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Church Grotto, Future Plans for Parish's New Home Discussed in Park Hills

Issues surrounding a new church community dominated discussion at this week's Park Hills City Council meeting. 
Our Lady of Lourdes Church - part of the Diocese of Covington, and billed as offering traditional Latin mass - is now operating at 1101 Amsterdam Road in a facility owned by Missionaries of St. John the Baptist, Inc., which counts city councilwoman Pam Spoor among its directors. It was purchased in 2015 for $400,000 from former mayor Don Catchen, according to Kenton County property records. For more than 30 years prior, it was owned by Faith Christian Center, Inc., before Catchen bought it and sold it to Missionaries less than two weeks later, according to county property records.
At issue on Monday night were a proposed grotto to be located behind the church and whether the a text amendment to the zoning code was needed for any changes to the church property.
At the city council caucus meeting earlier this month, people spoke for and against the proposed grotto, with some concerned about parking and others supportive because of visitors that could be attracted to the city. Resident Greg Johnson said it reminded him of the grotto at Notre Dame, and 40 feet by 20 feet wasn't really that big, he said. He also told the other residents that he had a grotto in his backyard and that they could come visit. Others liked the idea of a grotto, but had concerns about the size. One resident lives at the top of the stairs currently on the property, and he asked what was to be done about the stairs. He didn't like the idea of people parking on his street because there wasn't enough parking down below. The resident also expressed concern that since he lives with his husband, he could see more intolerance exhibited in his neighborhood.
Spoor recused herself and sat in the audience during the discussion Monday night, because a resident at the caucus meeting had suggested that it was a conflict of interest for her. 
As to the zoning issue, the church building meets the code because it was grandfathered in, but if any changes were to be made, the church may not be a conforming use on a collector street. 
Meanwhile, City Attorney Todd McMurtry said that he would research a law that aims to prevent churches from being zoned out of existence and would have an answer for the community if that law applies here.
Mayor Matt Mattone said that if the city were to make an application for a text amendment to the Kenton County Planning Commission, there would be a public hearing with a recommendation from Planning & Development Services.
The city would then either take the recommendation or not .  
Some residents wanted to know whether they would have any say in the matter and Mattone assured them that it would come back to the city, and they would be allowed to speak about it. He also suggested that there could be a special meeting about the issue and to keep an eye on the city's website for possible dates.
Other notes:
City council approved the first step towards hiring a city administrator, reading an ordinance for the first time. The position has not yet been defined as full-time or part-time, but Mayor Mattone said that the personnel committee would decide on a job description based on one from the Northern Kentucky Area Development District (NKADD), and they would also discuss the full-time versus part-time issue with the full council. 
"The ordinance just allows for the position to be created," said Mattone. "I think a part-time position is all we need, but council decides, and we will discuss it at the caucus meeting on March 27."
Council also listened to the first reading of an ordinance that would establish an engineer review fee that would help the city recoup some of the fees that it was currently paying the engineer. Details on this ordinance have not been set, such as the amount of the fee, but that will also be discussed at the caucus meeting.
A municipal order passed that allows the mayor to apply for a text amendment to the Highway Commercial zone. This is to allow conditional uses for the zone that would include home improvement, design sales, service, and installation for the property at 1450 Dixie Highway which is the site that Kenton County Commissioner Joe Nienaber wants to buy for his business, Granite World.
Some council members and Mayor Mattone met with PDS about the text amendment, but descriptions weren't all included in the municipal order, so at the meeting attorney McMurtry suggested attaching the description given at the PDS meeting about the conditional uses, and the accessory use of light industrial and outdoor display and screening of the property. Council voted first to accept attaching the description and second to authorize the mayor to apply for the text amendment.
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor (Michael Monks, editor & publisher, contributed to this story)