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Bellevue Weighs Human Rights Ordinance, Marianne Theater's Future

The City of Bellevue is poised to be the next city in Northern Kentucky to adopt a human rights ordinance, commonly referred to as a fairness ordinance, which extends legal protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. 

The ordinance received a first reading at Wednesday night's city council meeting.

Action could be taken at the next council meeting in November.

No member of council made comment on the ordinance immediately after the reading.

Versailles, in Woodford County, became the fourteenth city in Kentucky to adopt such legislation earlier this month.

Dayton, Bellevue's neighbor to the east, adopted a fairness ordinance in August. Covington is the only other Northern Kentucky city to have such a law in place, adopted in 2003. Highland Heights and Fort Thomas are reportedly considering similar ordinances. Park Hill did not bring a proposed ordinance to a vote in 2018.

In other business, the subject of the redevelopment of the Marianne Theater returned.

Last month, Bellevue-based Brandicorp was the only respondent to a request for proposals (RFP) for the city-owned Art Deco movie theater on Fairfield Avenue. Its plan called for turning the building in condo units, an idea widely panned on social media by Bellevue residents, but embraced by Mayor Charlie Cleves.

Brandicorp ultimately withdrew its proposal.

Cleves said Wednesday that more prospective developers talked to him this week about the theater, which the city purchased in 2014 in order to control the landmark's future. Since then, the city has been saddled with maintenance costs on the Marianne, which has been vacant since the turn of the millennium. Cleves said this week's visitors were interested in developing a wedding hall at the site.

"And the problem is parking," Cleves said. "If you're telling me you're gonna bring 350 people to that thing, you're gonna need 125 parking spaces and there is nowhere to find 125 parking spaces in Bellevue. We are not going to wipe out all the parking on Fairfield Avenue for one business."

The mayor said the city, its staff, and others would continue to talk about it and "in a couple months, hopefully there's something we can do with it. For now, there's nothing solid."

Councilman Steve Guidugli suggested establishing some sort of deadline for when the city could alter its approach to the theater's redevelopment. 

"Can we set a reasonable timeline to get a for-profit entity in there - and if we don't, let's look at option B, which is going to be a nonprofit option?," Guidugli said. "Other than a couple things, the parking makes it so restrictive that it's not feasible and the amount of money the building needs, it makes it really difficult."

"I think it has to be a for-profit business," Cleves responded. The mayor estimated that a condo project would have increased the value of the property to around $2.4 million, generating $9,100 annually for the city in property taxes. "We only have so many hard assets left. There are few opportunities, and I am not going to make it nonprofit. The only thing we have left is to raise everybody's taxes. We have to take these opportunities we have left and make something to help the City of Bellevue and enhance everybody living here."

"It doesn't seem viable for any business," Councilman Pat Hogan said.

"Condos is viable," Cleves said.

"Every constituent I talked to was very anti-condo," Hogan said.

Cleves said the council would regroup and talk about it because he wants to issue RFPs for other city-owned properties. "We thought we could get the Marianne done by now, but obviously not," he said.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: The Marianne Theater in Bellevue (RCN file)