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In Bellevue: New Identity Planned for Fairfield Ave, Zoning Position May Be Enhanced

With a full agenda, Bellevue’s newly elected city council convened for the first time Wednesday night, beginning with a ceremonial swearing in by Campbell County Judge Greg Popovich. The official swearing in ceremony occurred just before the turn of the new year.
Just after calling the meeting to order, Mayor Ed Riehl welcomed new and returning council members to the bench, then moved on to procedural matters typical of a new
council’s first meeting.
While most surrounding cities’ mayors would take this opportunity to appoint council members to certain committees, Bellevue’s Council has traditionally considered all agenda items and initiatives without any sort of committee oversight or review process.
On Wednesday, though, Riehl took the opportunity to announce the city will be returning to the committee format of representation. What makes Bellevue’s approach still a bit different from its neighbors is that they want citizen representation on each committee.
“Let’s take advantage of the people out there, and get them more involved,” City Administrator Keith Spoelker told The River City News in a post ­ meeting interview.
But Councilman Matt Olliges expressed surprise at the announcement. “Have I been asleep?,” he asked. “I didn’t know this was something we were thinking of doing. In an effort for transparency, it would have been nice to know earlier. But I will look forward to its application."
Riehl said he had communicated this to Council before Wednesday’s meeting, and explained that the logistics are still being worked out. “We’re going to feel our way through it, but in the long run we’ll get the most mileage out of it."
When asked how this might add more red ­tape to Council’s decision -making abilities, Spoelker said, “It’s my job to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Residents interested in applying for committee appointments can find the application on the city’s website. Riehl expects to roll out the committee format at council’s next meeting, scheduled for Feb. 18.
Other items of note from Wednesday’s meeting were:
  • ­ February’s City Council meeting, originally scheduled for Feb. 11, has been rescheduled to Feb. 18. A number of city council members will be attending the Kentucky League of Cities (KLC) City Night event in Frankfort, which is scheduled for the 11th. “It’s important we attend and have a conversation with our legislators in Frankfort,” Riehl said.
  • ­ Councilman Steve Guidugli updated Council on updates from the KLC to vacant property codes, and asked Council direct city staff to review the updates and amend Bellevue’s code of ordinances accordingly. Among other measures, the new recommendations would allow for tax penalties, in addition to liens the city already collects, on abandoned and deteriorating properties.

     Councilman Ryan Salzman chimed in, “My only apprehension is that (the ordinances) are not too cookie cutter, and are drafted for our specific community.”

     Olliges also added, “Let’s look at the fastest way to turn these properties into contributing properties."

  • Spoelker informed Council that staff are currently conducting interviews to replace former zoning administrator Jon Yung, who recently took an assistant city manager position in Yellow Springs, Ohio, saying they hope to have an offer made to Yung’s replacement by the end of the month. Olliges warned against rushing into anything, and proposed that the City consider altering the zoning administrator role into something akin to a community development position, which would include duties beyond planning and zoning.
     “There may be potential to accommodate that,” Spoelker said, “but I need a team member to keep moving stuff along."
  • ­Assistant City Administrator Jody Robinson updated Council on the Catalytic Fund’s proposal to steer the Marianne Theater development project. After some discussion, at the suggestion of Councilman Olliges, Council voted to bypass committee consideration and, pending Spoelker’s confirmation that such an action is legal, approve the Catalytic Fund’s proposal. The Catalytic Fund would charge the city $10,000 for its services.
  • ­Robinson also announced that Covington-­based design agency BLDG will be working with the city to re­brand the Fairfield Ave. corridor business district. “(The rebrand) will help bring the whole city together,” Robinson said, “and embrace it and move to the next level.” Councilman Poynter wondered if this would change the identity of the city, to which Robinson replied, “We’re still a Kentucky Main Street community. We’re still Fairfield Ave.” The rebrand will be funded by money from the Kentucky Renaissance Program.
  • ­Bellevue Police Chief Wayne Turner reported to Council that Bellevue saw zero heroin overdoses during the month of December, despite recent statistics showing a dramatic increase in OD deaths across the region toward the end of 2014.
  • The next Bellevue City Council meeting will take place Feb. 18 at the Callahan Community Center.

Story & photo by Pat LaFleur, RCN contrinutor