Chris Finney must be feeling rather schizophrenic lately.
The local attorney and arch-conservative activist is offering his services free of charge to the NAACP’s Cincinnati chapter, where he is chair of legal redress. His duties include assisting the chapter’s efforts at advancing the interests of the area’s African-American residents.
At the same time, Finney continues his legal work for ex-State Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. and their political group, the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST). His latest effort there is a lawsuit trying to overturn the Ohio law prohibiting former state lawmakers from lobbying in Columbus for one year after they leave office.
In the ongoing saga of Western & Southern vs. the Anna Louise Inn, there have been several court cases and zoning rulings, most of which have been appealed by one side or the other. Today it was the Cincinnati Zoning Board of Appeals’ turn to rule on something that’s already been ruled on, and it went in favor of the Anna Louise Inn.
The Board upheld a certificate of appropriateness for the Anna Louise Inn’s planned renovation, which essentially also upholds the Historic Conservation Board’s right to issue a conditional use permit — at least for now. Western & Southern is expected to appeal that permit, granted by the Conservation Board Aug. 27, before its 30-day window to do so expires.
Before this series of appeals can play out, the 1st District Court of Appeals will hear arguments in the Anna Louise Inn’s appeal of Judge Norbert Nadel’s May 27 ruling, which set in motion the Inn’s attempts to secure zoning approval from the Historical Conservation Board in the first place.
(All of this could have been avoided if Western & Southern would have purchased the Anna Louise Inn when it had the chance. CityBeat previously reported the details of Western & Southern’s failure to purchase the Inn and the company’s subsequent attempts to force the Inn out of the neighborhood here.)
About 40 people attended today’s hearing, including City Councilman Wendell Young, who said he supports the Anna Louise Inn but was not there to testify on its behalf.
By upholding the certificate of appropriateness, the ruling keeps alive a conditional use permit that could allow the Anna Louise Inn to move forward with a $13 million renovation of its historic building, once the expected appeals process plays out. (CityBeat covered the Aug. 27 Historical Conservation Board hearing here.)
The Board heard brief arguments from lawyers for both Western & Southern and Cincinnati Union Bethel and then entered executive session for about 15 minutes before ruling in favor of the Anna Louise Inn.
Western & Southern lawyer Francis Barrett, who is the brother of Western & Southern CEO John Barrett and a member of the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees, told CityBeat after the meeting that he disagreed with the board’s finding because a designed expansion of the building’s fifth floor has not yet had its use approved.
“With this case, the Historical Conservation Board is basically approving for the certificate of appropriateness the design of the building,” Barrett said. “But the design included an expansion of the fifth floor, and until that use issue is resolved the code reads, in my opinion, you can’t approve the design because the use hasn’t been approved.”
Barrett during the hearing read a written statement to the board arguing two main points: that the Historic Conservation Board didn’t have the jurisdiction to grant the certificate of appropriateness; and even if it did, Barrett argued, the physical expansion planned makes it a non-conforming use which wouldn’t qualify for the building permit.
Cincinnati Union Bethel attorney Tim Burke told the Board that the Anna Louise Inn is not seeking a permit for non-conforming use because it already received a conditional use permit from the Historic Conservation Board.
“Western & Southern is doing everything it can to block this renovation from happening,” Burke told the Board.
At the Historic Conservation Board hearing last month
Western & Southern tried paint a picture of the Anna Louise Inn’s
residents contributing to crime in the area because a condition of the
conditional use permit is that the building’s use will not be
detrimental to public health and safety or negatively affect property
values in the neighborhood. But the Board granted the permit, stating
that the Anna Louise Inn will not be detrimental to public health and
safety or harmful to nearby properties in the neighborhood and that the
Board found no direct evidence connecting residents of the Anna Louise
Inn to criminal activity in the neighborhood. Western & Southern has until next week to appeal that ruling.
Some people believe a person’s writing style says a lot about him or her. If you dot i’s with a heart, for example, people might consider you dreamy or perhaps immature. If you regularly misuse punctuation or choose words that aren’t appropriate for the intended meaning, it might indicate a lack of education.
To celebrate its 90th anniversary, the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area is holding a fundraiser that will put the heat to some local politicians with the help of talk show host Jerry Springer. The league is hosting a political roast on Feb. 27. Targets of the evening’s entertainment will be Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Patricia Clancy and former Cincinnati Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell, who is planning a campaign for the county commission.
The Requiem Project, a nonprofit organization formed in 2008 to oversee programming and raise money to renovate the century-old theater, says that’s exactly where the University of Cincinnati has failed to fulfill the requirements of overseeing the property, and it is asking the Court of Common Pleas to remove UC from ownership of the building.
The Requiem Project yesterday filed an amendment to its lawsuit against UC and lessees of the property housing the Emery Theatre, arguing that UC and the organizations operating the building have systematically failed their charitable purpose by allowing the theater to fall into disrepair after non-use for so many years.
The suit asks the court to award the Requiem Project the lease under which another nonprofit, the Emery Center Corp. (ECC), is currently operating the theater via a series of subleases from UC. If UC is removed as owner, the building could be overseen by the city or another nonprofit organization and Requiem could sublease from it.
UC assumed control of the building in the 1970s but needed permission to renovate most of it into apartments because of the charitable trust’s requirement that the building continue to serve the community. A 1999 court ruling allowed the development but required all profits to be used to renovate the Emery Theatre. Fourteen years later, the apartment operators say there are multiple mortgages on the property and no profits.
“The Court should remove UC as owner and trustee of the property, as UC has proved itself an unfit custodian,” the complaint states.
The complaint includes photos of various rundown areas inside the theater with captions such as, “Closed-off bathrooms. UC’s ‘saving’ The Emery” and “UC’s standard of fiduciary ‘care.’”
CityBeat covered the original lawsuit in August here.
The complaint accuses UC, ECC and Emery Center Apartments Limited Partnership (ECALP) — the for-profit company that oversees the building’s apartments — of conspiring to breach a 2010 letter of intent that stated ECC would sublease the theater to Requiem on the same terms as ECC is currently operating the theater. Requiem says the binding letter of intent is still valid and gives its organizers the right to a long-term lease that will allow them to raise money while operating the theater.
The Requiem’s cofounders, Tina Manchise and Tara Gordon, maintain in their lawsuit that the ECC and UC are purposely blocking the Requiem from moving forward with their original plan to incrementally update the 1,600-seat theater and allow programming to continue during the process.
After signing the letter of intent in 2010, the Requiem Project temporarily opened the Emery Theatre in 2011 to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Mary Emery’s dedication of the theater and to reintroduce the public to the long-overlooked resource — the theater was modeled after Carnegie Hall in New York City and is considered “acoustically pure.” It was the home of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra from 1912-36 and has hosted the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Although UC owns the building, it subleases the building to ECALP, which subleases the Emery Theatre to ECC. When contacted by CityBeat in August, UC spokesperson Greg Hand declined to comment, only stating that UC doesn’t have a relationship with the Requiem Project because its only relationship is with ECALP.
ECC informed Requiem in January that it would not renew its management agreement “for no cause,” according to the lawsuit, and then asked Requiem to vacate the building in August.
The complaint also seeks damages related to money Requiem has invested in the theater and losses caused by the August eviction. It is schedule for trial in February.
William Floyd, known as “Baldy” to most people, died late Sunday night after a fire spread through a camp near Mehring Way and Sixth Street downtown. Baldy was 44 or 45, according to different records.
A man who was once homeless and relied on the Drop Inn Center in Over-the-Rhine for shelter will return there later this month to sign copies of his recently released autobiography.
Donald Whitehead Jr. will sign copies of his book, Most Unlikely to Succeed, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. July 29 at the shelter. The Drop Inn is located at 217 W. 12th St.