An unfortunate coincidence in timing between a state-mandated Butler County three-year property-value update and Hamilton’s work on a River District Master Plan has some people in the city’s Second Ward and other areas near the Great Miami River concerned government leaders may want to buy their properties against their will.
Liz Hayden, who led a riverfront visioning meeting Wednesday with Hamilton native and consultant Barbara Wilks of W Architecture and Landscaping Architecture of Brooklyn, N.Y., emphasized to concerned property owners there are no plans to take their land or homes for development.
“We mean that very sincerely, that there are no nefarious plans along with this,” Hayden, the city’s director of planning, told a group of about 60 people who attended a meeting to give suggestions about what they would like to see happen along the city’s riverfront.
But before the audience broke into small groups to discuss what the riverfront might become in future years and decades, residents wanted to express their fears.
The Rev. Harold Andrews, pastor of the St. Paul Miracle Center, told meeting leaders, “I don’t think anybody wants to hold the city up, or stop development. I’ve lived here 67 years — home — don’t plan on going anywhere.”
But, he said: “The thing that has to be discussed — the thing that comes up, is: How does it affect the people who have made their homes in that community, and have been there for year after year after year, and how is it going to affect their property values? How is it going to affect them personally?”
Andrews noted the Butler County Auditor’s Office, as it is required to do, this year created an estimate of the value of every property in the county. The estimates are required to determine how much in property taxes should be paid for each parcel, including how much in tax levies each owner should pay.
Andrews said some Second Ward properties saw large drops in their estimated values, causing concern among owners.
“In light of the last letter, the county assessment that went out that lowered property values and everything, that brings fear,” Andrews said. “Because you have people whose homes were valued at $55,000 three years ago, and now, all of a sudden, they get an assessment saying, ‘Your home is worth $21,000.’”
Hayden and other city officials have repeatedly promised there is no link between the city’s riverfront plans and the county auditor’s property value estimates.
After the meeting, Central Avenue resident Angela Hicks said she believes the city should be focused on integrating current property owners in the future development, so they are part of the area’s future rather than having to leave.
“The thing should be, ‘What can we do to help bring their property up to par?’ Give you grant money? Fix your porch, plant your lawn, whatever,” Hicks said. “What are you going to do for those residents, rather than leaving those residents in fear of losing their homes?”
Hicks also suggested the city should hold at least one more meeting to unveil a draft of the city’s riverfront plan before unveiling it in February.
“I think there should be more of a push to get the people to come out and learn what is going on in the community so that they can voice their opinions and they can be a part of the structural planning of what’s about to happen, or may or may not happen,” Hicks said.
At a future meeting, people will be more educated about the issues, and will have thought more about the possibilities, she said.
Told about Hicks’ suggestion, Hayden and Wilks said they plan to present a draft of the plan to those who attended Wednesday’s meeting in the future, so they can offer more feedback to what has been developed.