by David Miller

Loveland, Ohio – An estimated 16 people gathered in front of Loveland’s City Hall at 1 PM on Saturday and spread out through the streets of the Historic District and along the Loveland Bike Trail. They were gathering signatures on a petition and in general educating the public about their concerns about a parking garage that is proposed for the Historic District. They expressed that they want to preserve the existing character and ambiance of the downtown area and the Loveland Bike Trail. Opinions were also expressed about protecting the Little Miami River watershed, including O’Bannon Creek that enters the Little Miami in downtown.

Those who rallied Saturday are questioning the cost of the proposed garage, the need for studies such as an environmental impact study, parking research, and even the need for a garage. They want “data” about what they say is the costliest municipal project in the history of the City.

Organizer, Lauren Enda told Loveland Magazine on Monday that she obtained 75 new signatures on a petition adding to the 129 signatures she has gathered from an online petition she created.

Those who gathered are asking the city council to engage with the public before building a parking garage in historic downtown Loveland and ultimately having the question put on the ballot so residents could vote it up or down.

Loveland Magazine sent an email to all council members and City Manager Dave Kennedy on Sunday morning seeking comment on the rally. Only Councilmembers Tim Butler and Kip Ping responded. You can read the full text of their responses below.

Enda said on Monday, “We are not saying, ‘no garage’ only that the proposal should be studied from many angles, and then letting residents vote.”

Tim Butler response:

I support the right of the citizens of Loveland under the First Amendment to peacefully assemble and express their position about an important issue such as the proposed Parking Garage. I respect their passion for the City of Loveland. I also support many of their specific points and oppose the construction of the Parking Garage. I urge my fellow Members of City Council to listen to the citizens of Loveland and carefully, completely and thoughtfully address our citizens’ concerns before moving forward any further with this project. 

I believe the referendum process should be used sparingly. However, with the intense feelings on both sides of the issue and the potential impact of the construction of this project, a referendum to gauge the public’s support or opposition to this project, before Council authorizes construction and our taxpayers are responsible for subsidizing and paying off the Garage for a generation, is appropriate. 

Kip Ping response:

This issue cannot be looked at simply as an “are you for it or against it” sort of issue.  There are too many facets to make it that simplistic since a few tweaks one way or another could shift opinions.  As opponents have stated, there are considerations to be made with regard to cost and environmental impacts.  Proponents would note considerations with regard to supporting downtown patrons, helping traffic congestion (i.e. those circling looking for parking), and making it possible for local businesses to have parking reasonably close to their establishments.  All of these are worthy of due consideration.

Council is listening to those that have varied views on the parking garage.  We have heard in open forum from a few people that have come both in favor of and opposed to the parking garage. 

Walking neighborhoods last fall during the election champaign I had an opportunity to hear from many residents, the majority of whom either didn’t have interest in the downtown parking issue or asked why the garage had not been started yet.  The Sierra Club and CROW both reached out to council members via email, and I responded to each with the intent of promoting dialog with them on their concerns.    

Council is working toward improving the parking and traffic issues downtown and is not deaf to the opinions that have been shared and will be shared at future opportunities.  As already written, it is a multi-faceted issue which calls for a balanced and best solution – the project needs to be fiscally sound, environmentally respectful, aesthetic, etc.  There will, no doubt, be some that will be unhappy with the final resolution (perhaps even on both sides of the issue), but that is obviously the unfortunate necessity when there are honest differences of opinion on any issue.

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