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Op-Ed: As Mayor, Heather Jansen Wants to Give Voice Back to Villa Hills

The following op-ed is written by Heather Jansen, candidate for mayor in Villa Hills.

Villa Hills has an opportunity to keep the same government this fall. Or Villa Hills can choose a government that will do the one thing that the current government failed to do this past year: vote for an administration that will listen to its people.

In his recent River City News article, Mr. Callery indicated that there is misinformation about the Sanctuary Village development. I will go one further and say that the information supplied by the current Mayor and Council is incomplete and does not provide the full picture to the residents of Villa Hills so that they may make an informed decision on November 6th.

Mr. Callery cited the small area study that set the guidelines for the new Sanctuary development. What he failed to mention was that the study included in a second-to-last paragraph in its overall recommendation the discussion of an apartment building. It chose instead to focus on single-family residences as its primary recommendation. Apartment units was not a key-feature in the discussion but more of an incidental suggestion.

Mr. Callery further described the plan for Sanctuary to include “some apartments”. What he failed to mention was the actual number of proposed apartments (187 units in the 4-story unit plus 15 units on the 3rd floor of a separate 3-story commercial building). This is what is creating the fervor in the community. The fact that Mr. Callery chose to exclude the true number of units only supports the belief that the current administration is glossing over the impact of the proposed development. It should be up to the residents to determine whether 202 apartment units are significant or simply “some”. To put it in perspective, the Sanctuary development plans for 200 single family homes. The fact that the total number of apartments exceeds the total number of homes should at least warrant its own number in Mr. Callery’s article rather than a lump “some”.

He also indicates a “small group” of neighbors have sued to stop the sale of the Benedictine Sisters’ land. He is incorrect on two accounts: it is not a small group and they are not suing to stop the sale of the land. DefendVH chose to sue on behalf of the residents because it believed that the legal process was not followed by the City Council. Council refused to accept a petition signed by over 2,000 people who were against the construction of the 4-story unit on the Sanctuary property. More people signed the petition than voted for Mr. Callery in the last election. That is not a “small group”.

Further no one would dispute that the Benedictine sisters have the right to sell their land. They do not, however, have the right to determine the use of that property. Currently the property is zoned institutional. A majority of the City Council voted in favor of changing the zoning to allow the multi-story structure to be built (Councilmen Ringo and Bruns voted against).

Mr. Callery also mentions the TIF (tax increment financing) that was approved by the City Council to pay for the road improvements they feel are necessary to facilitate the development. Historically, a TIF has been used to encourage development in an area that the local government considered blighted. The TIF would help defray costs incurred to help make an area more attractive to a potential developer. I would argue that Sanctuary is not blighted given the fact that at least 3 developers were bidding on the property from the beginning. Further, the Mayor fails to mention that most of the repairs would be made to a state-owned road to the tune of at least $1.35million. While the City has sought state grants to help pay for the improvements to Amsterdam Road, a majority of the money would be paid out of the property taxes collected from residents of the Sanctuary development for a period up to 30 years. Mr. Callery is correct that the property tax collected will not go to the developer. However, he fails to mention that 70% of the future residents’ property taxes will repay the TIF, leaving the current Villa Hills residents to cover the shortfall of the property taxes that were redirected from the general fund. There may not be a direct impact of the TIF to the current residents, but there is an indirect impact to them through lost revenue to the general fund since only 30% of Sanctuary property taxes could be used by the City for general spending. In essence, in this case the TIF was approved by Council to cover the costs to a state-owned road so that the developer could realize a profit and ensure that the Benedictine Sisters receive the asking price on their Sanctuary property which is significantly higher than that offered by the other developers who would build only single family homes.

I believe a change is needed in the form of a new government in Villa Hills. It’s time to vote out the current administration that is content to provide only a piece of the truth to the residents in order to push forward its own agenda. Villa Hills needs a Mayor and City Council that will bring back the voice of its residents. I would greatly appreciate your support on November 6th in order to help make that happen. Thank you.

-Heather Jansen