Fort Thomas council hits pause on Design Review Board amendment

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A proposal that would change the composition of the Fort Thomas Design Review Board has been put on hold while officials continue the review of the ordinance. An amendment allowing up to two nonresidents to serve on the board was on the May council agenda for a first reading.

It sparked intense debate from council members and the public throughout the meeting, but it was the revelation there were even more potential changes under consideration that prompted the motion to hit pause.

Council member Eric Strange made the motion, seconded by Andy Ellison.

More changes under consideration

“There is some discussion and consideration being given to changes to the scope of the Design Review Board,” Strange said. “Until we can come together and come to an understanding on what those changes are, and we have all the information to make an informed decision, I would suggest pausing any further detailed discussion.”

Ellison agreed.

He noted the Planning and Zoning Commission is reviewing and updating the city’s zoning ordinances. Changes to the Central Business District are a part of that discussion, he said. The Design Review Board oversees the city’s two historic business districts, the Midway and the CBD.

“Planning and Zoning is also looking at proposing adding four more areas to the CBD, expanding the district,” Ellison said. “So all of a sudden, the Design Review Board is going to be extremely powerful…You can’t just expand all of this with these people having the power to do the certificate of appropriateness when they are not even elected…We want to know the new scope of what their responsibilities are before we change anything.”

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The motion passed unanimously.

Who’s got the power?

The subject of the board’s power came up throughout the meeting. The board has the power to grant or deny certificates of appropriateness — and a developer needs that before making any significant physical changes to the exterior of a building, structure or any property within the CBD, a designated historic preservation district.

According to Kentucky law, a certificate of appropriateness is required before “a person may undertake any exterior changes on a property or structure within a zone protected by an H-1 overlay.” General maintenance is allowed, but anything that changes the exterior of a property, such as construction or demolition, requires approval for a certificate.

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