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Key vote on FC Cincinnati rezoning request delayed

Some West End residents threatened with eviction
Posted at 7:19 PM, May 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-10 21:12:40-04

West End residents being displaced by the new FC Cincinnati stadium will get more time to try to work out a deal with the soccer club.

The city's Planning Commission voted Friday to recommend some of FC Cincy’s rezoning requests, but a key vote on Wade Street, where a dozen residents living in an apartment building owned by FCC were ordered to move by May 31, was delayed when the team pulled it off the table.

The idea of putting one of those residents, 99-year-old Mary Page, out on the street has renewed opposition in the community and City Council. Several people spoke their minds at Friday’s meeting.

“These threats of eviction create an awful lot of stress on these individuals, not to mention a 99-year-old bedridden woman. I mean, why don't you just kill her?” said community organizer Robert Brown.

While construction may be underway, the 15-month-long fight with residents over putting the stadium in their neighborhood is clearly not over.

“Mr. Berding promised there would be no displacement, yet displacement is happening,” a woman complained at Friday’s meeting.

She was referring to FC Cincy President and General Manager Jeff Berding, who orchestrated the stadium’s construction in the West End. The club bought the Wade Street apartment building and another on Central Avenue that sit in the stadium site plan.

Last month Berding said he would give residents more time to leave as long as talks kept moving forward, and he offered to help them find new homes in the neighborhood. But Page’s niece is wary.

Kim Dillard told WCPO Friday that her great aunt is blind, disabled and depressed because she has been unable to find any affordable housing to meet her needs by the end of the month.

“She's already received some paperwork that stated that 31st date, so that's what I'm concerned about,” Dillard said. “If they can take that off the table and work with us, then we can go to a soccer game.”

Dillard wants Berding to allow her aunt and the other Wade Street residents to move into the Central Avenue building that FC Cincy bought, and she has support from City Council.

Last month a 5-2 majority passed a motion offering to approve zoning changes if the team ensures people losing their apartments have a place to live, even suggesting the Central Avenue building.

Berding protested by saying the motion is “outside the law” and adding, "We are not Section 8 landlords. We are a soccer team, and we're building a stadium."

Friday’s delay on the Wade Street vote gives both sides more time to find a solution.

“We need to find good solutions for people that are displaced during the process, not trust that solutions will come to the fore after the process,” said Planning Commission chairman Dan Driehaus. “This is a good opportunity for this to be a positive discussion."

In Friday’s vote, the commission gave the green light to build a parking lot across from the District 1 police station. The commission also green-lighted the sale and right of way for portions of 15th Street and Nome Alley.

City Council must approve the changes.