by German Lopez
Western & Southern set to appeal for third time
The Anna Louise Inn today won another case in front of the
Cincinnati Zoning Board of Appeals. The ruling upheld a Historic Conservation Board
decision that gave Cincinnati Union Bethel, which owns the inn, a
conditional use permit that will allow the social service agency to carry on with a planned
$13 million renovation. Western & Southern in a statement given to reporters following the decision vowed to appeal the ruling.
At the hearing, Western & Southern attorney Francis Barrett, who is
the brother of Western & Southern CEO John Barrett, continued his
argument that the Anna Louise Inn is a “high-crime area.” The accusation
is meant to disqualify the Inn for the conditional use permit, which
requires that the building’s use will not be detrimental to public
health and safety or negatively affect property values in the
neighborhood. During an Aug. 27 hearing, the Historic Conservation Board found no direct evidence connecting residents of the Anna Louise Inn to
criminal activity in the neighborhood.
Barrett also emphasized Western & Southern’s stance that continuing
on the current path set by the Historic Conservation Board is a
waste of taxpayer money because the Inn is receiving public funds.
Barrett labeled the funds “excessive expenditures.” However, that
argument has little bearing on whether the Inn deserves a conditional
use permit, because it’s not relevant to zoning laws and rules.
Tim Burke, Cincinnati Union Bethel’s attorney, began his defense of the Anna
Louise Inn by calling the ongoing case one of the most “frustrating” of
his career. He suggested Western & Southern is just continuing its attempts to
delay the Inn’s renovations as much as possible.
Regarding the charge that the Anna Louise Inn has adverse effects on
public health and safety, Burke told the Zoning Board of Appeals that
the only adverse effect is on Western & Southern because “they want the property
and can’t get it.” He claimed there is no proof that the Anna Louise Inn
perpetuates crime in the area, and testimony and evidence presented in
the case has proven as much.
The case is only one of many in the ongoing conflict between Cincinnati Union Bethel and Western & Southern, which CityBeat previously covered in-depth (“Surrounded by Skyscrapers,”
issue of Aug. 15). Cincinnati Union Bethel wants to renovate the Anna Louise Inn in part
with $10 million in tax credit financing from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency and
a $2.6 million loan funded by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development that was awarded by the city. Western & Southern says it wants to use
the Lytle Park area, where the Inn is located, for private economic
The series of cases began when Judge Norbert Nadel ruled on
May 27 that the Anna Louise Inn classifies as a “special assistance
shelter,” which requires a different kind of zoning permit than the
previous classification of “transitional housing.” That ruling was
appealed by Cincinnati Union Bethel to the Ohio First District Court of Appeals, which held hearings on Oct. 30 and is expected to give a ruling soon.
by German Lopez
Court likely to rule in 30-45 days
The Anna Louise Inn, the city of Cincinnati and Western
& Southern (W&S) met for what could be the final time in court
today. For the most part, both sides took their time at the Ohio First
District Court of Appeals to restate past arguments.The three-judge panel heard 15-minute arguments by both sides. It is expected to give a final decision in 30 to 45 days. During the hearing, W&S lawyer Francis Barrett insisted that the
Anna Louise Inn meets the definition of a “special assistance shelter,”rather than “transitional housing” as it was originally classified, due to the
Off the Streets program, which helps women involved in prostitution turn
their lives around. The difference in labels could have substantial
implications for the Anna Louise Inn and whether it can go ahead with
its planned $13 million renovation. However, the inn has already
obtained a conditional use permit for its renovations in light of the original court decision classifying it as a special assistance shelter.
Tim Burke, lawyer for the Anna Louise Inn, rebutted by
asserting that the record shows the Anna Louise Inn has never acted as a
special assistance shelter. In one example, Judge Sylvia Hendon asked
Burke if the Anna Louise Inn would take in a woman in the middle of the
night since it is not a special assistance shelter. Burke responded by
saying the Inn would turn the woman away, as required under zoning code:
“She will be directed to one of the traditional homeless shelters. She
is not admitted to the Anna Louise Inn. The program does not operate
that way, and it never has. And the record is absolutely clear about
that.”The ongoing feud was triggered
by Cincinnati Union Bethel’s (CUB) refusal to sell the Anna Louise Inn
property to W&S. The company originally offered $1.8 million to buy
the Anna Louise Inn in 2009. CUB declined, and it eventually obtained
$12.6 million in state- and city-distributed federal funding for long-needed renovations.
From that point forward, relations between CUB and W&S
deteriorated, as CityBeat previously covered in detail (“Surrounded by Skyscrapers,” issue of Aug. 15)When asked how the hearings went, Burke replied, “You never know … until
you hear the decision.”
Western & Southern continues strategic public relations campaign against Anna Louise Inn
2 Comments · Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Western & Southern might have
completely flubbed an opportunity to purchase the Anna Louise Inn back
in 2009, but it’s hard to describe the Fortune 500 company as anything
but proactive since that time.
