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Joe Heil: Saluting foresight of Cold Spring, Campbell County leaders for protecting a valuable asset

Nearly 60 years ago, government and business leaders from the City of Cold Spring and Campbell County showed tremendous foresight in charting a future path of prosperity for one of the most desirable parcels of property in the region.

The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization that sits along Alexandria Pike has been a tremendous asset to Cold Spring and a great neighbor to my restaurant, which is just across Industrial Road/KY 1998 from DAV site.

With the DAV’s decision to relocate its headquarters and sell the site, discussions have emerged about the future of the property. It is rare that an attractive and high-profile piece of property on a major transportation artery becomes available for development.

Joe Heil

In my mind – as a Cold Spring business owner and long-time resident – there is no doubt that the highest and best use of the property is for the development of a healthcare-anchored facility that has been proposed. And thanks to those city and county leaders that I referenced earlier, it is the City of Cold Spring that has the legal authority to make that call thanks to a deed that was signed in 1963.

Here is some brief but important history about the property.

The property was first developed in 1870 when the Diocese of Covington opened the St. Joseph Orphanage, which operated for decades on the property. I have a special affinity for the former orphanage and the property.

My wife Jane’s grandfather, Clarence S. Kelley, was just five years old when he was placed in the orphanage after his mother died. Clarence not only grew up in the orphanage, but he became caretaker and spent his career there. He and his wife, Anna, raised their seven children – along with countless others – at the orphanage.

By the early 1960s, the orphanage had closed and the Diocese had conveyed the land to the City of Cold Spring. The city recognized that this property was ideally situated for development and, as such, extremely important to its long-term growth. On March 1, 1963, the city sold the 88-acre site for one dollar to the Campbell County Business Development Corp., which promoted and fostered economic development in the county. As part of the sale, an agreement was put into place that would ensure Cold Spring would have a say in the future development and use of this important property.

Just about two years later in June of 1965, the Campbell County Business Development Corp. sold the land to the DAV for its national headquarters. Included as part of the deed was the 1963 agreement with the city. This agreement, now a restriction in the deed, preserves Cold Spring’s right to approve any use change on the property.

The city and county leaders who forged and signed those documents had the vision to ensure that if the property ever sold, it was the City of Cold Spring that would determine what is developed on the site.

Through my business and involvement in the city, I talk to a great many residents every week. And while I don’t claim to speak for others, I am convinced that a development that would generate the most tax base for the city, county, fire district and Campbell County Schools while generating hundreds of new jobs and millions of dollars in new construction and investment has strong support among Cold Spring residents and business owners.

Preliminary estimates indicate that an $80 million project with a substantial number of good paying jobs would generate new property taxes, new payroll taxes, new revenue for the Central Campbell Fire District and a significant amount of new tax revenue for the Campbell County School District.

I stand in awe of our previous leaders, who six decades ago took the site of a former orphanage and helped turn it into a national headquarters for a tremendous organization that serves military veterans.

They had no idea if or when the DAV would sell the property. But they knew should that day come, that it was in the best interest for the people of Cold Spring to keep the property in the control of the city. That way, the property could provide benefits for the community, for generations to come.

Joe Heil is a Cold Spring resident and the co-owner and operations manager of Barleycorns.

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