Monday, June 22, 2009

Lower Price Hill: City solicitor must recuse himself, City must assess Queensgate Terminals' impacts

The Lower Price Hill Community Council (LPHCC) has made a formal request to Cincinnati city solicitor John Curp to recuse himself from negotations with Queensgate Terminals, LLC due to a perceived conflict of interest.

In a letter to Councilmember Roxanne Qualls, also sent to other councilmembers and to mayor Mark Mallory, LPHCC president Dr. Jack Degano says that Queensgate Terminals is being represented by Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, with whom Curp worked prior to becoming city solicitor.

In February 2007, a court case over property takings for the Waldvogel Viaduct was settled that required the City to purchase the Lower Price Hill property from Hilltop Basic Resources for $5 million, and to negotiate a lease with Queensgate Terminals for its use as a multi-modal shipping facility.

Degano says that Curp has told council that he has the power to craft an agreement with Queensgate Terminals on his own, and that his assertion is now under review by council's Rules Committee.

"John Curp seems to be negotiating with his former Taft, Stettinius & Hollister colleagues to reach an agreement with Queensgate Terminals/Bluegrass Farms of Ohio Inc., wherein the lives, the homes, the safety and the health of the people of Lower Price Hill hang in the balance," he says. "It is the belief of the Lower Price Hill Community Council that John Curp is involved in a possibly suspicious conflict of interest."

Degano has also asked that the City of Cincinnati sponsor "a comprehensive, independent risk assessment of all aspects of the means to transport goods in and out of a residential neighborhood", conducted by an independent consultant to be agreed upon by the LPHCC.

The letter includes a list of 130 questions and citizens' concerns about the proposed $26 million, 31-acre container-to-barge operation that he expects to be addressed by the risk assessment.

"We expect each of our concerns to be addressed and thoroughly documented by the industry-specific consultant who conducts the all-encompassing, impartial risk assessment required to ensure the health and safety of the people of Lower Price Hill," Degano says. "I call you attention to the word: impartial."

Residents of Lower Price Hill, in addition to the communities of East Price Hill and Sedamsville, have come out against the plan because of possible noise and air pollution.

They also worry that the port could stifle much-needed investments in the neighborhoods such as MetroWest Commerce Park, the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati's Wastewater Engineering Building and other infrastructure upgrades, CPS's $17 million renovation of Oyler School, the reconstruction of the Eighth Street Viaduct, Incline Square, Cincinnati Christian University's expansion, and the $50 million Harbor Lights condominium project.

"Queensgate Terminals’ representatives maintain that a multi-transport barge business is a fail-safe operation," Degano says. "But residents strongly object to the poor quality of thought, the total lack of foresight that went into the choice of the site, and the failure of both the City of Cincinnati, and Queensgate Terminals to inform the Lower Price Hill Community Council of years-long negotiations to locate a barge/train/truck/import/export operation in our residential neighborhood."

Degano requests that representatives of the LPHCC be included in a City negotiations, meeting, discussions, written and e-mail correspondence, and committee hearings in which the proposed Queensgate Terminals project is discussed.

"The people of Lower Price Hill refuse to accept the City of Cincinnati’s policy to-date of failing to inform the Lower Price Hill Community Council of the wish to site a major international port on this neighborhood’s riverfront, of ignoring neighborhood residents’ rights to have decision-making power as to the type of business it wants for its riverfront, and for the city’s blatant disregard for the fact that Lower Price Hill is a quiet residential neighborhood on the National Historic Register with homes, schools, churches, and with responsible existing businesses," he says.

Previous reading on BC:
Martin says Queensgate Terminals will be 'something that Cincinnati people are proud of' (5/4/09)
River West Working Group latest to oppose Queensgate Terminals (4/16/09)
Professor calls newest Queensgate Terminals report 'flawed' (3/18/09)
River West Working Group: Queensgate Terminals report 'unacceptable' (4/7/08)
Dohoney reports on Queensgate site options (12/26/07)


Kent Evans said...

Both sides may have virtuous results. But if the terminal is to be built, I'd like to see buy-in to a proposal that area or at least city residents get the balance of the jobs. The city needs to get shrewder by citing those who lives elsewhere have their municipal taxes taken out where they live before the Cinti tax is awarded to Cinti. Hence this talking point.

Anonymous said...

The LPHCC is totally out of line on this one. Recuse himself? Let's get real and get some real direction in our LPH. We need to work with the city, not against it! Get it together LPHCC.

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