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Planning Commission Rejects Massive Ludlow Development

The Kenton County Planning Commission rejected a massive development proposed for a Ludlow hillside by a vote of 14-1.

The city, however, which will have final say on whether it can proceed, appears to like it.

Grand Communities, an affiliated developer with Fischer Homes, is seeking a map amendment to the Ludlow zoning code to change a 65-acre parcel of land owned by the Cincinnati, New Orleans, and Texas Pacific Railroad Company from a rural single-family residential zone to a multi-family residential zone with planned unit development overlay. It is located south and west of Highway Avenue, west of River's Breeze condominium community, and east of the railroad in the city.

The plan is to construct 28 single-family homes, 306 attached condominium units, and 400 apartment units.

"This property sat undeveloped for many years. It's a great opportunity for the City of Ludlow," said Amanda Webb with Grand Communities. The developers also constructed the River's Breeze condo community nearby in Ludlow. "I think River's Breeze has been wonderful for the city. You are going to get high-quality home sites on this property and it will really help with Ludlow's downtown and with the citizens of this area. 

"We feel like this will strengthen the City of Ludlow. We also feel like we are addressing the comprehensive plan, providing diverse housing options."

But Planning & Development Services of Kenton County staff, as well as the planning commission, expressed concern about the hillside area in question.

According to the geotechnical report conducted on behalf of the developers there was the presence of Kope formation and eden soils. While the report indicated that the site is suitable for development, there has been an historic landslide there recorded by the Kentucky Geological Survey.

"The report does provide historic instability and possible future instability," PDS staff said, adding that significant change to the land could alter stability.

There was also concern about traffic flow since the proposed development, dubbed CityView Station, has only a single access point off Highway Avenue (KY 8) at an intersection offset with Montrose Street.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has indicated that it would permit a full access point if the existing Montrose Street is changed to one-way eastbound traffic and that on-street parking on Highway Avenue is removed. 

PDS staff said that the single-access point is not desirable for such a large development and is not consistent with the county's comprehensive plan related to mobility.

Planning commission member Joe Pannunzio estimated that the development would attract roughly 1,500 new cars to the area. 

"That's a lot of traffic," he said. "Coming in and out of one entrance and exit doesn't seem logical."

Regardless, the city administration appears to be supportive of the plan.

Police Chief and interim City Administrator Scott Smith participated in last week's virtual hearing.

"What Fischer is proposing really fits into what the city is looking to do, bring more people into the city, offer more houses to people who want to be able to get to Cincinnati," Smith said. "This will add to our population which help support our downtown area and businesses looking to survive in Ludlow. 

"We support this plan."

The planning commission is merely a recommending body. Ultimately, city council will decide whether to grant the map amendment sought by the developers.

Council may have to contend with concerned neighbors if the planning commission meeting is any indication.

Lori Davenport, who lives on the 100 block of Deverill Street, expressed concern about developing the city's greenspace, the stability of the hillside, and the expected traffic increase.

Jim Kiffmeyer, who lives in River's Breeze, also expressed concern about the hillside being compromised and the loss of greenspace. 

"I have my questions about that," he said. "I also think traffic is going to be a nightmare.

"There's just a whole host of things that seem like it's illogical to put that many units in this kind of space."

Melanie Gordon, who lives on the 200 block of Highway Avenue, said that traffic problems are already severe during rush hour, and also suggested that there are flooding concerns.

The developers anticipate that their project would mitigate water runoff from the hillside.

Resident Abigail Miller said that the project would bring "an absurd amount of people."

Planning commission member Keith Logsdon said that the development was like putting five pounds of flour in a one-pound bag.

Ludlow city council can take up the issue at its next meeting, if it chooses. That is scheduled for Thursday evening.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher