Homeowners Let Emotions Rule

The article "Wary About CiTiRAMA" (issue of April 27-May 3) contains assertions that were not thoroughly investigated and consequently inaccurately reported. As the founders and presenters of CiTiRA

May 4, 2005 at 2:06 pm

The article "Wary About CiTiRAMA" (issue of April 27-May 3) contains assertions that were not thoroughly investigated and consequently inaccurately reported. As the founders and presenters of CiTiRAMA and the region's other major HOMEARAMA events, we feel obliged to correct these inaccuracies and to insist upon more responsible reporting in the future.

The developers identified in your story have been very responsive to the city and to homeowners. The city officials responsible for leading efforts for more than one year to resolve homeowner concerns would have repeatedly confirmed the developers' cooperation.

The developers identified were responsible for CiTiRAMA but not for the initial development that included the layout of private streets and lots. In fact, Jerry Honerlaw and Rob Etherington were the fourth owners of the property. The streets were designed and installed by the Ohio State Building Construction Trades Council out of Columbus under the auspices of Michael Wren, who was the property's second owner. The land in question was then purchased by Honerlaw and Etherington from Rockford Woods LLC, the property's third owner, to produce lots for the 2001 CiTiRAMA. To assert that Honerlaw and Etherington are responsible for the initial layout and zoning demonstrates a basic lack of knowledge about the situation as well as an insufficient effort on the part of the reporter to get to the truth.

The homeowners should have learned that maintenance of streets and community greenspace in the Rockford development were their collective responsibility during the title searches conducted to secure their mortgages.

A title company would have understood and disclosed this fact to buyers.

Honerlaw and Etherington have met with homeowners and with city officials several times over the last 18 months. They have also agreed to pay the Cinergy bill and the tax bill cited in the CityBeat story. Both bills would have been paid immediately if sent to the developers' correct address. As soon as the developers learned of these outstanding bills, they agreed to assume responsibility. To suggest otherwise is inaccurate and irresponsible.

Perhaps the most troublesome aspect of this article is the headline suggesting that potential home buyers should be wary of CiTi-RAMA. The Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati has produced successful CiTiRAMA events since 1996. Our members are very proud of this critical contribution to Cincinnati's revival. As Councilman David Pepper stated in your article, the issues related to CiTiRAMA 2001 are an anomaly with the event and with downtown residential development in general. Yet even this anomaly can be settled equitably and satisfactorily if all parties continue to work together.

No one better understands the emotions tied to home ownership than home builders and developers. We only ask that Rockford homeowners not allow their emotions to override the facts as well as the very sincere efforts of the city and developers to resolve issues. Most of all, we are deeply disappointed with CityBeat's reporting.

We appreciate CityBeat's unique contribution to local media. Still, we expect CityBeat to apply basic standards of fairness and accuracy in reporting more rigorously if the publication expects to retain the respect of Tristate readers. The Rockford story, when examined by knowledgeable people, is more embarrassing for CityBeat than for the developers you name.

— Elda A. Marshall Executive Director, Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati

Homeowners Want Answers and Solutions
As a resident of Rockford Woods, I was thankful yet frustrated after reading the article regarding our development ("Wary About CiTiRAMA," issue of April 27-May 3). There are three points I'd like to make.

One of the developers, Jerry Honerlaw, acknowledges this could get into a "nasty legal battle." Yet he claims the residents have "abused" him. Poor Jerry. Perhaps if his defunct LLC had correctly formed the homeowners association (HOA), recorded all the necessary documents and paid its delinquent bills to Hamilton County, Cinergy and MSD, he wouldn't have residents attempting to hold him accountable.

Clearly, this is bad business — hardly what one would expect from the former president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati and the "featured builder" on Michael Sweeney's Comey & Shepherd Web site.

Second, the residents have testified twice before Cincinnati City Council's Neighborhood Committee. We sought a political solution to our problems after spending $10,000 in attorney's fees to get exactly where we are today: nowhere. The vice chair of the committee, David Pepper, recommends "we work through this with lawyers." This isn't the type of political will we had hoped for from him. In his testimony to council on March 22, Director of Community Development and Planning Michael Cervay quipped, "This situation is a lawyer fest." A "lawyer fest" is what the residents hope to avoid, yet Pepper seems to be its advocate.

Third, the city administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to evade the actual issues here. When asked by Councilwoman Laketa Cole on March 23 what it would take for the private streets in this development to be made public, City Manager Valerie Lemmie responded, "The residents haven't even formed their HOA yet." The perplexed Cole repeated her question, and Lemmie stated, "We need to address the global issues" with respect to Rockford Woods. This exchange is a microcosm of the dialogue that's existed between the administration and people who want pertinent answers and viable solutions to the Rockford Woods problems.

Unfortunately, this has also become a microcosm of two other things: the growing perception of dysfunction of city government and residents' distrust of it.

— Matt Appenzeller, Northside