Next Step Belongs to City Council
(Photo: Graham Lienhart)
Wednesday is D-Day — as in “decision” — about whether to keep the Collins Avenue steps open.
Since last summer the steps, which are a public stairway connecting East Walnut Hills to the East End, have been the subject of a heated debate that has divided residents in the neighborhoods.
At issue are the wishes of 15 property owners on Keys Crescent, a small U-shaped street that contains mansion-like homes, against dozens of homeowners from surrounding streets who want to keep the steps open.
An ordinance that proposes closing the stairway is on Cincinnati City Council’s agenda for tomorrow’s meeting, set for 2 p.m. at City Hall. A forum for public speakers begins at 1:30 p.m.
The city’s Planning Commission voted 4-1 earlier this month to keep the steps open. It takes at least six votes on the nine-member city council to overturn any Planning Commission action.
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.
Keys Crescent homeowners have sought closure since last year, complaining their street is threatened by thieves and vandals who use the steps to make a quick getaway after breaking into homes and vehicles. Many residents on surrounding streets, however, said the crime problem is exaggerated and that the stairs are a popular shortcut when walking up the hillside to get to Madison Road and shops in O’Bryonville.
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.
Some residents have criticized council members for their willingness to close the steps, noting most residents in the area want them to remain open. The decision is being pushed, in part, because wealthy Keys Crescent property owners contribute to council campaigns, residents said.
— Kevin Osborne