Cincinnati's planning commissioners have recommended approval for plans by Xavier University to develop a park along Victory Parkway despite protests from the North Avondale Neighborhood Association.
The Cincinnati Planning Commission recommended approval July 30 for Xavier to lease five acres for park development. In opposing the plan, the neighborhood association is citing its "lack of faith" that the university will live up to its promises.
"It's just that we can't believe what they say because when dealing with them in the past, they have not kept their word," said Charlene Morse, association coordinator.
The neighborhood group is concerned that the university will use polluted soil from an old landfill as fill to increase the height of the park. The park has 20 acres of low elevation that causes flooding.
The Cincinnati Park Board already approved Xavier's plan for a 98-year lease from the city. David Prather, city park board planner, said that the university would not use the soil from the former landfill. He said a study from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency showed that the old landfill's soil was contaminated with toxic material and some metals.
Aside from using it for Xavier's specific needs such as use by the university's sports teams, Xavier wants it to be a public park that the surrounding neighborhoods can enjoy, Prather said.
The park will include a ecology trail, bike and exercise path, a daytime playing field and six outdoor tennis courts.
But Morse said, "Once they sign off on the lease, there will be no guarantee they will include us."
She said that surrounding community residents were concerned that the park would draw late-night crowds of students and that the area would be difficult to police.
"Who do we call if we have a complaint, the campus security or the police department?" Morse asked.
The neighbors are disappointed that the Cincinnati Planning Commission went ahead with its approval before establishing how the university would address the residents' concerns, she said.
The situation, Morse said, adds to the increasing friction between neighbors and Xavier.
When neighbors have complained about noise from university events in the past, university officials promised to "monitor the noise" and keep it at a reasonable level, she said.
"But we found out that they never monitored it, and the noise level never decreased," Morse said. "So how can we trust what they tell us now?"
Joe Feldhaus, a lawyer for the university, told the planning commission that the residents' concerns were not justified.
"Xavier works very hard to be a good neighbor," Feldhaus said. "They went to the communities a year ago to get their thoughts. I think Xavier does demonstrate a desire to work with communities."
Cincinnati City Council is expected to vote on the planning commission's recommendations later this month.
For now, Morse said that all residents could do was to take a "wait and see" attitude.
"Instead of being reactive, we wanted to be a part of the group," she said.
During the next 98 years, the neighborhoods will be watching the university carefully, Morse said.
"At this point, all we can do is make sure our complaints are registered and the right people hear us," she said. ©