Mt. Lookout & Linwood Community Council Meetings
February 25 & 26, 2019
Summary and Neighborhood Clarifications
Paul Schirmer with Redstone MTL, LLC presented their development proposal during the Mt. Lookout Community Council (MLCC) meeting on February 25, 2019, and the Linwood Community Council (LCC) meeting on February 26, 2019. MLCC estimated that nearly 200 people attended their public meeting.
Schirmer began his presentation by outlining the benefits of the proposed development site, including proximity to Mt. Lookout Square, Ault Park, Alms Park, and Otto Armleder Park. He also shared the draft Cluster Housing Application (PDF), which he submitted on December 14, 2018, clarifying that it is one of several concept plans being considered for the site. Schirmer stated during the LCC meeting that he submitted the draft application “before we were ready.” He expects to submit a final Cluster Housing Application in “several months,” once he has completed additional studies, such as traffic and geotechnical, that will allow him to finalize his draft plans. He anticipates that the proposed detached homes will be about 3000 square feet with two-car garages, and priced at a minimum of $500,000.
Overall, Looking Out for Mt. Lookout was disappointed at the lack of new details in Schirmer’s presentation. He was evasive at best with his answers to questions, and displayed an obvious disregard for community concerns, input, and opinions.
Schirmer was told to reach out to the Mt Lookout and Linwood Community Councils by Katherine Keough-Jurs in December. He clearly did not want to attend these meetings, and was merely fulfilling an obligation to deliver his presentation. The fact that he would not commit to come back and present at public meetings for both community councils again once his plans are final made that obvious.
Issue 1: Lack of Transparency
Schirmer stated that he has reached out to adjacent neighbors to discuss the proposed development. Schirmer has reached out to adjacent neighbors on Le Blond Ave and Sheffield Ave to express interest in purchasing their homes, and not to discuss the proposed development. He has not contacted a single adjacent neighbor on Richwood Ave, which we believe demonstrates the intent of his communication with neighbors. Some neighbors have seen a single set of more detailed plans after reaching out to Schirmer themselves, contradicting Schirmer’s assertion that multiple concept plans are being evaluated.
Schirmer also refused to identify any project partners or funding sources, asserting that they had signed non-disclosure agreements so they would not be “harassed,” but did confirm that some of his investors are not local.
Issue 2: Inexperience
Schirmer stated that his experience is limited to commercial developments. Mt. Lookout is a highly desired and historic neighborhood in Cincinnati based on existing house designs and land use. Mt. Lookout should not be the neighborhood to serve as the first cluster housing experiment in Cincinnati by a developer with no residential development experience. The risk of failure will be devastating to neighboring property owners.
Issue 3: Cluster Housing
Schirmer declined to clarify how the proposed development met the Purpose of Cluster Housing (§ 1403-11) criteria to “provide for efficient and economical development of a specific property while protecting natural open space, ecological, topographical and historic features that may exist on the site from damage that might occur from traditional zoning and subdivision regulations.” In fact, Schirmer stated during the LCC meeting that "Cluster housing allows you to get a little creative with the zoning code." In our opinion, the use of cluster housing in this setting with Schirmer’s current plans would effect a zoning change by allowing townhomes and detached homes on lots that are smaller than the minimum 6,000 square feet specified by current zoning. Mt. Lookout is not the neighborhood to experiment with a housing concept never previously used in Cincinnati.
Issue 4: Landslide Susceptibility
The existing topography of the proposed development site does not support dense development. There is an elevation difference of 68 feet from the creek bed to the top of the steep ridge within the site, and slopes over 50%. Left as is, the proposed road from Linwood Ave to the top of the existing ridge for the detached homes would have to be built at an impossible 40% grade (the adjacent Sheffield Ave and Clifton's Straight St are 18% to 20% grade). The city's landslide susceptibility map for this area designates most of the wooded portion of this parcel at its highest risk level. The February 22, 2019 landslide between Richwood Circle and Columbia Parkway is only 675 feet from the proposed development.
The entire area for the proposed development is covered by the Hillside Overlay District designation. According to § 1433. Hillside Overlay Districts, Zoning Code of the City of Cincinnati:
“The purpose of the Hillside Overlay District regulations is to establish standards to assist in the development of land and structures in existing hillside areas and procedures for the review of proposed development, so that development will be compatible with the natural environment and respect the quality of the urban environment in those locations where the hillsides are of significant public value.”
Issue 5: Traffic
Schirmer stated that each home within the proposed development would have a minimum of 2 parking spaces, and that the development would contain a single street that is accessed from Linwood Ave. This results in a new intersection that will be located between two busy intersections that are 250 ft (Sheffield Ave) and 525 ft away (Beverly Hill Dr). A 2011 traffic study by the City of Cincinnati reported that this section of Linwood Ave already carries 20,000 vehicles per day.
Issue 6: Stormwater
Schirmer would not provide any specific actions for managing stormwater runoff within the development, and was unaware than an existing storm sewer underlies a portion of the proposed development.
Issue 7: Property Acquisition
Schirmer confirmed that he has only acquired 4 of the 7 parcels included with his draft Cluster Housing Application. These property transfers occurred on October 9, 2018. Schirmer stated that the remaining properties would be owned by Redstone when the final Cluster Housing Application is submitted.
Issue 8: Schools
The proposed development is within the Kilgour Elementary School district. Kilgour has managed an enrollment increase of 30% over the past 10 years. Kilgour’s current enrollment of 654 students is 45% above its capacity of 450 students.
Issue 9: Community Council Input
Schirmer stated that the proposed development is “actually in Linwood.” The boundaries specified in the MLCC and LCC bylaws place the entire proposed development within Mt. Lookout.