Cincinnati Council Approves Special Improvement District For Part Of OTR

Oct 14, 2020

The full Cincinnati City Council Wednesday approved a special improvement district (SID) for the southern portion of the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

The council vote was 8-1 with Council Member Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney casting the only dissenting vote.

The initial area for the OTR South SID would be Liberty Street to the north, Central Parkway to the west and south, and Broadway to the east.

Per Ohio Revised Code, such a district must be approved "by the owners of at least 60% of the front footage of all real property located in the proposed district that abuts upon any street, alley, public road, place, boulevard, parkway, park entrance, easement, or other existing public improvement with the proposed district."

"I strongly believe this will be equally beneficial across our neighborhood for residents, for employers, for business owners and for workers," said Kelly Adamson, the executive director of the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce and a neighborhood resident.

The SID would be funded by property owners in the district with an assessment on their annual property taxes. Those same owners would elect a board of trustees and decide what additional services would be provided. Those include things like litter pickup, graffiti removal, snow removal and beautification projects.

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A few speakers addressed City Council before the vote to oppose the OTR South SID. They complained about the process and said the votes to create it came from large property owners and developers in the area.

OTR Community Council Vice President Danny Klingler said that voting could also have an impact on the board of trustees for the SID.

"The implication being that the governance of the SID board will be democratic and that those who are concerned about this SID and this tax should seek to run for election for that SID board," Klingler said. "The problem with that is that it is heavily weighted towards the large property owners and developers. Again, in the same way that the formation of the SID is weighted, it will also be weighted in future elections of the SID board. It is not one person, one vote."

Kearney voted no because she, too, was concerned about the process to establish the SID. She said she understands that the 60% voting threshold was met because the city owns several parcels in the SID.

"I just don't think there's enough community support and for that reason I'm voting no," Kearney said.

A similar SID has been in place for the downtown Central Business District for 20 years. That district now contracts with 3CDC to provide services, and before that it was handled by Downtown Cincinnati Inc. (DCI)

Probably the most noticeable part of that program are the downtown ambassadors.

3CDC estimates the budget for the OTR South SID at $775,000. Of that amount, $125,000 would be contributed by 3CDC and community partners.  The remaining $650,000, increasing eventually to $700,000, would come from property owners.

That assessment is based on 25% street frontage and 75% on the county auditor's assessed value.

Organizers plan to eventually expand the SID to the entire OTR neighborhood. But right now, the property tax values in the neighborhood north of Liberty wouldn't support it.

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A previous version of this article stated that the district had to be approved by 60% of property owners. That is incorrect. It must be approved by 60% of property owners with front footage.