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Covington officials listen to concerns over residential development on former Gateway site

By Ryan Clark
NkyTribune Reporter

The ball is now in Park Hills’ court, city officials said Monday night.

After listening for 90 minutes of a public hearing of developer presentations and residential concerns over a proposed residential development at the Gateway site, Covington officials decided they would need to be heavily involved in the decision-making process moving forward — and they requested that Park Hills reopen Old State Road to ensure a safer entranceway than one proposed on Dixie Highway.

More than three dozen residents and leaders showed up at the special meeting Monday night to hear updates on the plan, which involves the possible building of 82 single-family homes on a hillside overlooking Covington.

The 27.7-acre property is the site of the former Hilltop Campus of Gateway Community & Technical College, on the west side of West Pike Street as it becomes Dixie Highway.

Most of the land — 20.2 acres — is in Covington, with the rest in Park Hills.

Developer Paul Zeltwanger, who owns Condoview LLC, bought the property in 2017. He is proposing to build up to 82 single-family luxury homes, which is scaled down from earlier plans.

Zeltwanger was there Monday night, along with Andy Videkovich, planning manager for Kenton County.

Residents and developers alike noted that there were two main issues in the plan: A proposed entranceway to the development off of Dixie Highway, and the always-controversial issue of water runoff down the hillside.

“Development is good, but we’re losing some of the flavor that allows this region to be unique,” said Steven Hill, who lives on Western Avenue.

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Hill also noted that flooding is a major issue in the area, one that needs to be addressed before it gets worse.

“Personally, I’d rather look at the top of the hillside,” he said. “But development is going to happen.”

As far as the entranceway on Dixie, residents of The Views neighborhood are concerned about safety and traffic congestion.

“We really need to make sure here that whatever we do solves the problem,” said resident Mike Beeby.

Predicting this reaction, Zeltwanger already had a plan in place. His solution? To dismiss the idea of the Dixie entranceway altogether. But that would mean Park Hills would have to reopen their Old State Road, which they had closed.

Mayor Joseph U. Meyer said much the same in his remarks, adding that he wanted to reach out to Park Hills to see if they would consider reopening the road.

Zeltwanger said he would be on his way to Park Hills that night, as they reportedly also had a city meeting, to propose just such an idea. Park Hills officials would also be discussing the proposal Monday, as they also need to sign off on the plan.

The Kenton County Planning Commission recommended approval of the development plan on April 5 after holding its own public hearing. But officials did say both Covington and Park Hills would have to sign off on the portions of the development that occur in their areas.

All Covington Commissioners present Monday night (Commissioner Tim Downing was not there) noted how they were concerned with the environmental aspects of the proposal, namely the effect on the hillside and the possibility of flooding below.

Commissioner Jordan Huizenga wondered if an environmental study would be beneficial, but he was told that could possibly happen in Stage II of the approval process. However, he noted, if residents are worried about those topics now, the commission must find a way to be involved in those phases as well.

“At the end of the day, we’re the ones held accountable,” he noted.

But Zeltwanger said the development would actually be removing 150,000 cubic yards of dirt off the hill, nicknamed the “driving force” of the problem, he said. “We’re going to dramatically improve that,” he said.

Still, commissioners noted they wanted to make sure that the developers do what they promise.

Mayor Meyer noted the residents’ concerns were “legitimate,” and said he would direct the city manager to report back to the commission regarding the progress, which would allow them to “chime in” when necessary.

Then he called for Zeltwanger to take the proposal back to Park Hills, to see if the city could reopen their road.

City Commissioners will further discuss the topic at their caucus meeting on June 19, and it will be put on the agenda for their legislative meeting June 26.

Contact the Northern Kentucky Tribune at news@nkytrib.com

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