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City Reaches Agreement with Developer of Controversial Subdivision

An agreement has been reached between the City of Park Hills and the developer of 25 single family homes coming to a nearly 13-acre area near Audubon Road.
City Attorney Todd McMurtry and special attorney Christopher Markus announced the agreement with developer James Berling at a meeting this week. Residents near the forthcoming project have strongly objected, and members of city council have also expressed frustration with the plan even though it is agreeable to the city's zoning regulations.
Markus was hired to find any loopholes in the code that could have stopped or slowed Berling. He filed an appeal and complaint against Berling, challenging the approval of the preliminary development plan at the Kenton County Planning Commission, per city council's request.
"(Berling) is not entitled to receive permission to proceed until the geotechnical issues are resolved," said Markus. "I will hold the lawsuit in abeyance for two weeks. (Council member) Pam Spoor and (city engineer) Jay Bayer will be coming up with a landscaping plan for the entrance to the subdivision, which Berling will donate and put in at his cost. The city will maintain the landscaping."
One of the most notable accessions in the settlement Memorandum of Understanding is the fact that Berling has agreed to donate six acres of the nearly 13 to the city's designated conservation recipient, which should be a full growth forest conservation trust.
Other stipulations are that Berling pay $20,000 toward the resurfacing of Audubon Road upon the completion of the construction. One of the other conditions is that all construction traffic stay off Lawton Road and travel only on Audubon.
The city will put three stop signs at the intersection of Audubon Road and Wald Court, which is the entrance to Audubon Forest, the new subdivision.
The city will permit the burning of cut timber for five consecutive days of consistent burn, with personnel on site, and a burn blower to intensify the burn. Berling has to notify the city 72 hours before beginning the burn.
The project will feature a detention pond that will be wet or dry, at the city's discretion. If it is dry, SD-1 will maintain it, and that is what the city is leaning towards.
The project is to be exempted from the proposed tree ordinance which had its first reading October 10.
Berling is to provide the city with 48 hours notice of Wald Court street paving, and will cooperate with the police department for safety on Audubon Road.
The city approved the plans for the project subject to the approval of the Kenton County Planning Commission and Sanitation District 1.
Aaron Schwarber, who lives on Audubon, was concerned about the open burn, since his two children are asthmatic. Councilwoman Spoor said the timber is valuable and much of it will be carried out of the site, instead of being burned, but the city has to be notified before he begins the burn. 
Jim Jenkins asked if the resurfacing includes all of Audubon, and was assured that it does.
Julie Ochs wanted to know if there were plans to widen Audubon, which would take the canopy of trees away, and she was told, no, the street would be the normal width.
Other notes:
Student Aileen Schwarber came to ask council if it would put some brighter lights on St. Joseph Lane since she would ride the bus and then try to walk home without being hit by traffic. She said the street desperately needs sidewalks, and that she saw a man hit by a car in the same area. Spoor agreed with her that the traffic was way too fast, and the road was downright dangerous. Mayor Matt Mattone said that he has spoken with TANK in respect to obtaining sidewalk grants, but they were difficult to get.
Greg Johnson asked about a petition he had submitted to council to divide up the trolley line among the property owners that directly abut it. He said he was concerned because nothing had been done. Attorney McMurtry said that he recommended hiring attorney Jeff Arnzen because he is more versed in the issue than McMurtry. He acknowledged that there were precedents, at least in Bellevue, and Ft. Mitchell, but he wanted advice for council from a professional in the field. Spoor said the city could put the land in a conservation trust, but Councilman Mark Cooper said that that was not a foolproof idea. Councilman Monty O'Hara did not like the idea, either.
"I think this is selfish," he said to Johnson. "This is not a land grab."
Cooper said if they give the land to the property owners, it takes the option out of making it a transportation corridor.
"I don't want to see it be a Loveland," he said. "We would fight it for years."
McMurtry said that if council hires the attorney he can look at the situation and have information for them at the next meeting. 
Phillip Ryan said the city has been the custodian of the property for years, and he pointed out that the property was a valuable asset to the city, as well as historical. He told council that the property owner that had the most frontage is James Berling, and it didn't make sense to give more property to him when they were currently fighting him.
Johnson refuted that the city has been custodians of the property and said the citizens have been taking care of it. He also said that the people opposed to dividing the property happened to be proponents of the proposed bike trail, a contentious subject in the city.
"Not true!" said O'Hara loudly.
Jason Reser spoke up to say the city had a lot of other things to deal with, but said if the property is deeded over children can't play there anymore.
Council voted to hire Arnzen and have him look at the situation.
Kathleen Plake supported the student in her bid to try and get sidewalks and better lighting on St Joseph. But the reason she came was to see if there was some sort of transitional housing for drug users in the apartments on Far Hills Drive, specifically numbers 1208 and 1212. McMurtry said he looked into the issue, and yes, the two apartment buildings are designated as some form of transitional housing, by New Foundations. He said although police track all calls, they are under no special scrutiny by the city, and if they did give the buildings special attention the city could be sued under the Fair Housing Act.
Council passed several ordinances: second readings included one to update the city's personnel policies,  one to erect a barrier on Old State Road and designate it as a one way road with traffic flow only permitted in a westerly direction, and one to amend the 2016-2017 budget to include money saved in special funds for a digital sign and a police cruiser. First readings of ordinances included one to amend the budget to include an increase of  approximately $20,000 for legal fees, and one to change council meetings to taking place at Notre Dame Academy beginning in January.
A first reading of an ordinance dealing with the sale of alcohol was held, but McMurtry read two versions of the ordinance, one that changes the date for renewal of liquor licenses from April 30 to no more than a year after January 1. The second version includes the information in the first version, and also allows those businesses who can sell liquor on Sundays to be able to sell starting at 6 a.m. rather than 1 p.m. Council will reflect on the two versions and decide on one for the second reading in December.
Another ordinance received a first reading which will specify that council will now have monthly caucus meetings instead of quarterly caucus meetings. These will begin in January and will be scheduled for the fourth Monday of the month. Spoor recommended that these be televised also. The new schedule for caucus meetings, sponsored by councilman Monty O'Hara, and supported by the mayor, was changed so that regular business can be conducted at the council meetings, and everything else, including citizen comments, can be at the caucus meetings. This will ease the strain of having the regular council meetings go on for so long.
A Kentucky native yellow wood tree was planted in memory of Skip Fangman, who spent so many years in service to Park Hills.
Police Chief Cody Stanley said that if people want to sign up to receive Reach alerts, they can call the police department to sign up.
James Seibert took the oath to become a full time police officer in the city.
Finally, Mayor Mattone made the announcement that Open Gov will go live on or before December 1.
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor