June 25th, 2009 By | News | Posted In: City Council, Environment, Business

EJ Law Passes Over Chamber's Objection

After more than three years of work and undergoing several alterations, Cincinnati City Council approved an “environmental justice” ordinance Wednesday in a close vote despite opposition from the business community.

Vice Mayor David Crowley, a Democrat in his last term, began working on the ordinance with an advisory committee in October 2005. Supporters held a rally at City Hall last week in anticipation of a decision, but Mayor Mark Mallory delayed a vote then because he believed council’s support was wavering. During the past few days, Crowley lobbied his colleagues hard and was able to muster the five votes needed for passage.

Besides Crowley, others who supported the ordinance were Democrats Laketa Cole, Greg Harris and Cecil Thomas, and Charterite Roxanne Qualls.

Opposed were Democrat Jeff Berding, Republicans Leslie Ghiz and Chris Monzel, and Charterite Chris Bortz. Berding tried to introduce a motion that would’ve delayed implementation for up to a year pending more review, but Mallory blocked an immediate vote and sent the motion to a council committee for discussion.

The ordinance requires an environmental assessment be done for certain types of projects proposed in neighborhoods that are deemed already adversely affected by toxins and pollution.

Cincinnati is believed to be the first U.S. city to require such a review.

Specific categories of businesses and construction will be exempt from the environmental justice review including office buildings, residential developments and “most commercial” projects, officials said. Reviews will be conducted only in neighborhoods defined as “environmental justice communities” and a one-mile radius around them.

A qualified professional hired by the city manager will conduct the reviews, and either the community or the developer could appeal the review decision to a seven-member environmental justice board of appeals.

City Council can overrule the board with six votes.

The city estimated the ordinance’s annual cost at $125,000 — $75,000 for a technically trained staff examiner and $50,000 for outside consultants. But the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce called the estimate “grossly understated” and stated it would cost another $170,000 to $280,000 each year, mostly for appeals and legal fees from businesses that are denied permits.

Ellen van der Horst, the Chamber’s president and CEO, wrote a letter last week to the mayor and City Council urging that the ordinance be rejected.

“In its current form, the proposed ordinance would have a significant negative impact on business development,” van der Horst wrote.

“At a time when the city of Cincinnati faces a projected $40 million budget deficit, creating a new unfunded mandate detrimental to business growth could only have a negative impact,” the letter added. “Without significant business growth, the city’s tax revenues will likely decrease and it will become more difficult to reduce the city’s projected deficit.”

Supporters countered that the Chamber’s claims were exaggerated, and that its members might feel differently if they had to live in neighborhoods grappling with excessive pollution.

07.05.2009 at 03:22 Reply
What neighborhoods are dealing with excessive pollution that could not be dealt with with present state and federal laws? Who , SPECIFICALLY, are these polluters? This is not a matter to be dealt with by local government entities. Pollution problems generally cross municipal corporation lines and puts those municipal corporations that pass such regulations at a disadvantage with neighboring and competing municipal corporations. Cincinnati is so stupid.


10.28.2009 at 06:12
So says a person that is deluded into thinking that environmental problems don't happen. If you actually read the ordinance you would find that it does not apply to specific neighborhoods but the whole city. The ordinance is necessary because federal and state laws are not enough for Cincinnati. We are are ranked in the top ten most polluted cities according to research done by American Lung Association. We also happen to have 3 schools in the top 1% for the worst air pollution. Plus one school that had to be shut done because of air pollution. Maybe you have heard of it, Meredith Hitchens Elementary in Avondale. Oh and to answer your question...all of the neighborhoods in cincinnati have excessive pollution which is why the law was written to include all of them. BTW, to get our top polluters why don't you check the very easy to obtain Toxic Release Inventory on the EPA website and stop writing comments you can't back up.


10.28.2009 at 06:15
Meant Addyston, not Avondale