The City of Cincinnati in an attempt to correct shortcomings in their section 106 review process announced their "fix" in the April 23 Nuisance Hearing email sent out yesterday. That "fix" was the following:
"For comments or questions regarding Section 106 reviews, eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places, or other matters relating to historic conservation, please contact the Urban Conservator at Larry.Harris@cincinnati-OH.gov or 513-352-4848 within seven days of the publication of this notice."
Today in an email response to Paula Boggs Muething, Mike Cervay, Ed Cunningham and other key city and HUD officials Knox Hill Neighborhood Association raised its concerns that the fix was "inadequate".
In the email the Neighborhood Associations position was that:
"First of all Ms. Gatto's email distribution list does not include key leaders of neighborhoods nor does it include key members of CPA.Further it does not explain what a Section 106 review is , it merely "assumes" an individual will "know" what 106 review is. Nor does it indicate Mr. Harris is holding any "meetings' on historic information or how he will deal with that information. Do you for example notify the property owner about the 106 review process and that if a property is older than 50 years old it may be eligible for historic listing?"
The association further maintains that the Nuisance Board was little more than an administrative hearing in which the OWNER of a property was ordered to demo the property and the city would not know at that point which "pot of money" , Capital Improvement, CDBG or stimulus funds would be used. Section 106 review is required for the last two not capital but not the improvement funds.
In fact the neighborhood Association raised that issue as well:
" if one were to assume someone would bring information to Larry Cook the Urban Conservator , then Mr. Cunningham would merely determine to use local funding rather than federal funds to 'circumvent' the process."
The Knox Hill Neighborhood Associations "citizen complaint" with HUD (Housing and Urban Development) had been expanded to include an issue raise about accounting practices of the City after Ed Cunningham in an email to another Neighborhood leader of another neighborhood group, that was in wide distribution, stated that Stimulus funds were being used to demolish a house on Harrison that the group wanted put on hold. The area the funds were being used was not an approved area for stimulus funds to be allocated.
In fact the Neighborhood has requested an accounting of how Federal dollars were spent for demolition in 2008 and 2009 and maintains the city demolished Potentially historic homes without proper section 106 review. The city has not responded to that request and Associations members are considering filling a freedom of information request or a complaint to the State Attorney Generals Office to compel the city to provide that accounting.Knox Hill neighbors were outraged when a Geo Barber designed house at the intersection of Blain and fairmount was demolished and raised the question of the Section 106 review. No Review was held on this property.
In a March 23rd letter from Jorgelle R Lawson Director, Office of Community Planning and Development fro HUD, the association and Michael Cervey of the City of Cincinnati was advised that:
"This letter is written as to follow up to your citizens complaint, and to let you know that we are in receipt of your recent electronic mail correspondence questioning additional activities relative to the Section 106 Review Process. Our office has made the determination to attach this new complaint to the original complaint as they relate to similar questions, which are being asked about city processes."
HUD could decide to conduct their own audit of how the city used Federal funds as well if they choose to.
Knox Hill has raised the issue about the "governmental conflict of interest" issue that exists with a Nuisance Board made up of Supervisors of the inspectors bringing the complaints and is contacting other neighborhood groups to lobby Roxanne Qualls and the city council to change the Municipal code to change the board makeup to an appointed Board by the council of people with architectural engineering and community development backgrounds rather than it's current makeup. The city has no formal "Housing Court' to deal with these issues.
At this point the Knox Hill Neighborhood Associations position about the change is:
" Giving local preservationists a "7 day window" to act is not adequate NOR does the way you inform the public, concerned neighbors, community leaders of CPA adequate about the Nuisance Hearing"
HUD will no doubt continue to review the issue as part the citizen complaint filed by Knox Hill.
Interested parties or community groups who would like to be on email list for the Nuisance Board Hearings should contact Sally Gatto at Sally.Gatto@cincinnati-oh.gov and "formally request' to be put on the list and please let me know if you receive a refusal response.
Knox Hill has been nominated to the State of Ohio's Most Endangered list. In the nomination the threats of demolitions by the City are cited as a primary reason for the the threat. Knox Hill is currently collecting data for a State and Federal National Historic Registry Nomination for the neighborhood and is concerned that with 41 properties on the VBML/Condem/demo list that the historic fabric of the neighborhood will be destroyed before its registry nomination can be submitted.