Hyde Park, Roselawn Community Leaders Push Back Against Perceived “Commercial Creep”

“Commercial creep” was the dominant theme of Friday’s meeting of the Cincinnati City Planning Commission.

The commission chose to table a zoning change request by Stagnaro, Saba & Patterson Co. (SSP) to rezone a property at 3443 Zumstein Avenue in Hyde Park from single-family residential use to office use, which would allow the firm to relocate four of its 13 employees from its adjacent office to the building’s first floor.

The zoning change was opposed by the Hyde Park Neighborhood Council, which fears the expansion of businesses onto its residential streets, a loss of parking, and uncertainty about the property’s future use.

“In our meetings with Mr. Saba [Peter Saba, attorney and SSP shareholder], he revealed that the short-term plan was to use the first floor for office, which appears to be rather innocuous,” said Gary Wollenweber, chair of Hyde Park Neighborhood Council’s Zoning Committee. “But then he explained that future plans may be to occupy the entire building, or demolish the entire building and build a parking lot, or perhaps enlarge his current building.”

Saba said that his firm was only exploring its options.

“Specifically, at that point in time when we looked at it, we realized our only plan we wanted to do is use that first floor space,” he said. “At this point, that’s all we have on the table. Anything else is beyond economic feasibility for us right now.”

SSP has a second office in Anderson Township, and it has been suggested that the firm could expand there. But Jeff Stagnaro, who is also an attorney and shareholder with SSP, said that the majority of his firm’s clients prefer the Hyde Park location.

“Your choice is really to move the entire firm to Anderson Township, or stay here in Hyde Park,” he said. “It is somewhat about us, but it’s about our clients more than it’s about us.”

To Wollenweber, the residents of Zumstein Avenue may have little defense over the zoning change, citing a recent change on Edwards Avenue as precedent.

“One of the arguments that was used against us was that it’s just one more parcel in the middle of a block, and what difference would it make if you just move one more parcel north?” he said. “This is the first parcel with a Zumstein address. So we are turning the corner off of Erie and now starting to march down Zumstein.”

The issue may appear before the commission again in May or June, giving time for the firm and the neighborhood to explore possible solutions.

In a less contentious debate, the City Planning Commission rejected a zoning change at 1780-1816 Section Road in Roselawn from residential multi-family use to office use.

Property owner Schuyler Murdock, who has run design-build firm CM-GC from the property since 2009, wants to make utility upgrades to her non-conforming building and is trying to market the adjacent parcels for the construction of two condominium buildings of four units apiece, plus a spa and wellness center.

Murdock told commissioners that she has already lined up an operator for the spa and has pre-sold two condominiums.

But with no concrete development plans and a fear that nothing would be built and the stepped-up zoning would remain, she failed to draw the support of the Roselawn Community Council.

  • These are fascinating cases. The Hyde Park proposal is definitely off of the main commercial street, but that stretch of Zumstein Avenue is already mostly devoid of its residential character due to the construction of a parking lot for the school at the end of the street. I don’t see how that street will remain residential much longer. If this were on the north side of Erie Avenue I could better understand the concerns. With that all said, it does seem like a perfect strategy for SSP to expand their existing cramped parking lot by tearing down that house. Not an ideal situation.

    The case in Roselawn is even more perplexing due to the awful condition of those parcels as of now. It would seem that just about anything that got built on that site would be an improvement over what currently exists.

    • EDG

      It’s hardly “starting to march down Zumstein” though. I don’t think the Hyde Parkers have a good sense of the actual boundary of their business district because it’s not just lots fronting Erie, there’s already a substantial amount of creep to the south.

  • EDG

    There’s no stronger local group of NIMBYs than in HP. They use their 30 year old neighborhood plan to fight for or against whichever way the breeze catches them on a project. Not to mention the incredible amount of time spent debating such a small issue.

  • David Thomas

    Makes more sense to buy the white apartment building on Erie, if it was available. I always thought that that apartment building was a little out of place looking. Is this the HP council on behalf of the people who live on that stretch of Zum? There is a brand new house being built at the end on the right behind the school parking lot. There is also like two other houses right there that basically have the school parking lot as their front yard, always wondered about those, interesting they were saved.

  • Mark Christol

    Hyde Park is absolutely right about preventing these changes. As the article states, precedent matters and every time you fray the fabric of the neighborhood, it just gets worse.
    It’s easier to keep your neighborhood nice than to have to rebuild it. Look at what’s happened to so many of Cincinnati’s once nice neighborhoods.

    • EDG

      -The precedent has already been set- see all the nonresidential down Observatory and east of the square that wasn’t traditionally commercial
      -We’re talking about a single residential lot abutting the rear of a low impact law firm that has preserved a residence that otherwise may be in worse condition
      -We’re talking about property contiguous to hi traffic Erie that abuts the business district

      All of these things and more hardly erode the overrated HP Square boutique bus. district. HP is known for their land use hyperbole- look at the facts, be objective.

  • Yes, fight any and all growth, freeze the whole neighborhood in amber and never let it change! Don’t let any of “those people” move in or open businesses! Neighborhood character! Hey why are taxes going up now? This is the worst kind of parochial NIMBY-ism that just leads to more sprawl and shutting out of anyone who doesn’t already have their foot in the door of the neighborhood.

  • EDG

    Hyde parkers still have a pre-annexation view of their community, that they’re an independent village where a few vocal residents can bastardize city zoning to exclude any business (sometimes with racial undertones) and growth they think is wrong.