4 Comments · Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Western & Southern continued its
bullying of the Anna Louise Inn last week as the company threw more
legal pestering at the nonprofit that houses low-income women. That’s how every newspaper’s lead
paragraph would read if the media were truly fair.
by Danny Cross
Inn could get go-ahead for renovation Monday, but Western & Southern expected to appeal
The Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board will receive a
recommendation on Monday to approve a conditional use permit for the
Anna Louise Inn, which would allow the Inn to move forward with a
multimillion-dollar renovation of its building.
The Conservation Board staff reviewed the standards required
for conditional use and the Anna Louise Inn’s application, concluding
that the facility should be allowed to operate as a “special assistance
The Board is expected to rule on the permit Aug. 27 after
receiving the recommendation and hearing testimony from the Inn’s
administrators and supporters. Representatives from Western &
Southern Financial Group, which sued the Anna Louise Inn over zoning
violations in 2011, will also have an opportunity to testify.
CityBeat last week reported the details of Western
& Southern’s failure to purchase the Anna Louise Inn when it had the
chance and the company’s subsequent attempts to force the Inn out of
the neighborhood (“Surrounded by Skyscrapers", issue of Aug. 15).
Tim Burke, lawyer for the Anna Louise Inn, is pleased with
the staff’s determination that the renovation met all qualifications
for conditional use.
“I was certainly optimistic that we would get a positive
recommendation,” Burke says. “This is obviously an extremely positive
recommendation and we agree with it.”
The staff recommendation states that the Anna Louise Inn
“creates, maintains and enhances areas for residential developments that
complement and support the downtown core” and that “no evidence has
been presented of any negative public health, safety, welfare or
property injury due to the current use.” It also notes that “the Anna
Louise Inn is a point of reference from which all other new and
renovated buildings must be designed in order to be compatible with the
The Anna Louise Inn only applied for the conditional use
permit because Judge Norbert Nadel ruled in Western & Southern’s
favor on May 4, determining that the Inn is a “special assistance
shelter” rather than “transitional housing,” which froze $12.6 million
in city- and state-distributed loans for the Inn’s planned renovation.
The Anna Louise Inn appealed that decision but also applied for the
conditional use permit from the Conservation Board under the judge’s
definition, because special assistance shelters qualify for conditional
use permits under the city’s zoning code.
Francis Barrett, lawyer for Western & Southern, appears
to have taken exception to the Anna Louise Inn’s application. He sent a
letter to the Conservation Board Aug. 20 stating that “the description
of the proposed uses set forth in the application for conditional use
approval … is not the same as nor consistent with the Court’s decision.”Barrett didn't return a message left by CityBeat with the receptionist at his law firm after a Western & Southern media relations representative directed CityBeat to contact him there. Francis Barrett is the brother of Western & Southern CEO John F. Barrett. UPDATE: Francis Barrett returned CityBeat’s call after this story was published. His comments are at the end. Burke doesn’t know what Barrett meant by suggesting that
the proposed uses in the Anna Louise Inn’s application for conditional use don’t follow
Nadel’s May 4 ruling.
“We’re doing what they argued in court,” Burke says.
“Judge Nadel’s decision doesn’t ever exactly say ‘you’re a special
assistance shelter.’ It certainly refers to the Off the Streets program
that way and it certainly refers to (the Anna Louise Inn) as a single
unified use. It says ‘go back to the appropriate administrators and seek
conditional use approval.’ That’s what we’re doing.”
Stephen MacConnell, president and CEO of Cincinnati Union Bethel, which owns the Anna Louise Inn, says the hearing will involve testimony from himself and Mary
Carol Melton, CUB executive vice president, along with supporters of
the Anna Louise Inn.
“We’ll bring a few witnesses just to basically lay out the
situation,” MacConnell says. “The board will already have the staff
recommendation, so the witnesses that we’ll bring will briefly testify
about how we meet the required standards.”
Western & Southern will have a chance to appeal if the
Historic Conservation Board grants the conditional use permit. Burke
expects that to happen.
“What I’m pissed about is Western & Southern, they
don’t give a damn,” Burke says. “We can do exactly what Judge Nadel told
us to do and get it approved as a conditional use. They will appeal it
to the zoning board of appeals. We can win it there and they will
appeal it and get it back in front of Judge Nadel and then I don’t know
what will happen.”
The hearing is scheduled to take place at 3 p.m. Monday, Aug. 27 at Centennial Plaza Two, 805 Central Ave., Seventh Floor.UPDATE 5:36 P.M.: Regarding the letter Francis Barrett sent the
Conservation Board Aug. 20 stating that “the description of the proposed
uses set forth in the application for conditional use approval … is not
the same as nor consistent with the Court’s decision,” Barrett said
Friday evening: “I just felt that the description in the submission was
different from the description in the decision. I would say it was
just not complete.”
When asked for specifics, Barrett said: “I’d have to get
the decision out and look at it carefully. I don’t have it in front of
me I just thought in general.”
Barrett said Western & Southern will give a
presentation to the Historic Conservation Board on Monday but declined
to elaborate because it wasn’t finalized.
When asked if Western & Southern will appeal a ruling
in favor of the Anna Louise Inn, Barrett said: “It all depends what the