Judge Rules in Favor of City Link

Backers of a controversial proposal to build a one-stop social services center in the West End have won the latest round in the ongoing legal battle over the project, despite the objections of residents and churches near the site.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Ralph Winkler ruled today that the proposed City Link Center is an allowable use in an area that is zoned as a manufacturing district. Winkler’s ruling overturns the August recommendation of a magistrate, who had agreed with an earlier decision by the Cincinnati Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) to deny a permit for the project.

Opponents are likely to appeal the decision.

In today’s ruling, Winkler said the magistrate’s finding was improper in three areas. First, the activities that would occur at City Link are permissible in a manufacturing district, because they mostly fall under uses designated in the zoning code as office, medical services and clinic and small-scale recreation.

Second, City Link doesn’t qualify as a community services center, unlike the magistrate contended, because the facility will offer services to residents citywide, not just in the West End neighborhood, the judge said. Finally, the BZA failed to follow the procedures established in the city’s zoning code, according to Winkler.

Winkler criticized Cincinnati City Council and the city’s BZA for letting public outcry affect their decisions and disregard law.

“From all the evidence contained in the record, the (BZA) made the wrong decision,” he wrote. “This decision was made as a result of extreme political pressure from various neighborhood, community and economic councils/groups/associations near the proposed location of City Link. From these outside pressures, the (BZA) tried to pigeon-hole City Link into a definition that just does not fit.”

City Link is a $12 million project that would create a nearly 100,000-square-foot social services mall” where people could receive health care, job training, drug counseling and more at a single location. The project was proposed by a group called One City, which is a coalition of 10 prominent area churches and social service organizations, including Crossroads Community Church in Oakley and CityCURE of Mount Auburn.

Many West End and University Heights residents who live near the proposed 800 Bank St. site oppose the project, arguing it would lower property values, pose a danger to children and hamper efforts to convert the struggling neighborhoods into a mixed-income area. Critics said One City repeatedly ignored requests for meetings with opponents, lacked ties with local government that they believe would be needed for the program’s success and doesn’t have the support of the neighborhood or its churches.

City Link supporters include State Rep.-elect Dale Mallory, attorney and conservative GOP activist Christopher Finney, attorney and Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke, lobbyist Dick Weiland and a religious group affiliated with County Commissioner Phil Heimlich.

Today’s decision isn’t the first time Winkler has ignored public outcry and made an unpopular decision rife with political undertones. In a 2001 interview with The Cincinnati Post, after he was first nominated as a common pleas judge, Winkler said he thought he was chosen because of the way he had handled several high-profile cases, including that of then-Cincinnati Police Officer Stephen Roach. Roach was acquitted of negligent homicide charges after shooting and killing Timothy Thomas, an unarmed black man wanted on misdemeanor charges. Thomas’ death sparked the April 2001 riots.

“They’re rewarding me … because I’m a damned good judge, not because of my name,” Winkler said at the time. Local Republican Party leaders quickly responded by saying they don’t reward judicial candidates for decisions, but for qualifications. Winkler was chastised by his party as well as his political enemies for the comments and ultimately didn’t get the common pleas position that year.

— Kevin Osborne

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9 Comments on “Judge Rules in Favor of City Link”

  1. Kathy Says:

    Has anyone explored exactly what job training, health care and drug
    counseling would be offered by City Link? I am asking because I heard
    third hand that much of their work would be referring for services rather than
    providing them. They plan a great deal of emphasis on religious
    evangelical work, which is OK since ny public money is involved, but I was
    concerned to hear that, for instance, there would be no dental clinic, just
    a referral for one. We already have plenty of organizations that refer
    needy folks for various services. This group should actually provide them,
    because that is what the general public thinks they would be doing.

  2. Resident Says:

    What a disaster for downtown.

  3. Dale Tome Says:

    Judge Winkler had his mind made up before he even read the briefs. At the oral arguements Winkler was clearly unprepared and it was clear he was far from a un-biased. I have spoken to several attorneys this evening and all agree that his written ruling is a joke. This is a topic that is far from over, all stay tuned. The fix was in ,but it sure does make for some great appeal material.

  4. ToeJamFootball Says:

    Great, a new regional draw that the city can promote. Kind of a Kings Island for poor people..

  5. One of my favorite Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speech quotes goes like this:

    “I know you are asking today, ‘How long will it take?’ Somebody’s asking, ‘How long will prejudice blind the visions of men, darken their understanding, and drive bright-eyed wisdom from her sacred throne?’ …. Somebody’s asking, ‘how long will justice be crucified?’”

    “I come to say to you…however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long because truth crushed to earth will rise again. How long? Not long because no lie can live forever. How long? Not long because you shall reap what you sow. How long? …Not long because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

    The opponents of CityLink, and their media propagandist, are doing the work of the devil. But Dr. King was correct in saying that no lie can live forever. And the opponents of CityLink have put forward a slew of lies about the project. Somewhere along the way, truth got crushed to earth, but today it is rising.

    1. The CityLink Center isn’t opposed by the majority of West End residents; the only people opposed to it are people working for competing nonprofit agencies or people who have a scheme to get rich by developing gentrified properties in the West End and believe a center that helps poor and working families would get in their way.

    2. The West End Community Council never voted to oppose CityLink.

    3. Many months ago, a handful of West End preachers signed a letter objecting to CityLink. Those ministers, however, changed their minds after meeting with representatives of CityLink and now support the project. Today there is only one “preacher” opposed to the project and he stood to gain financially if the project was defeated.

    Interestingly enough, the opponents of CityLink are having one heck of a month. They put forward a candidate to challenge Dale Mallory for State Representative. She got crushed. Other people have fallen on hard times economically. Now, after spending thousands of dollars in attorney fees, they lose the appeal. Yes, you reap what you sow.

    Dr. King spent a large part of his life fighting for poor people. When he died, he was organizing the poor people’s march on Washington, D.C. This decision, issued on the eve of Thanksgiving, is a blessing and a reminder that God is real and justice still prevails.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    “City Link supporters include State Rep.-elect Dale Mallory, attorney and conservative GOP activist Christopher Finney, attorney and Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke, lobbyist Dick Weiland and a religious group affiliated with County Commissioner Phil Heimlich.”

    This list of crooks says it all! There are some bigger fish that didn’t get named, but none of these guys cares for the poor, just their wallets.

  7. ANONYMOUS Says:

    CityLink can add to it’s list of supporters the fine citizen that Cincinnati can call it’s own,this clown Nate Livingston. I don’t know squat about this CityLink project, but if Livingston is supporting it I would be concerned. This clown will not be happy until every taxpaying, home owner in the city has cleared out. I know nothing about this guy ,but I bet he doesn’t own a home or pay taxes in the City of Cincinnati, just spews his hatred.

  8. Westside John Says:

    Hmm Us West siders are reaping the benifits of the city throwing the poor up the hill. Crime in district three has grown tremendously, people are “hanging out” on street corners at three in the morning. Residents are scarred because the house next door just got rented to a section eight that doesn’t give a damn about the neighborhood or upkeep of the home. Where I live the police were called on my block a couple of times a year. Now we get calls three or four times a week. Sure create a haven for criminals! Nate, please don’t quote Doctor King, he is SO out of your league!

  9. Curious Says:

    As of 5 December 2006, does anyone have information regarding the status of an appeal?

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