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Surprises for Covington Commissioners include start, problems with 501 Main construction

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By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

Covington City Commissioners were hit by not one, but two surprises when they met for their city meeting Tuesday night.

In one instance, they got an unscheduled update of the years-long 501 Main River Haus project, which commissioners were told would begin construction next Monday, so workers could finish some aspects of the job before winter.

Yeager

River Haus, a 187-unit apartment development, with a commercial space on the first floor and a parking garage, will eventually occupy the space.

However, the surprise came when City Development Director Mike Yeager said the developers just now notified the city that a water storage tank will need to be installed under a parking lot just south of the construction site.

Because of the new information, Yeager spent Tuesday communicating with local businesses to see who might be able to donate daily parking spaces to make up for the 20 or so that will be lost due to the new part of the construction – which should start in a little more than a week and could take up to three months.

Luckily, Tom Green stepped up to donate some off-site parking off of Sixth Street, and Yeager said he would be contacting other owners Wednesday. Signage and other notifications will be sent out to area businesses and commuters telling them when and where to find the new spaces.

Still, the new developments did not leave the commissioners with a good feeling.

It happened “due to a lack of planning on the developer’s part,” Commissioner Tim Downing said. “This is going to cause a lot of frustration and we would like to try to avoid that.”

Downing suggested possibly completing the project in phases to displace the fewest number of spaces possible at any one time. Yeager said he would investigate to see what is possible.

The second surprise came in discussion of the $1.6 million Scott and Sixth Street Project, which would transfer utilities underground and improve sidewalks. Due to funding, commissioners decided last week to start with the area between Fourth and Sixth Streets, then reconsider moving on with the project if they had leftover funds.

That idea was considered but eventually pushed back for further consideration after it was revealed that in order to put utilities underground at Scott Street, Duke Energy’s plan calls for the city to also put utilities underground in Electric Alley – about half a block away.

A separate grant is paying for the $250,000 Electric Alley portion (except for the city kicking in 20 percent, or $50,000) but the problem, according to commissioners, is what happens if they don’t spend all the funds. Ideally, they would like to re-appropriate the leftover funds to cover some of the cost for Sixth Street, but that cannot be done, Yeager said. If the money isn’t spent, they would have to give it back.

After hearing that the price would not go up if they continued to wait and investigate the role Electric Alley plays in the project, commissioners decided to table the project and discuss it further at their next caucus meeting.

Yeager said the Electric Alley portion of the plan wasn’t discussed earlier because funding was never an issue.

ALSO TUESDAY:

– Commissioners planned to hear a second reading, but instead chose to table a new ordinance that would allow the sale of distilled liquor, wine and malt beverages “by the drink” beginning at 9 a.m. on Sundays. Two weeks ago, Commissioner Bill Wells asked for a map to display exactly where in the city the liquor sales would occur. He got that information Tuesday night, and it was revealed that 83 establishments would be able to sell in the area. But commissioners were concerned about some liquor stores having the ability to obtain the new license, and wondered if they could also get a list breaking down the establishments and what kind of licenses they currently have. The spirit of the ordinance, Commissioner Downing said, was to allow certain local establishments to offer alcohol for brunch to compete with restaurants across the river. Wells suggested to pass on the reading to find more information and the commissioners agreed.

– Commissioners approved an ordinance (3-1, with Wells dissenting and Huizenga absent) of a zone change for the so-called “bubble diagram” for the Tuscany Development, which would allow Fischer Homes to build various kinds of homes on land overlooking KY 17 and Pioneer Park. The homes could be of different kinds – condos, apartments or single-family – depending on demand, with no formal zone change process. Wells sided with the Kenton County Planning Commission, which previously voted 19-1 against the bubble. Commissioner Michelle Williams said it was “a great project for Covington.”

– Commissioners heard the first reading of a possible golf cart regulation ordinance amendment. In August, UPS notified the city that the company would be using golf carts, or other small vehicles, to deliver packages to some areas. It then became the responsibility of the commission to decide whether or not those vehicles would be legal – and they had a 60-day window to do so. Due to concerns over safety, theft and possible zoning problems the commission decided to move forward and ban the vehicles, with the thought of revisiting the issue in the future.

– Commissioners heard the reading of a new order to execute a lease agreement with R.A. Kennedy for a portion of the building located a 4 W. Southern Ave. for use as a police sub-station.

– Commissioners voted 3-1 (Williams voted no, while Huizenga was absent) to authorize the Mayor to move forward with subsidizing of valet parking during construction of the River Haus project.

The next Covington Commission meeting will be a caucus meeting held at 6 p.m., Oct. 17 at the Covington City Hall at 20 West Pike St.

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