A plan to save all of an urban farm won’t be presented to Covington city officials.
That farm, called Orchard Park by neighbors, is at the corner of Orchard Street and Locust Street in Covington’s Westside. In March, gardeners learned the city wanted to develop the vacant city-owned lot, which neighbors transformed into fields of vegetables and a home for chickens seven years ago.
The garden space is part of a wider effort to develop 17 Westside properties to bring more housing to the neighborhood. The city planned to develop half of the garden into single-family housing and the other half into a neighborhood park as a compromise to keep some of the green space.
But neighbors wanted to keep sowing each inch of the half-acre space. One of them even helped create a development plan to do exactly that and bring housing to the block.
That plan was among 21 proposals the city received from eight developers for various combinations of lots and buildings the city would like to see transformed into housing.
The one submitted by Covington-based Orleans Development and the nonprofit Center for Great Neighborhoods was a review committee’s favorite.
On Tuesday, city commissioners are expected to vote to approve it, according to the meeting agenda.
This isn’t what the gardeners wanted to see.
In May, the community gardeners endorsed a plan their fellow neighbor, Melissa Baird, helped put together with a Covington-based WorK Architecture + Design.
That plan aimed to save the entire garden and add seven single-family homes – including a Habitat for Humanity home – and a nine-unit condominium to the block, according to the development application shared with The Enquirer.
“We felt as if it was a good compromise,” said garden organizer and Westside resident Janet Tobler. Tobler explained they wanted to keep the entire garden because it has promoted social and environmental benefits.
That proposal wasn’t among the city’s favorites.
The Enquirer asked what concerns the city had with the proposal.
“It would be inappropriate, unfair, and certainly unusual for the City to criticize and disparage any proposal, even ones that are not currently the ‘favored’ proposal,” Covington Communications Manager Dan Hassert said in an email to The Enquirer.
At a July 13 commissioners meeting, Covington’s Neighborhood Services Director Ken Smith gave a presentation about the plans and told city officials they got five “good” proposals from the 21 submissions.
A five-member review committee picked a plan from Covington-based Orleans Development and the Center for Great Neighborhoods as its favorite, which will be recommended to the city for approval Tuesday.
The committee included representatives from the Neighborhood Services Department, Economic Development Department, the Parks & Rec Division, the Historic Preservation Division and the Federal Grants/Housing Assistance Division.
Hassert told The Enquirer in an email the committee chose that project because it stays loyal to the intent of the city’s purchase of the properties, brings many housing units to the area while staying consistent with the “look” and “feel” of the neighborhood, creates residential off-street parking and more.
It will transform 11 lots into 10 new 1,350-square-feet row houses with two bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, estimated to cost up to $312,500. Developers will also build a custom home, use a historic building as a home office and design a quarter-acre park with Westside residents.
What happens next?
City commissioners will gather Tuesday to vote on the recommended proposal.
Tobler said she hopes commissioners will reject the proposal and consider the one that keeps the half-acre community garden intact.
“The people that I talk to seem to be saddened by the idea that it could be taken away,” Tobler said.
If you go:
- Where: 20 West Pike Street in Covington.
- When: 6 p.m.
To weigh in, email your election officials:
- Covington Mayor Joe Meyer – [email protected]
- Commissioner Ron Washington – [email protected]
- Commissioner Michelle Williams – [email protected]
- Commissioner Tim Downing – [email protected]
- Commissioner Shannon Smith – [email protected]
Julia is the Northern Kentucky government reporter through the Report For America program. The Enquirer needs local donors to help fund her grant-funded position. If you want to support Julia’s work, you can donate to her Report For America position at this website or email her editor Carl Weiser at [email protected] to find out how you can help fund her work.
Do you know something she should know? Send her a note at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @JFair_Reports.
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