Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Back to the Future

It's been a LOOONNNGGG time since my last post -- have you missed me? I have some big news and I want to make sure all our residents know about it:

Amberley Village is on social media! Better late than never, right? Beginning July 1st, Amberley will roll out our Amberley Village app that can be downloaded to your mobile smart phones and tablets (both iphones and android). In the meantime, Amberley is now on twitter at @AmberleyVillage. Facebook will be rolled out along with the mobile app. 

Residents will soon be able to get news of the Village as it happens on their preferred platform. Council meetings can be easily watched from the mobile app too, which is great because even cat videos can get old after a while. I'm kidding, of course. Cat videos never get old...

Also, in case you missed it, Amberley has a significant birthday celebration coming up. August 16th marks the day of our community-wide celebration, beginning with a parade at 11:00. Spots are available for participants to march/walk/juggle/etc in the parade. If your neighborhood has lots of kids and bikes enter a bike brigade! Be creative! Entry forms are available at Village Hall or by clicking HERE.

Hope you are having a great summer and have a safe 4th of July!

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Are you recycling cartons and juice boxes? Rumpke opened a brand new state-of-the-art recycling facility (Material Recovery Facilty/MRF) in November and the community was invited to go for a tour. Since I consider myself the resident recycling guru in Amberley, and as chair of the Health, Education, & Welfare committee of council that reviews our trash and recycling contracts annually, I didn't want to miss the opportunity. Fellow councilperson Peg Conway and I went together.

Our community is doing a great job of reducing the trash we send to the landfill. Last year, we received approximately $13,000 from Hamilton County Solid Waste and Recycling as a reward for the amount of waste we kept out of the landfill. The items that are acceptable for recycling are dependent upon there being either a buyer or an end-use for the material being recycled. Practically anything is recyclable, as long as there is someone to buy it and we have the facility to separate and bale it. Rumpke's new facility is now capable of separating and baling the cartons we used to have to throw in the trash. This includes milk cartons and juice boxes that have a waxy coating on them.

A couple of take away tips from the tour: 1) DON'T THROW AWAY PLASTIC BAGS! Rumpke's MRF is manned by workers whose job it is to sort out non-recyclable trash from a fast-moving conveyor. One plastic bag stuck in the conveyor can shut down the entire facility! Throw your papers straight into the recycling can or bin, or else put them in a paper grocery bag. Plastic grocery bags can be recycled by taking them back to the grocery store and putting them in the recycle bin at the front of the store. 2) RINSE AND REMOVE THE LIDS FROM CARTONS. Plastic lids may be recycled along with plastic bottles as long as they are attached to the bottle.

Remember, our solid waste output can also be dramatically reduced by composting. Composting is fun, easy, and can be done all year long. Michele Balz of Hamilton County Solid Waste & Recycling writes a humorous blog about composting with lots of composting tips called Confessions of a Composter. Finally, it's time to start stockpiling those old electronics and papers for shredding. Amberley's Environmental Stewardship Committee will once again be hosting "One Stop Drop" and Cohen Recycling will be collecting electronics to recycle.

If you ever wondered what happens to the materials we recycle after they are picked up at the curb, Rumpke has some great videos on its YouTube channel: Rumpke Clean & Green. You can also schedule a tour for your own group by visiting their website http://rumpke.com/education/facility-tours. Scouts will love this tour, because as you can see from my photo, visitors are required to wear protective clothing, including a hardhat.

If you haven't yet done so, be sure to join our neighborhood network on Nextdoor and subscribe to Amberley news and email at AmberleyVillage.org. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The J-Cafe

Two years ago, I wrote about the J-Cafe -- the cafe at the Mayerson JCC, which happens to be the only restaurant in Amberley. At the time, I mused  "where do we go in Amberley when we want to relax and chat with our neighbors -- about our community, our families, our lives...? A gathering place is a central part of a community. To see our neighbors and elected officials in a relaxed setting in the community can ease suspicion and strengthen our ties to the community."

Since that time, I have seen the J-Cafe go through several changes -- not all of them good. But this week, I realized that I had eaten lunch at the J-Cafe four times. It is really a restaurant now, and one that we should all be supporting. The hours have been extended from 7:30AM-6:00PM Monday-Thursday, 7:30 - 2:30 on Friday, and 9:30 - 4:00PM on Sunday. Closed on Saturdays for the Jewish Sabbath. 

Food choices have been broadened and you can now get fresh smoothies, soft-serve yogurt with toppings, cappucino and lattes. I highly recommend the tuna and avocado melt as well as the vegetable soup, which is the best I've had anywhere!
 Something else that's new is the "Take & Bake" menu. I haven't tried it yet, but I intend to. On Fridays, the J-Cafe offers full dinners for pick up that serve 4-16 people. Five entrees are offered and can be picked up by as late as 6:15 on Friday evening.

On Friday mornings, the chef offers a full omelet bar, and CEO Marc Fisher says that we can look forward to Pancake Sundays coming in February. 

You don't have to be a member of the JCC to enjoy the convenience of eating at the J-Cafe. I'm so pleased that I can say that we really do have a place to eat and see our neighbors within our own community. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Amberley Green

At the Candidate's Forum hosted by the Amberley Women's Forum, council candidates were asked the question "do you support multi-family housing?"  My answer then, and now, is that, with the proper zoning, developer and plan, multi-family housing on Amberley Green would be a good amenity to our current and future residents. We are a community with an aging population who have made it known that they would be very interested in luxury condos or lifestyle homes on Amberley Green. Also, the same kind of housing would appeal to young professionals. Built in the context of the mixed-use development recommended by the Amberley Long Range Planning Committee  and as part of a larger development that is safe and walkable, we would be adding value to our community by providing more choices for living.

This evening I attended a meeting of the First Suburbs Consortium, which I wrote about in an earlier post. The topic of housing happened to be addressed. One thing that the majority of older, built suburbs, such as Amberley, have in common, is a lack of available housing for our aging population. The advantage that Amberley has, over Blue Ash (where this is the MAIN issue of concern), is that we have available land for rectifying this situation. Luxury condos, lifestyle homes, or apartments featuring universal design features might be just what Amberley needs in order to attract new residents and keep empty-nesters in our community. At the request of the attendees, this issue will continue to be addressed and meetings are open to everyone. If you would like to be notified of the next meeting of First Suburbs, please let me know and I'll be happy to get you the information.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Keeping Tabs on Me

This upcoming election, I am fortunate that I am running without an opponent. Hopefully that means that residents are satisfied, or, at least, not dissatisfied, with my job performance over the last two years. I have tried to communicate with as many of you as I can about things in Amberley that I am working on or that I think residents should be made aware of. I could probably update this blog more often, but then I might run the risk of becoming more spam in your inbox.

The question was raised recently about why I am putting up campaign signs and communicating with voters during election season when I am running unopposed. The answer is simple: I cannot expect voters to vote for me simply because I don't have an opponent. In my opinion, I still have to earn your vote, and to earn your vote, I need to prove that I am still working hard for Amberley. In fact, I have to work harder than ever because given the current makeup of council, and probably into the near future, I will still be a "lone wolf" when it comes to pressing for improvements that would positively impact the quality of life for residents.

My priorities haven't changed in the two years I've served on council. For example, even though the Village has paid off Amberley Green, economic development is as important today as it was when I first took office. Fortunately, our ownership of this beautiful piece of property gives us the luxury of dictating what can be built there. Safe streets for pedestrians is also of high importance. Nothing happens overnight, but it is silly not to plan for future possibilities. I will continue to search for grants to pay for future planning, like the grant opportunity I brought to committee last week from Interact for Health. There was no support for applying for the grant, but part of being on council is to continue to bring forth issues that are of importance to residents whether there is support for them at this time or not. Trends change, opinions change. It's important to stay educated to trends and make sure Amberley does not become a dinosaur because it's much easier and less risky to ignore them.

I've always believed that the way a candidate runs their campaign tells voters a lot about the way they will serve. A candidate who works hard for your vote, communicates a well-thought out platform, engages their constituents, and takes advantage of public outreach opportunities like the League of Women Voters Smart Voter, The Cincinnati Enquirer, or ICRC, is a candidate who has researched the issues and wants the voters to know their positions.

