Wednesday, May 25, 2011

MSD LAND GRAB PT 2: MSD and inspections " appear" to conspire to drive down Fairmount property value in land scheme

I, and others have been shaking their heads for some time about the explosion of VBML orders for trivial things and the rise in demos in the Fairmount basin. It didn't make sense. At the same time at the West side preservation where I was speaker MSD gave a rather modest presentation on the MSD Lick Run daylighting project. which in principal sounded great , separate the storm and rainwater and "daylight" Lick run which was buried due to flooding years(1910) ago at about grand street. The drawings were convincing and the idea sounded sound. Plus there would be minimal historic fabric affected since the proposal was for the bus storage area,and the daylighting would be east of grand.

As you are aware I often blog about unnecessary demos like a large commercial Building on Westwood and one residential house on Harrison overlooking the basin. These were intact restorable buildings that only needed minor restoration. It just didn't make sense. There seemed to be an explosion of VBML's, more and more property over the last two years cited or pushed to demo. But at the same time the city was doing  a good job of clearing outdated apartments on Harrison in Westwood.

Earlier this month I received a letter in which MSD announced it would be demoing property, but this was not property in the effected area is was up above where they SAID at the meeting originally they would "daylight'. All of a sudden the entire 40 acres between Westwood and Queen city seems open for demo and one of the project proposals was to daylight all the way back. No mention of Section 106 reviews either, REQUIRED when Federal funds are used. I contacted Marylynn Lodor via email and she said we would set up a meeting. In fact I felt like I had caught them with their pants down, someone in Fairmount who KNOWS what Section 106 review is? That meeting hasn't happened yet and I doubt, knowing what I know now, it will. I was alarmed that an entire historic business district and neighborhood was about to be demoed for a "glorified drainage ditch" without Section 106 review.

Interesting to note the May 2, 2011 letter  from project goundworks said this:  "additional public meetings and PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT opportunities are planned for later in 2011".Remember the phrase "public involvement".

If you recall I reported on April 21st about the dramatic loss in property values in Fairmount and tied that to VBML  enforcement, condemn orders and nuisance demos as driving down property values which dropped a huge 32.2. percent in North Fairmount and South Fairmount which dropped 16.5 percent. I suggested this was not good policy.

More disturbing recently, the city forfeiture sale has an explosion of properties  for the Cincinnati Land Reutilization  Program (CLPR), including land in Sedamsville. Sedamsville is working on its historic district status. and the loss of any properties is critical. At the same time MSD was snapping up property all over the Fairmount basin including lots that abut Knox Hill.down on Harrison. These are prime "View lots".

Ed Cunningham was giving me a "song and dance".  MaryLynn Lodor has been avoiding my calls. Well I started digging and I learned there NEVER was several  options, there was only one. That was to bulldoze the basin and redevelop it as high income housing to drive the tax base up. I found this reference from the Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference held in Cleveland in October 2010:

U.S. EPA Region 5’s Brooke Furio offered Cincinnati’s Lick Run, a culverted historic waterway, as a test site for creating market demand for vacant land as new riverfront property. If it works, it would rank with the wetland park at Philadelphia’s Saylor Grove as a vacant land scheme that doubles as a watershed-scale problem. Arguably, this is the Holy Grail (or white whale) of vacant land advocates: replacing a combined sewer/sanitary pipe with a natural system, or, as it’s known in the business, with green rather than grey infrastructure. 

“(Green) is more complex and complicated than a pipe,” Furio said. “You have to get a lot of people to the table and it’s messy. But the pipe comes with a lifespan. It’s another liability on the community.” The community in question has depopulated and as a result the city’s bond agent, Moody’s, made it clear it could downgrade the city’s rating if it spent hundreds of millions of dollars on an underground storage pipe without the tax base to pay it off.  “The city realized they had to build something beyond a pipe. They began to see this as a way to increase habitat, clean up brownfields and reduce the supply of vacant land.”

So Brook Furio was talking about this plan in October 2010! So what are all these "community meetings" for to get public involvement, this has been a "done deal"  for some time? To quote Furio, 'You have to get a lot of people to the table and it's messy". Well he was right ,it just got messy, but not for people but city officials who have lied about this real plan.

This was the ONLY plan under consideration once the city learned buying the sewers would affect their bond rating, Destroy Fairmount for another gentrification experiment?
Now it all makes sense. the city inspection department have been writing VBML for trivial things, rushing to demo (rubber stamping Section 106 reviews) to DELIBERATELY REDLINE Fairmount. Driving down property values so MSD can get the land for cheap, even if it has to go eminent domain, because they have INTENTIONALLY driven assessed values down, clear it and bring in developers for high end residential.

Of course they wanted to demo all those out of date  apartment buildings in Westwood so they can obtain good size spots of land (receive more federal monies) for the low income housing they will need since they know that they are pushing low income people out of Fairmount INTENTIONALLY. Of course, they want land in Sedamsville because they can stick low income over there too. You have to put those people you drove to Fairmount from OTR after the riots somewhere!

So we tear down everything historic and build crappy "new urbanish dwellings" across the street so 20 somethings can look at a glorified drainage ditch? REALLY?
They are pushing the historic Fairmount basin property "under a bus" demoing everything "old" (read that historic) in sight, buying land to put the dislocated on elsewhere and in the process LYING to every neighborhood group, and community leader on the West side. There was only ONE plan and the groundwork was being laid two years ago and it didn't involve the current residents of  Fairmount, who because they are poor and uneducated would gladly take pennies on the dollars for their homes BECAUSE the City drove their property values down in the first place.

The problem is that this is a direct attempt by a city government to intentionally REDLINE a neighborhood with targeted enforcement to drive property values down so another city entity can buy it cheap. This 'scheme' has cost property owners in South and North Fairmount. Millions of dollars in lost property value, slowed down efforts by preservationists to save this area. For what? The city's precious BOND RATING!

This involves housing discrimination and denial of housing opportunity and its ILLEGAL and City inspections, MSD, the city council and Mayor Mallory need to explain why their BOND rating was more important than the low income people and elderly in Fairmount who do pay property taxes too. Some people in city government, perhaps, even need to go to jail, but they certainly don't need to keep jobs that we the taxpayers are paying for so we can be lied to!

I hope the Department of Justice and the Attorney General has a FIELD DAY! The attorneys and the lawsuits will no doubt be numerous. Class actions against the city for engaging in deliberate redlining, existing property owners suing the city for lost property values. People whose property was demoed without proper section 106 reviews suing the city and probably HUD for damages.

Oh, do we not think this is not a council re-election issue? Lying to the citizens of Cincinnati to save your bond rating? Project groundworks LIES about Community Involvement in determining the future of this project, "targeted enforcement by city inspections"? You EXPECT to get re-elected?

I am all for turning Fairmount around and improving it and making it a better place to live but not at the expense of seniors and others who have stood by this neighborhood for decades, so you can run yet another "gentrification experiment" at their expense, to protect your bond rating! Seriously?

Your "back room ,corruption"  in now in the light of day. You have to deal with it! Somehow I think your chances of demoing Fairmount have just done down. way down , now that people know the truth! Your may have driven the poor out of Kenyan Barr in the 1960's when you drove 25000 African Americans out of the city core for your Queensgate Industrial park, (another failure), but I am sure these days the NAACP and other property rights advocates have something to say about you doing that again.Your 'experiment' in gentrification at the expense of Cincinnati history  and the people of the west side has been exposed! It will not happen the way you have planned.

Because the TRUTH is out there now. Time to "Ditch the Ditch'!

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