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Residents want alley vacation

Homeowners on South Fountain Avenue want to vacate a piece of Obenchain Alley to limit through traffic, but representatives of the nearby Gammon House believe it will limit access to the historical Underground Railroad site.

Stephen Chirico of 717 S. Fountain Ave. applied for a partial alley vacation of Obenchain Alley, which runs between South Fountain Avenue and Rose Alley. The portion of the alley is approximately 215 feet long and would be used as a private driveway for both Chirico’s property and the neighboring property at 721 S. Fountain Ave., according to public documents.

The City Planning Board will hear the application at 7 p.m. Monday at the city hall forum, 76 E. High St. The alley vacation must also be approved by the city commission.

A similar application filed in 2009 was approved by the planning board, but was later unanimously rejected by the city commission.

Chirico and his wife, Anne, have owned the home on South Fountain for six years. The goal is to stop through vehicles from using the alleyway near his home, he said.

“It funnels an awful lot of traffic down that one alley for people who are trying to bust from one block to the other and not have traffic lights or not be seen,” Chirico said.

The alley vacation would also enhance security in the South Fountain Historic District, reducing “littering, theft, noise, vandalism, loitering, prostitution and drug trafficking,” according to the application.

“I can’t leave the garage door open for 30 seconds without worrying about somebody coming through there and stealing something,” Chirico said. “I’ve actually caught people in the garage.”

Chirico said he has no intention of putting up a fence. The rest of the neighborhood would have access to Rose Alley and Piqua Place from four other entrance points, he said.

“This is a safety and quality of life issue for me,” Chirico said.

The nearby Gammon House, 620 Piqua Place, could be affected by the vacation, said executive director Betty Grimes. The site recently received $75,000 from the state capital budget to finish its restoration.

In 2009, Grimes and other residents circulated a petition against the alley vacation. It stated several reasons for keeping the alley open, including it being officially named, access to garages for surrounding neighbors and emergency vehicles from Fountain Avenue and limited access to the Gammon House.

She said people have used Obenchain Alley to reach the historic site in the past.

“The fact of the matter is when people come down a major thoroughfare and it’s on city maps, you’re going to look for that,” Grimes said.

The Gammon House has been vandalized in recent years, she said, and believes vacating the alley is not the solution.

“We’re all in that boat,” Grimes said.

Chirico said he’s helped make several improvements to the South Fountain Avenue neighborhood since they moved there in 2008.

“We’re trying to take this last little step to improve it even more,” Chirico said.

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