The Amberley Village Women's Forum is conducting a candidate's forum at the home of Stacy Lefton this Wednesday, October 16th, from 7-9 PM. Please look for more information on Nextdoor where you can also find Stacy's contact information to RSVP.
Paid for by Wolf for Council, 600 Vine St. Cincinnati, OH 45202

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Panhandle Lots

A panhandle lot is a lot that is set back from the street, behind other houses, and only accessable via a long narrow drive. Imagine the main lot with a house, is the pan, and the long drive is the panhandle. In an predominantly built area, like Amberley, where some homeowners own large lots, panhandle lots may be the only area in which to build a new house. Typically, they are created when an existing homeowner sells a large lot and the new owner decides to subdivide the lot into two or more lots. Panhandle lots allow a developer to put an additional lot onto an exisiting property without building a new road. Panhandle lots can consist of one single lot with a single home or a series of new lots and homes, essentially creating a new street or drive behind the original street. Each new house would share one long driveway and the address, typically, is on the main street.

Earlier this year, The Board of Zoning Appeals heard applications from two developers over the course of nearly as many months who each wanted permission to create panhandle lots on property they had just purchased. Each property was in excess of two acres, thus meeting the minimum requirement for one acre housing lots in property zoned Residence "A." Both properties were located in deadend or cul-de-sac streets, and both were heavily wooded in the rear. Neither property owner presented a detailed plan to the BZA for the yet-to-be-built homes. Both applications were contested by existing neighbors and homeowners who stated that they did not desire the extra traffic from construction vehicles, additional curb cuts to create a drive, and a new house to be built in their backyards. Yet, each case was decided differently, primarily due to Amberley's current Zoning Code which does not provide any guidance for deciding on these type of lots. 

The trend for older communities is to restrict panhandle lots, allowing them only when detailed plans are presented to the BZA. This protects existing homeowners who were not expecting to have to share their backyard with a new homeowner's front yard. It also protects the integrity of older neighborhoods and the rural ambiance that comes from living in an area with larger lots and mature trees. Additionally, it puts potential buyers on notice that they may not be able to subdivide their property if it will result in a panhandle lot without first having their detailed plans scrutinized by the BZA. 

Amberley's Planning Commission has been examing new legislation that addresses this issue and will be presenting it to Council in the coming months. Please subscribe to our Village webpage at AmberleyVillage.org if you want to be notified of the public hearing for this ordinance.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Amberley is not an Island

One thing I like to keep in mind when I think about Amberley and my responsiblitity to the village as a council member, is how Amberley can remain a vibrant community, given the challenges that all local municipalities are facing, including elimination of estate tax, local government funds, and tangible personal property tax,  since most of our state revenue has been cut or eliminated. Where does Amberley Village fit within the structure of Hamilton County and who is looking out for us, besides our Amberley officials? Fortunately, we are not alone, but as a small community, it is important for us to shout a little louder and be a little more visible, so as not to be neglected.

One of the organizations that Amberley participates in is the First Suburbs Consortium of Southwest Ohio. First Suburbs are those suburbs that are generally located near core cities and were established prior to 1960. First suburbs share many common concerns -- older housing stock, shrinking tax base, and competition from the newer, outer exurbs for economic development. As the name suggests, the First Suburbs Consortium can generate the power of collaborative interests to influence policy -- as it is doing right now regarding HB5 and changes to how Ohio collects municipal tax.

Representatives to the First Suburbs Consortium are appointed by council. I was appointed in 2011 as an "alternate" representative. In February of this year, I learned that our appointed representative was not attending meetings, thereby leaving Amberley unrepresented and without a voice. In March, I attended my first First Suburbs general membership meeting where the Mill Creek Watershed was discussed, as well as updates regarding HB5 and other state legislative news. I have subsequently been appointed to serve on the executive committee of the Consortium.

Amberley is facing many challenges ahead, as we are forced to contend with a shrinking budget yet residents expect the same level of service they are used to. It is important for us to realize that we, as a community, share many of the same issues with our neighboring communities and that we are stronger when we harness our collective resources and ideas. The First Suburbs Consortium is just one way Amberley can have a louder voice at the state level.