Planning Commission Votes to Keep Controversial Stairs Open

Defying the wishes of Cincinnati City Council, the city’s planning commission recently voted to keep a public stairway open that connects East Walnut Hills to the East End.

Planning commissioners voted 4-1 Friday to keep the Collins Avenue steps open for use. City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr., who sits on the commission, cast the sole dissenting vote; Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell, city council’s liaison to the planning commission, was among those who supported keeping the stairway open.

The stairs are part of a city network that trail through Cincinnati’s many hillsides, mostly built in the early 20th century. They connect the end of Collins near William Howard Taft Road to Keys Crescent, a small U-shaped street that contains 15 upscale homes.

Keys Crescent homeowners have complained their street is threatened by thieves and vandals who use the steps to make a quick getaway after breaking into homes and vehicles, and they sought closure. Many residents on surrounding streets, however, said they use the stairs as a shortcut when walking up the hillside to get to Madison Road and shops in O’Bryonville. The crime problem is exaggerated, they added.

Last summer, a council majority — comprised of Jeff Berding, Chris Bortz, John Cranley, Leslie Ghiz, Chris Monzel and Cecil Thomas — proposed closing the steps for five years to see if it affects crime in the area. Lawyers for closure opponents then discovered that council didn’t follow due process. A little-noticed section of the city charter requires that a decision of this nature first go before the planning commission.

City council can overturn planning commission decisions with six votes, and it’s unclear whether the same bloc still exists after a bitter council debate over the past month about the municipal budget has caused divisions among those members.

Council could bring the matter for a vote Wednesday or Feb. 14 or choose to simply accept the planning commission’s decision.

— Kevin Osborne

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3 Comments on “Planning Commission Votes to Keep Controversial Stairs Open”

  1. Chester Says:

    This is wonderful! Score one for crime! We need to do all we can to provide opportunities for all the misguided yoofs out there to loot, rob and steal. They need jobs and we have all that guilt.

  2. DemWatcher Says:

    The residents knew about the steps and the public right-of-way when they bought their home. Live with it, or move.

  3. CincyRealityCheck Says:

    Look out Chester, your racism is hanging out for all to see. “Yoofs” – you’re kidding, right?

    Yes, crime and vandalism suck. But what about taking a logical approach to the situation? If you want to reduce crime, then work with the Community Problem Oriented Policing (CPOP) program to look at the issues and come up with an appropriate solution instead of a reactionary one.

    What has city council done to research the issues? Have they asked the police for the crime statistics for the area? Have the talked to CPOP about other things that have been tried in similar situations that have gotten the desired results? Good intentions and protecting campaign dollars aren’t going to deal with the legitimate concerns of the residents – those who want access to the steps and those who want them closed.

    People from opposing sides of an issue who are motivated to find a solution – not demand victory – can find creative ways to make sure the priorities of both groups are addressed in a reasonable manner. The question is – who will lead that effort? An outside, disinterested party is probably the best way to go.

    Success requires dealing with reality, not falling back on convenient racist attitudes and uniformed-knee-jerk reactions. And you wonder why Cincinnati has the reputation we do. . . .

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