In an effort to create more pedestrian-friendly development along Beechmont Avenue and to stimulate economic development in the business districts of Mount Washington, Cincinnati City Council has approved of several rezonings along the heavily-traveled corridor.
The rezoning process was initiated in January by the Mt. Washington Community Council (MWCC), who sought to reshape the City's zoning code to align better with the recommendations of the Mt. Washington Comprehensive Plan, which was approved by the City Planning Commission and council in summer 2007.
Current zoning in the corridor was based entirely on existing uses when Cincinnati zoning code was rewritten in 2004.
Parcels to be changed include (see map):
- North of Sutton Avenue between Oxford and Beechmont avenues from CC-A Commercial Community Auto-Oriented District to CC-M Commercial Community Mixed District
- North of Beechcrest Place along Beechmont Avenue and Campus Lane from CC-M to CC-P Commercial Community Pedestrian District
- Northwest corner of Sutton and Oxford avenues from RM-2.0 Multi-Family District to SF-6 Single-Family District
- Along Oxford Avenue north of Roxbury Street from RM-1.2 Multi-Family District to SF-4 Single-Family District
- Along Beechmont Avenue between Roxbury Street and Crestview Place from CC-A and RM-1.2 to CC-M.
Not everyone supports the changes.
Jackie and James Jurgensen hired legal representation to fight the rezoning of a Valvoline Oil and Lube Shop at , feeling that it would make their properties less valuable and harder to develop and equating the downzoning to a property "taking".
Businesses currently operating outside of the zoning constraints would be grandfathered in, but would lose their non-conforming zoning immunity if any renovations or redevelopment were to occur.
In his letter to City staff, Weston Munzel, a member of the MWCC board of directors and an urban planner by trade, says that the rezoning is nothing akin to a "taking".
"Rezoning that land to CC-P would not be considered a 'taking' because all economic use of the land is not taken," he says. "In fact, the CC-P zone allows for development up to 85 feet in height."
Jill and Stephen Cole of Cole Realty Associates, who recently built the 10,000-square-foot Corbly Station strip center across the street at 2300 Beechmont Avenue, say that the CC-P zoning has hurt their ability to secure tenants.
"We believe that the zoning on our property should be changed from CC-P to CC-A," they say in a letter to City staff. "The CC-P designation on our property has caused a financial hardship because it has prevented us from having a drive-thru which we need in order to attract a strong anchor tenant."
They say that businesses such as Starbucks, Donato's, Bruegger's Bagels, Skyline Chili, Widmer's and Little Caesar's have expressed interest in locating in the center if a drive-through were available.
Unfortunately, theysay, the only tenant who has expressed interest is a check cashing business and the vacant property has become subject to vandalism.
The Coles point to the 35 mph speed limit along Beechmont, the lack of on-street parking, and the multiple existing drive-thrus as reasons against encouraging more pedestrian-oriented development.
Munzel has ideas on how both desired outcomes - pedestrian-friendliness and drive-thrus - could be accommodated.
"Perhaps a revision to the CC-P to allow for drive-thrus in the rear if a two-story building is built and access to the drive-thru is via a shared driveway with adjacent landowner or a rear alley; and 90 percent of the frontage has a building on it - so there are very minimal gaps in the buildings along the frontage of the district," he says.
Taming the traffic
The City is also taking steps to calm traffic along the entire length of Beechmont Avenue, which sometimes moves through a little too briskly since a 2004 --> --> --> widening project.
At the September 10 meeting of council, Councilmember Roxanne Qualls introduced a motion supporting traffic calming measures after receiving requests from the MWCC.
A report on the motion from City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr is due before council on October 8.