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Christ Site Gets Green Light in Ft. Mitchell; Remke Site Talks Ongoing

Two different parts of Ft. Mitchell are at varying stages of major developments, but each was received differently at this week's city council meeting.

Zoning changes to accommodate the development by Bellevue-based Brandicorp for Christ Hospital at the former Drawbridge Inn site was unanimously approved by council. The vote on Monday followed an earlier favorable recommendation from the Kenton County Planning Commission.

The changes to the zoning code will now allow the City of Fort Mitchell administrator Sharmili Reddy to have the authority to make a final recommendation on a stage-two development plan for the site when that time comes. The project also received approval for an emergency room as a permitted use, as well as a reduction for parking requirements.

Brandicorp had also sought to remove a requirement that residential housing could only be permitted above commercial spaces, leaving open the option of single-family housing. Planning & Development Services of Kenton County staff recommended against that change and the county planning commission followed suit, and the issue was ultimately solidified by city council on Monday.

There was discussion on Monday about the location of the emergency room, which would accommodate ambulances.

Mayor Jude Hehman expressed concern about the possibility that the location could change as the development evolves.

Reddy explained that council will still have a final say over the next stage of the development plan, offering a protection.

"We are working with (city) staff very closely on the placement of the emergency department," said Mike Doty, Brandicorp director of construction.

Doty also said that his team is exploring the possibility of including a roundabout at the main intersection off Royal Drive at the site. "All of that is in the works as we speak," he said. 

Engineering firm Bayer Becker is working on a traffic impact study that should be completed within six weeks, Doty said.

The project could see early construction work begin "very soon", he said.

Christ Hospital ultimately hopes to construct a surgery center at the site, too, but that issue remains in the legal system after St. Elizabeth Healthcare objected to Christ's certificate of need application.

Meanwhile, another development in the city already underway saw a decidedly more mixed reception.

There was no vote scheduled yet on proposed changes to zoning related to the redevelopment of the former Remke Market site at the intersection of Dixie Highway and Orphanage Road. 

The changes include that microbreweries would be added as a permitted use (restaurants and bars are already permitted); outdoor music, which is currently prohibited there, could be allowed during designated times; and regulations related to outdoor dining could also be amended for the development. 

The redevelopment of the site is a joint venture by Bill Remke and 360 Property Partners. 

"We have deliberately taken the approach not to tear down the building but to redevelop the building," said David Birdsall, president of 360 Property Partners. He did not identify any prospective tenants, though the allowance for microbreweries and outdoor dining give an indication of the type of businesses desired for the site.

Some in the audience expressed concern about the live music component. Birdsall tried to alleviate those concerns.

"We're not going to have Motley Crue there. It's a one-man with a guitar or acoustic (performance)," Birdsall said. Some council members suggested that during weekdays, there could be a restriction on the latest hour for live music, such as 9 p.m. instead of the officially proposed 10 p.m. Birdsall objected. "We would not want to restrict it any further. We do think 10 o'clock on the weekdays is (acceptable)."

The possibility of using the former Remke loading dock as a performance space for live musicians also was met with reservations by nearby residents. The site would be rezoned to allow live music citing that it does not abut residential property.

"There are apartments right across the parking lot. I guess they don't consider those to be residential because they are multi-family," said resident Bob Kaiser. "I'm concerned about my home on Virginia (Avenue). I hope that you do this prudently and don't rush into this."

"I'm really upset that city is even considering the idea of nighttime sound amplification," said Glenn Rice, who lives on Princeton Avenue. "I'm concerned it will affect my children's ability to do homework at night, or their ability to sleep at night. We really enjoy our family time in the evenings, our family dinners, and with the windows open in front of our house (we will hear) someone singing or drumming."

Rice's son, Glenn Rice III, also addressed council and suggested that performances should use speakers that limit the reach of the sound. "It would alleviate a lot of concern," Rice III said.

"My concern with music is not so much music itself," said resident Ed Jordan. "If it were contained in the building and not exposed to the outdoors, I wouldn't have a problem with it, especially if we're talking acoustic music. My concern is more around if it's outdoors, and it projects, it travels."

One other part of the proposal that garnered concern was the reduction of parking spaces needed to allow for more outdoor dining.

Robert Brink, of Sunnymede Drive, noted that many businesses along Dixie Highway restrict their parking areas to their own customers, and questioned whether the old Remke parking lot has enough spaces.

"I'm not opposed to increasing the number of outdoor dining space, but do they have enough parking?," Brink asked. "Apparently, the businesses themselves don't think there's enough parking there."

Any changes to the proposal could be presented when council takes up the issue for a vote at its next meeting. Mayor Hehman explained that because these zone changes involve the addition of these items to the site as "conditional use", that the developer would still have to face the board of adjustment before proceeding.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher