Council says no to music venue at The Banks

Future of Banks music venue in doubt

CINCINNATI (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER) - Cincinnati City Council Wednesday voted to kill a complicated deal to build a music venue at The Banks – twice.

The first motion, garnering six votes, asked the Cincinnati Bengals to simply allow the music venue to go forward, foregoing all the complicated parts of the proposed development deal so many people are against. Those pieces include moving a concrete plant to the West Side, extra expenses, and giving the Bengals some concessions.

Council members wanted to show they didn't support a key part to the music venue plan: moving the concrete company Hilltop Basic Resources to Queensgate near Lower Price Hill.

But it wasn't that simple.

Minutes after that vote, attorney Tom Gabelman stood outside council chambers and told the media the plan to relocate Hilltop to Queensgate was still on the table.

Gabelman represents Hamilton County on matters involving The Banks and riverfront development. Hilltop CEO Kevin Sheehan also said they were still open to moving to Queensgate.

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Cincinnati City Council hadn't adjourned. And they wanted to make doubly clear that this deal would not be happening.

As the meeting continued, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, learned via text of Gableman's remarks,

Council then voted on a hastily scrawled handwritten motion, declaring the city will oppose moving a concrete plant to Queensgate or Lower Price Hill.

It passed 6-0.

"We want to go back a year and do a deal that doesn't give the Bengals all this money, all these parking spots, and doesn't do harm to the West Side," Cranley said.

The Bengals responded via a statement sent to the media, saying it remains committed to the deal as it's been presented.

Without council’s approval to move the concrete company, the deal is dead. And council members knew going on the record sent that message.

Only Wendell Young, David Mann and Tamaya Dennard voted against the motion. Amy Murray had been for the deal, but changed her mind as new details emerged.

“We need to go back to square one and we need to be an equal partner,” said Councilman Wendell Young. “It would be nice to have a music venue there, but let’s be real, there are lots of places to hear music.”

What’s next?

The Joint Banks Steering Committee, which last week urged the city and county to get along, is set to meet Thursday.

There is no agreement in sight, with county officials sticking to the plan as presented and the city refusing to sign off on a necessary part.

When asked what counteroffer to the city the county would make to move the music venue forward, Gabelman, who represents the county at The Banks, wouldn't say. Instead, he took away from the meeting that they need to come back with more information about Hilltop's move to Queensgate, such as environmental and traffic studies.

"You've got to make sure enough information is being provided," Gabelman said. "There could be multiple plans. We've got more work to do."

Hilltop CEO Kevin Sheehan told the press after the city council meeting Wednesday they've looked at sites in Northern Kentucky but he wouldn't say where. But he said they're still open to moving to Queensgate.

Cincinnati City Council in mid-meeting Wednesday heard about Gabelman's comments that the Queensgate plans weren't dead.

So they passed another resolution saying they opposed moving a concrete plant to Queensgate and Lower Price Hill by a vote of 6-0. Councilmembers Mann, Murray and Dennard abstained.

"It is now unequivocal where a supermajority of council stands as well as my veto pen," Cranley said. "Hopefully that will put the matter to rest."

Both governments approved a plan to have local concert promoter MEMI build the music venue and it's ready to get started in November. So the company is waiting on word about what's next.

Mayor John Cranley, who has been vocal in his opposition to the plan, noted just because the music venue garnered approval earlier doesn’t oblige the city to approve a deal that hurts the West Side.

"It seems to me the county needs us," Cranley said. "If we're going to start a true dialogue, then clearly stating where we are makes sense. The future of The Banks is a 50/50 compromise."

Mann was disappointed by the vote, which he sees as a definitive "no" to the deal. "The months of work, the months of possibilities... I wish we had more information before we make this decision."

Cranley: “Technically, the county can move Hilltop somewhere else.”

Residents––—– show up in force

Dozens of residents, many wearing "No asphalt, No concrete shirts" turned out to voice their opposition, as they have done at previous meetings. They do not want a concrete plant and asphalt plant moved to their neighborhood, which is part of the deal.

Many felt their needs were being ignored to placate the Cincinnati Reds and Bengals. The on-field futility of both organizations came up multiple times.

"I have three sons who have never seen a playoff win in their lives," said East Price Hill resident Brian Monk.

Like the dozens who spoke, he worried that a concrete plant would have adverse health effects.

"Hilltop is an eyesore," Monk said. "Everyone wants them off The Banks. But heavy industry doesn't belong in neighborhoods."

Council had planned to vote on a second motion too, which said if a deal was ever done Hilltop Basic Concrete would own the land it moved to, not lease it. But Councilman David Mann, knowing there was not support, filed the motion without a vote.

The whole issue started with a plan to build a music venue at The Banks, which council approved. But to build it where it's slated to go -- next to the Bengals' Paul Brown Stadium – required Bengals' approval, under the team's lease with the county.

That set in motion a deal to move Hilltop Basic Concrete to build a new tailgating parking lot in its place, plus other new lease provisions that county officials say save taxpayers money .But the deal would also give the Bengals additional parking revenue, preserve surface spots and extend a provision of the lease saying if the team stays during 10 optional years, the county would pay for basic stadium maintenance.

Then Hilltop must move, in what is proposed as a land swap with the city. The latter requires city council approval and so far a majority haven’t said yes. Some council members and the mayor have raised concerns about cost, how it would impact Queensgate and Lower Price Hill neighborhoods and exactly what the new lease provisions mean for the Bengals.

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