  • Brad McLaughlin

    I am with the residents on this one. I would hardly say this is NIMBY or halting growth by KEEPING 1 single house as residential. Just because that small part of Zumstein is ‘devoid of its residential character’ doesn’t mean residents should not fight to keep what is left of their residential character.
    What if you lived on that part of Zumstein and someone said, “let us do this small thing now, but we might make it a parking lot someday”? Many of these comments just sound like HP hatin’ to me.

    • It’s not “one single house” it’s systematically blocking any development or redevelopment by forcing commercial uses to “stay contained” within the already pre-existing district. That “one single house” is just as much a wall as anything in a case like this. Plus, the same people who say “OMG they might build a parking lot or *gasp* apartment building” are the same ones who vote down transit taxes, resist bike lanes, and prevent road diets that would help make the neighborhood more walkable and less in need of parking in the first place.

    • EDG

      And there’s already plenty of small parking lots abutting residential in HP. Their objections are not based on reality but on their time capsule view of the village.

    • Mark Christol

      we get it, you hate Hyde Park

    • EDG


    • Brad McLaughlin

      What is wrong with keeping business in the business district and out of zoned residential?

    • What makes residential more important? If there’s more demand for commercial use than residential use, forcing it to remain residential through zoning is a distortion of the market that leads to businesses moving out of the city entirely or going to a more automobile-dependent location. Some 95% of the land area of Hyde Park is single-family residential, and the majority of that is large-lot single-family residential (SF-10 or SF-20 zoning), so even if the business district doubled or tripled in size it would have a negligible impact on the “character” of the neighborhood as a whole. The goal for a neighborhood should be for it to mature to an equilibrium point where desirability matches demand, not artificially constraining it so that there’s always a shortage of supply and inflated prices.

      I would argue that the business district is the major differentiator of the neighborhood and what really makes it attractive. You have similar housing stock and streets in Avondale, East Walnut Hills, Pleasant Ridge, and even Westwood, yet none of those neighborhoods have the same cachet because their neighborhood business districts are severely lacking in comparison. So more Hyde Park Square is better than less. More offices, stores, and restaurants mean more things people can walk to conveniently, making the neighborhood better and more attractive, not less. Constraining development just leads to runaway rents, more expensive houses, and further boutique-ification of the business district.

    • Brad McLaughlin

      So why is business more important? These houses have been there since the early 1900s, and I presume residential.
      If residents want HP to be 95% residential…so be it. IH is 100%, fine by me too.
      The cachet of HP is due to the restriction. If they overplay that, so be it. The market is not distorted, the market is the market. I find it remarkable that resident concerns are even considered. We will see if they get steamrolled in the end.
      If HP wants to boutique-ify (they do)…so be it.
      E Walnut, P-Ridge can attract by having lower costs and less snobbery.

      “More Hyde Park Square is better than less” I cannot believe I read that. LOL Not my cup of tea.

    • If the market has to be artificially restricted through zoning that absolutely is a distortion.

    • Mark Christol

      they can change the name of the neighborhood to Hyde Parking Lot

    • EDG

      More nimby hyperbole…

    • EDG

      And it hurts the entire city taxbase

    • EDG

      Like there aren’t enough four families in HP to lose a few…

    • I’m not sure the classification of this street as a residential one is accurate. Yes, it may be zoned residential but its character seems to have been lost some time ago. There is a huge surface parking lot almost directly across the street from this house serving the school. Plus, the home also directly looks over the backside of all the commercial properties fronting on Erie Avenue.

      One problem I have with zoning is that it is often inflexible. Cities change over time. Business districts grow and populations shift. If we were to lock our cities into the zoning originally prescribed to them, we would have a major problem on our hands. This is one of the reasons I prefer things like true form-based codes over the more restrictive and inflexible Euclidean Zoning.

    • Brad McLaughlin

      I agree to a point, zoning can be dumb. But this is not an enclave, it is a border, and the forms there are houses. You even called it a ‘home’. The people that live around there seem to view it as residential, and that is good enough for me. And that is my point here. I am all about mixed used, etc, but there is also time and place for residential and I think that means those residents deserve some protections.
      I mean come on, having a view of a parking lot means the street is not residential? And therefore, this law firm can turn the corner tear down a perfectly good house and put in surface parking if they so desire?
      If anything, we should protect border residential, 3443 has a Walk Score of 84.

    • Oh I hear ya…I would not like to see that house torn down to make way for a parking lot either. In fact, I think Hyde Park Square has too much parking as is, but I am certain I am in direct conflict with neighborhood residents with that thought.

    • EDG

      Protection from what? The law firm is already there and parks in the rear and there is also a more intensely used building across Zumstein.

    • EDG

      People keep overlooking the relationship between the lot and the law firm and the realities of development constraints given how small it is. With the hyperbole coming from HP, you’d think Zumstein was turning into Rookwood.

    • Brad McLaughlin

      “think Zumstein was turning into Rookwood”
      I do hope you realize the irony there.

  • Guest

    i am not sure why “growth” only equals horizontal expansion in this case

    • There seems to be this mentality that neighborhood business districts can only be linear in their boundaries. In reality, walkable business districts rarely work like that.

  • Kevin LeMaster

    I should add that a lot of Hyde Park residents believe that by keeping the business district constrained, it drives up the property values because demand will continue to outpace supply. After all, who doesn’t want their business located in “tony Hyde Park”? Not my words.

    • EDG

      What they’re doing reduces livability and walkability. I lived there briefly while carless and it was great if you want gourmet popcorn, flavored olive oil, or a nice dinner, but I had to go through Mt. Lookout UDF or walk two miles to Kroger for daily needs.

  • ohio rose ann breezley