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