Berding Balks at Council’s Motion on FC Cincinnati Stadium Rezoning Request

FC Cincinnati president Jeff Berding addressed an ongoing controversy in the club’s new stadium project last week, criticizing a city council motion that requires the club to provide housing to have its rezoning request approved.

Construction is underway for a new FC Cincinnati stadium on the city’s West End, in preparation for a planned a 2021 opening. The club recently filed a rezoning request to incorporate properties north of the stadium site into the project’s footprint, but it has run into opposition from neighborhood residents that could be displaced.

In response to concerns about displacement, the Cincinnati City Council voted 5-2 last Wednesday to adopt a motion that says it will not approve the rezoning request unless the club agrees to provide housing for displaced residents in a nearby building that it owns. Berding addressed the controversy surrounding displacement and the council’s motion in comments made on Thursday, emphasizing in the process that FC Cincinnati understands the concerns of residents and wants to help find a solution that prevents those affected from having to leave the neighborhood. However, he was critical of the council’s motion, believing it is inappropriate for the city to require FC Cincinnati to effectively serve as a landlord in order to have its rezoning request approved. More from the Cincinnati Enquirer:

“I am troubled that a governmental body would refuse to vote on zoning until significant commitments are made on properties that are not a part of the vote,” Berding said. “What Council is asking for is outside the law. FC Cincinnati is a professional sports team. When you look around the office we have people selling tickets, selling sponsorships … preparing a stadium for next round of home games. We’re not residential property managers.”

One of the properties where tenants were living had been a part of the request for rezoning, but the team removed it when it became clear council members were concerned. Later another property was removed from the request, leaving just the right-of-ways.

Council must sign off on the re-zoning but a majority of council members demanded Thursday that the team keep everyone who was going to be displaced in a building the team owns near the stadium site.

Deadlines are looming. The city’s planning commission is set to vet the request on May 10, with a council vote the following week. The stadium is under construction now. Major League Soccer requires that it open in March 2021, with penalties for missing the deadline.

FC Cincinnati began MLS play this season as an expansion team, and is slated to stage home matches at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium through the 2020 season.

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