Cen­ter says it’s los­ing city, wa­ter au­thor­ity money

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - ROB DEWIG rdewig@cov­news.com

The di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Com­mu­nity Preser­va­tion and Plan­ning, the group tasked with form­ing the 2050 Plan and its ac­com­pa­ny­ing or­di­nances, re­cently sent a note to groups that have sup­ported its ef­forts say­ing that Cov­ing­ton and the Wa­ter and Sewer Au­thor­ity will cut off its fund­ing.

Kay Lee wrote in the let­ter that “The Cen­ter and all con­sul­tants have been re­lieved of their roles re­gard­ing the 2050 Plan Base­line Or­di­nances. The (county) Board of Com­mis­sion­ers will be tak­ing over the project.”

That bit is no sur­prise. The com­mis­sion­ers voted a month ago to con­sol­i­date all ex­ist­ing work on the plan’s im­ple­men­ta­tion into its own plan­ning depart­ment.

But this part is new: “The City of Cov­ing­ton and the WSA will sus­pend fund­ing.” The three groups, to­gether with a few thou­sand dol­lars from Ox­ford, paid for the ex­pen­sive plan’s de­vel­op­ment.

Cov­ing­ton Mayor Ron­nie John­ston was a bit sur­prised at Lee’s note Fri­day morn­ing, mainly be­cause noth­ing’s hap­pened on the city’s end, and in­deed might not.

“It’s not of­fi­cial yet,” John­ston said. He plans to bring the mat­ter of cut­ting fund­ing for the Cen­ter’s base­line or­di­nance work at a city coun­cil work­shop at 6 p.m. Mon­day. His job is to sug­gest such things; the coun­cil must ap­prove such ac­tions.

“Be­cause of the ac­tion of the county, that meant the county was tak­ing over the process of draft­ing and writ­ing the base­line or­di­nances,” he said. “We don’t now have a seat at the ta­ble. We had a seat at the ta­ble with the Cen­ter, be­cause it was a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort with the Cen­ter.”

Now, he said, the base­line or­di­nances are the county’s game. The city’s zon­ing al­ready in­cludes “80 to 90 per­cent” of the or­di­nances called for by the 2050 Plan, so the city was try­ing to be a “good neigh­bor” by help­ing pay for it.

“Now that (the county has) pulled it, they put me in a po­si­tion, whether I like it or not, I can’t support fund­ing it.”

He spec­i­fied that he was speak­ing only for him­self, not the coun­cil.

He said he hopes the coun­cil will agree at the work­shop Mon­day, then vote at its reg­u­lar meet­ing on Sept. 15 to cut fund­ing.

But this is not the death of the 2050 Plan. The base­line or­di­nances are merely the tool to im­ple­ment it.

“I still be­lieve this has still a ton of value with the Cen­ter and what it does, not only for the city but for the whole county,” he said. Us­ing the cen­ter, the county and its mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have been able to make co­op­er­a­tive (and there­fore cheaper) pur­chases of sup­plies, pooled re­sources, and come to­gether as a whole.

Lee was out of town and un­avail­able for com­ment.

John­ston ad­mit­ted he was a “lit­tle frus­trated” with the county’s ac­tions.

If the plan had (or, maybe, still goes) for­ward, there might have been an op­por­tu­nity for more sav­ings. For in­stance, he said one over­all zon­ing or­di­nance would re­quire only one zon­ing depart­ment, com­bin­ing the ci­ties’ ef­forts with the county.

“It gave us those op­por­tu­ni­ties to be­come a more ef­fi­cient gov­ern­ment for all our ser­vices. As it seems, it looks like that’s been pulled off the ta­ble,” he said.

Not so, or at least not so much, County Coun­cil Chair­man Keith El­lis said Fri­day.

“I’m in hopes that we can have or­di­nances that fit New­ton County and think the cit­i­zens will be happy with,” he said. “It’s valu­able for the other (mu­nic­i­pal) en­ti­ties to get to­gether with the county. It makes sense. You have to cre­ate those re­la­tion­ships and one of the ways is to have every­body can sit down to­gether. … You can share ideas.”

He said he hopes to sched­ule such meet­ings in the fu­ture.

El­lis said the 2050 “or­di­nances were over­reach­ing and just didn’t fit New­ton County. I have ev­ery con­fi­dence in our (county plan­ning) staff and the at­tor­ney’s of­fice. They know New­ton County and will be able to de­cide which parts of the or­di­nances need to be kept and which ones need to be scrapped.”

“In their own rime, when they bring some­thing back, the cit­i­zens will able to ad­dress this new set of or­di­nances,” El­lis said. “I’m de­lighted the cit­i­zens were fi­nally heard.”

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