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FC Cincinnati West End stadium plan clears another hurdle, passes City Council committee

Posted at 12:38 PM, Feb 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-05 12:44:30-05

CINCINNATI — Plans for a new Major League Soccer stadium on Central Parkway moved forward through the long approval process Tuesday, when City Council's Economic Growth and Zoning Committee approved a zoning change to allow construction of the stadium at the West End site.

But the approval -- as with every step along the process so far -- did not come without spirited back-and-forth between elected officials, team leaders and community stakeholders.

Of chief concern through the nearly two-hour hearing was a preliminary report released late Monday, saying the stadium's acoustics and noise pollution would be disruptive to rehearsals and performances taking place across the street at the newly renovated Music Hall.

Representatives from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Arts Association and the Cincinnati Ballet all said that, while they have ongoing discussions with the team, their concerns have not yet met satisfactory solutions.

FC Cincinnati president and CEO Jeff Berding said environmental details will be ironed out as the development moves into its final planning phases.

"I don't know any other project where these issues and the answers sought are forced upon a development at this stage," he told the committee. "We just got the (Music Hall noise) report last night. We have our own sound engineer... that person is now reviewing."

Councilman David Mann was apprehensive to advance the stadium's concept plan, which does not offer final plans for details like sound engineering, stadium design or streetscape and traffic engineering, without having those details laid out.

"How are we going to make sure one amazing project doesn't negatively impact everyone else?" he asked.

Mann attended Tuesday's meeting to raise questions, but does not sit on the committee and, therefore, did not cast a vote on the concept plan. Committee chair, Councilwoman Amy Murray and Councilman Jeff Pastor both voted to approve the concept plan.

City attorney Marion Haynes, who serves the committee, said Tuesday's vote was only regarding how the land in question could be used, and not how the stadium's final design will take shape. Those final decisions, after a zoning change can be approved, would be left to the City Planning Commission, Haynes said.

The planning commission is a seven-member appointed board, comprised of mostly community leaders and one City Council member. Currently, Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman acts as Council's representative on that body.

Smitherman also sits on the Economic Growth and Zoning Committee, but was excused from Tuesday's hearing.

Due to pending details like addressing the potential for noise pollution, Murray said the full City Council would not consider approving the zoning change until its Feb. 13 meeting next week.

"It's important as we go forward that you all work together," Murray said in closing Tuesday's hearing, predicting the project will be "transformational."

"We just need to make sure everything works together."

Pat LaFleur reports on transportation and mobility for WCPO. Connect with him on Twitter ( @pat_laFleur ) and on Facebook.