Troy council votes against Tavern Building appeal

TROY — A crowd of approximately 50-75 citizens gathered at Troy’s City Hall on Monday, Oct. 31, attending a special City Council meeting regarding legal issues surrounding the Tavern Building on West Main Street.

“For nearly three years now, our community has seen its reputation tarnished over a project that would cost less than one million to bring up to minimum building code,” Ben Sutherly, of the Troy Historic Preservation Alliance (THPA), said during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“The sidewalk continues to be closed, creating a public safety risk,” Sutherly said. “Precious parking spaces have gone unused for years. One of the most historic buildings in Troy and Miami County is being lost to demolition by neglect.”

Council held a special meeting starting with an executive session at 5 p.m., after which council members voted against two resolutions authorizing the city to hire lawyers and file an appeal to a recent decision by Miami County Court of Common Pleas Judge Stacy M. Wall that halted the planned demolition of the Tavern Building. Both resolutions failed and will now be held over for a second reading at the next council meeting.

“The first resolution would in effect be a blank check to legal council,” City Council President William Lutz said. “The second resolution would authorize the director of public service and safety to file a notice of appeal regarding common pleas court case number 21 CV 378 in support of the city of Troy Board of Zoning Appeals; an appeal that as time goes on, appears to be more in the financial interest of a few select individuals, rather than the interest of the general public.”

“While absolutely no one can be happy with our city’s continued inability to open up a heavily-used public sidewalk and seven badly-needed parking spaces,” Lutz said. “It should be known that the responsibility for this inaction does not lie with your City Council.”

“It has been 1,024 days since the tornado struck buildings in our downtown,” he said. “Tonight marks the first time that the mayor and our service safety director have specifically asked this council to take any action on the building at 112-118 W. Main St.”

Lutz’s full statement can also be seen at http://www.williamlutz.org/blog/council-statement-from-october-31-2022?categoryId=304083.

“There is no doubt that the Tavern Building has remarkable history,” Sutherly said. “It is associated with the largest emancipation of enslaved people prior to the civil war in the entire nation.”

“The fact that this has not been resolved is an embarrassment to our community,” he said. “The property owner has hundreds of thousands of dollars to help cover those costs, as a result of insurance proceeds from the tornado.”

The Tavern Building’s owner, Randy Kimmel, was present at Monday’s meeting but declined to comment for this story.

Several other THPA members also spoke during the meeting. “Please support Troy citizens before you even entertain continuing to support citizens who don’t even live in your town,” THPA member Sonia Holycross said.

Troy Mayor Robin Oda also issued a statement after the meeting.

“It is one thing to be bullied by a group of people who don’t like the policies/procedures and legal guidance that are in place,” Oda said. “It is quite another to be bullied by an elected official, a self-professed leader, who purports to know the policies and procedures of his elected position and those of the city, then chooses to flagrantly violate those by using the podium of his elected position to verbally attack the city director and me for following those policies, procedures and legal advice. To do so shows utter disregard, complete lack of understanding and respect for his position and that of myself and the city director.”

“The property owner in this specific case has given notice that he will file an appeal of the court’s recent decision regarding the previous lawsuit in which he and the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals were named as defendants,” Oda said. “The THPA creates a conflict for our city law director, and the city was required to hire outside legal counsel to defend the BZA. Monday night’s discussion and proposed legislation was specific to whether or not the city would continue to defend the BZA and its volunteer board members. To imply that it is the city’s fault or reckless to continue defending the city’s interests is nothing short of self-serving and dishonest at this time.”

“Mr. Lutz’s leadership as City Council president was shown Monday night to be severely lacking,” she said. “We can do better.”

In other business, council members also voted to approve a resolution hiring attorneys for unrelated employment matters, and held a work session to discuss possible design options for the downtown street-scapes project planned in 2024-2025. Eric Anderson of Cincinnati-based KFC Designs also delivered a presentation showing high, medium and low-cost options for the project.

“A component of the West Main Street phase 1 project includes extending the street-scapes from Cherry Street west to Short Street,” Director of Public Service and Safety Patrick Titterington said. “That will encompass the second block of Main Street, from the square all the way through the courthouse complex.”

“Beyond that, in the five-year capital plan, over a two-year period starting in either 2024 or 2025 we would do two phases for the replacement of the street-scapes,” Titterington said.

Council members’ next regularly scheduled meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 7. Council meetings are held on the second floor of the City Hall building located at 100 S. Market St.