It seems like a simple question: Is Bishop Street, the half-mile residential stretch connecting Jefferson Avenue and Vine Street, in Corryville or Clifton?
It’s not. Community leaders from across Cincinnati watched anxiously Wednesday as City Council considered an ordinance that would have designated Bishop Street as officially, solely part of Corryville — and, in the process, established the precedent that city of Cincinnati, not individual neighborhood councils, defines where its neighborhoods begin and end.
City Council rejected the ordinance, but West Price Hill Community Council member Laura Hamilton said she was unhappy to see the question go before city government at all.
"It's a big deal to every community," she said. "Setting this precedent today in a way that's never happened before could open Pandora's box, and it flies in the face of engagement."
Historically, community councils like hers set their own boundaries and submit them to the city clerk’s office. The clerk, in turn, uses the council-drawn maps for notification pruposes when a zoning change happens in that community.
Neighborhood boundaries frequently conflict and overlap under this system, but Hamilton said it’s better to do this than to defer to the city government or planning department.
That road could lead to abuse, she said.
"In theory, this could set up a precedent where folks could draw out new boundaries and carve out boutique neighbors, maybe in the middle of an existing neighborhood,” she said. “Have a few residents sign up and say, ‘We're different, here's why, and we'd like that planning commission to decide in our favor.’”
Sheila Rosenthal, president of the East Price Hill Improvement Association Community Council, was among 30 neighborhood leaders who signed a letter urging City Council to vote no on the Bishop Street question.
She doesn’t want to see community boundaries be decided at City Hall, she said. Rosenthal believes the boundary map is the best way to ensure everyone who lives on a particular street stays abreast of news about their area. Better to be claimed by two neighborhoods than to let the city government pick winners and losers in a custody dispute.
“There’s definitely the potential of conflicts to arise between communities,” she said.