Fate of Anna Louise Inn now rests with judge

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The court battle over the planned renovation of a downtown women's shelter is now in the hands of a Hamilton County judge.

After hearing final arguments Wednesday, Judge Norbert Nadel said he would issue a ruling in the case soon and in writing.

Attorney Francis Barrett, arguing on behalf of Western and Southern Financial Group, said he didn't think his clients were being treated fairly.

"We feel that from the very beginning this thing has not been handled objectively, appropriately or properly," he said.

Barrett says there has been a lack of due process and accuses the city of giving a green light to the renovation project which he says violates Cincinnati's own zoning laws.

"All we have asked from day one is the city be required to follow its own zoning code and its own regulations," said Barrett.

Barrett says renovating the historic building to provide permanent supportive housing is tantamount to a homeless shelter. However, Sean Sutter, who represents Cincinnati Union Bethel, the owners the Anna Louise Inn, says that's not the case.

"That's the whole purpose of the homeless to homes plan is to move homeless people to homes," said Sutter. "When they get a home, they're no longer considered homeless. Certainly the City of Cincinnati should not be branding people homeless for the rest of their lives or an insurance company for that matter."

Steve MacConnell, President of Cincinnati Union Bethel, says the apartments will be permanent housing.

"Efficiency apartments for the women where it has been sort of dormitory style, and this will provide the women with safe affordable housing just like we've been doing for more than 100 years," said MacConnell.

The non-profit group plans to use $13 million in tax credits from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency and federal loans to renovate the building, but Western and Southern is suing to block those renovations saying it wants to use the land for a high-end redevelopment project.

MacConnell says the renovations will take place no matter how Judge Nadel decides, but Cincinnati Union Bethel will appeal if the judge rules against them.

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