.

Council members George Bruns and Scott Ringo supported that but a motion to table the vote was defeated.

That was good news for Ashley Development's Bill Kreutzjans who spoke about the need to move forward so that the property could close and other issues could be worked out.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher