Avon Growth News, 3-7-06 to 4-30-06

Home (Main Menu)

3-7-06 Judge Edward Zaleski rules against Avon

3-19-06 EVENTS on 3-19-06 and 3-14-06

4-11-06 Historic Avon homes could benefit from new tax rules

4-13-06 ACC 2006 considers a charter amendment

4-23-06 Commuter Rail Now

Primary Election Results, May 2, 2006:

Oldtimer, in a message to www.loraincounty.com dated 5-6-06, wrote:

``Issue #2 - Avon Local School District

Additional: 2.87 mills Emergency Requirements of School District - 5 years

For: 2,112

Against: 1,935

Issue #3 - Avon Local School District

Additional: 1.90 mills Providing for School Improvement Bonds - 28 years

For: 2,268

Against: 1,756


urbanflight wrote on 5-4-06:

``Just so we are clear about the difference between facts and opinions as many people seem to have a problem distinguishing between the two:

Opinion: "And the school is not building a bus palace."

Fact: "Buildings cost money."

Fact: "It will not only house the garage, but offices and restrooms and other rooms."''


It is probable that in a few years the busses will be stored on the flyash landfill at SR 611 or somewhere in Avon's industrial area. Then the bus drivers will have to drive in their own cars to use the offices and restrooms and other rooms in the bus garage at Heritage North.''


Remember Dana Reeve who died of lung cancer on 3-7-06 at age 44 after never smoking.


LETTER To The Editor, 3-5-06, by Taylor J. Smith

The real problem of the proposed Avon school bus garage, other than wasting a million of our tax dollars, is storing the busses along the west side of the Heritage North School.

In the Chemical Risk Management Report of 9-10-2005 (kept from the public until 2006) Roger L. Wabeke wrote: "It is not, in my view, prudent to place so many sources of suspect carcinogens near a highly populated area of youngsters early in their lives with a higher probability of respiratory-pulmonary cancer induction because of their youth ... the cancer induction latency period can be 10 to 40 years later ..."

PARENTS! Save this Chemical Risk Management report for any of your children who may attend Heritage North after the bus garage is built and busses are stored along the west side of the school. The City of Avon and the Avon Board of Education will be liable for treatment costs and compensation for pain, suffering, and loss of income because of any disease which may be reasonably attributed to your child's exposure at Heritage North as much as 40 years before the detection of the disease. (The potential liability for Avon taxpayers is in the millions.)

Hopefully, some citizens will pay to have Heritage North inspected for tiny (2.5 microns or less) particles of diesel pollution after several years of build-up, and then have Heritage North shut down until it is decontaminated and the sources of contamination permanently removed. For a while, Heritage North could be the most expensive bus parking lot in northern Ohio.

Mr. Reitenbach and the Board have our money, and they will build their monument. But on May 2, 2006, I will vote against the school issues; and I will CONTINUE to vote against school issues until the busses are stored on Avon's industrial land or on the fly-ash landfill the City owns at SR 611, or stored outside of Avon.

According to news reports, there will be blacktop in the front of the bus garage, but stone where the buses are parked. This is done so that fluids leaking from the busses will not get into the storm sewers. It would be a lesser evil to pollute the ground water at the fly-ash landfill rather than at the school where vapors from the ground water could further impact our children.

Building a bus garage at Heritage North on Detroit Rd. wastes valuable land which will be required to provide more schools for Avon's rapidly growing population. And there is no room to expand the bus parking area at Heritage North as Avon's population grows. The almost inevitable consequence will be the eminent domain seizure of Pickering Hill Farm by the Avon School Board, destroying another piece of Avon's cultural heritage.''

Sincerely yours, Taylor J. Smith, Avon


urbanflight, in a message to www.loraincounty.com dated 3-13-06, wrote:

``... There is definitely proof that bus exhaust is harmful. Study after study has shown this. 1 in 9 school kids has asthma, and it is the largest cause of missed school days for children nationwide. Here's a nice link from the Asthma Council as part of their nationwide campaign to raise awareness of the impact of bus exhaust:


... Will the bus garage end up a Superfund site? Doubtful. Is it harmful to the students as it is now? Yes ...''


LETTER TO THE EDITOR, 2-1-06, by Rhonna Smith

``The Avon Board of Education is asking for a 2.9 mill new operating levy and a 1.9 mill bond issue renewal in May. Operating dollars could be saved by contracting for school bus service. The 1.9 mill bond issue could be avoided in part by saving about one million dollars intended to build a bus garage at Heritage North School on Detroit Road by choosing other available options. The BOE is wasting our tax money by failing to negotiate with, for example, SBS Transit for school bus service.

I worked with Avon Superintendent Jim Reitenbach when he was Athletic Director for Elyria City Schools. He was well aware that Elyria contracted for school bus service. Why hasn't he recommended this to the Avon BOE? Does Mr. Reitenbach remember what happened when Elyria West was closed? Many voters were turned against school money issues by that action; and some of us moved out of Elyria, seeking a community which had some concern for the citizens and the way their tax dollars are spent.

Avon voters will have a constant ugly reminder of the waste of their tax dollars every time they drive by the yellow busses stacked up at Heritage North. Mr. Reitenbach, you are asking us for more tax money. Do you live in Avon, and will you be paying these taxes? You may be creating permanent opposition to Avon school issues.

Do we need a Taj Mahal bus garage? What's wrong with a pole barn on one-dollar-a-year land offered by the Avon City Council on Schneider Court or on SR 611 to the Avon BOE? The "newest fleet of busses in Lorain County?" Hmmm, is this necessary? If Avon has the "newest fleet of busses in Lorain County," sell the busses, out-source the bussing, and use the money to build classrooms. Re-allocate the million dollars of bus garage construction money to classroom construction.

2.9 mills plus 1.9 mills equals 4.8 mills which is an unnecessary burden for Avon taxpayers, who are being taxed to death. I'm voting against the levy and the bond renewal in May. I urge others to vote against these unnecessary and wasteful taxes.''

Sincerely yours, Rhonna Smith


LETTER TO THE EDITOR, 2-8-06, by Ralph White

``As a registered voter and Avon resident, who grew up in Avon, I've spent my professional life working on cars and trucks; and I know enough to write about the bus garage issue.

I support the idea of a new bus garage. The one-bay garage on Stoney Ridge is obsolete. I support jobs for Avon bus drivers, lounge facilities, restrooms, and driver safety. I do not support putting the bus garage next to the Heritage North School on Detroit Road. It's important that all of us be informed and not base our opinions on hear-say or newspaper articles alone.

Schools are to be in residential zones; and repair facilities are to be in commercial and industrial zones, for the safety of everybody, and for the esthetics of our neighborhoods. The zoning laws are being ignored by the Avon school board out of pure stubborness; and they have refused to discuss any other options besides Heritage North.

Put the bus garage in a properly zoned area. As Avon grows, more bus parking will be needed which is unavaiable at Heritage North. That land should be saved for classroom expansion. Does it make any sense to park the busses at Heritage North and run them around town to refuel them at the Middle School on Stoney Ridge?

Making the bus garage look like the Avon fire station is a complete waste of tax dollars; and trying to hide it behind mounds of dirt, fences, and trees, trapping diesel fumes, is even more of a waste. The brick left over from building the Heritage schools should be used for classroom expansion with color matched bricks and not wasted on a bus garage. All that is needed for a bus garage is a building that might resemble, for example, Ray's Auto and Truck Service on 611.

Diesel engines produce more torque, require less maintenance, last longer, and get better milage than gasoline engines. The newer diesels burn cleaner than the old ones, but they still all pollute. There is no Ohio echeck test for diesels, no pollution standards to go by. Engine production standards are not pollution standards. There isn't any technology to change this. Don't be fooled by talk of catalytic converters. They are on gasoline engines, but they do not exist for diesel engines.

The City of Avon hired Roger Wabeke of Chemical Risk Management to evaluate parking busses at Heritage North. Anybody who reads his report will see that putting the bus garage at Heritage North is a bad idea. Since the Avon school board is ignoring zoning laws, refusing to consider other options, and is wasting tax dollars, I won't be supporting a tax levy or bond renewal with my vote.''

Ralph White, Avon


LETTER TO THE EDITOR, 1-18-06, by Taylor J. Smith

``On 5-2-06 the Avon Board of Education will ask the voters to approve 4.8 mills of real estate tax for operating and capital money. I have never in my life voted against an Avon school tax; but, in 2006, I will make an exception.

The BOE has demonstrated its disregard for Avon taxpayers by not discussing school bus service with outside contractors such as SBS Transit of Sheffield. If SBS ran the busses, the BOE would save substantial operating money. It would also save almost $1 millon capital dollars by not having to build a bus garage. This money could be used for more classrooms.

Building a bus garage at Heritage North on Detroit Rd. wastes valuable land which will be required to provide more schools for Avon's rapidly growing population. And there is no room to expand the bus parking area at Heritage North as Avon's population grows. The almost inevitable consequence will be the eminent domain seizure of Pickering Hill Farm by the Avon School Board, destroying another piece of Avon's cultural heritage. St. Mary of the Woods will find more busses in its front yard.

It is rumored that the BOE will buy Long Rd. land where, because of a previous use, a local sewage treatment facility can not be built. So the residents will be forced to pay expensive frontage assessments for a sewer line. Is the purpose of the sewer line to open up Long Rd. for massive housing developments?

It is bad enough that the quality of life in Avon is deteriorating. To be asked to pay more taxes to encourage this down-slide is outrageous.''

Taylor J. Smith, Avon


MESSAGE to www.loraincounty.com , 11-11-05, By Oldtimer

``Eyes wide open, in a post dated 11-7-05, wrote how the Avon Board of Education has been squandering and proposing to squander our tax dollars: The BOE has squandered

"-$290,000 -$158,000 -$608,000 -$953,000" = -$2,009,000

from 2001 through 2004,

and proposes to squander

"-$853,000 -$556,000 -$1,122,000" = -$2,531,000

from 2005 through 2008, a total of $4,540,000 in the red.

Eyes wide open writes: "the forecast that was filed with the state ... Here is the website for everyone:


... Avon is the only district to spend more than it received for 4 years straight and the only one to drain the general fund like the board did. The reason that the district has not been put in deficit YET is that the Board started out with over $3 million ..."''


LETTER TO THE EDITOR, 3-2-06, by Matthew J. Smith

I resent having my tax dollars, soon to be wasted by the Avon Board of Education and Avon Superintendent Jim Reitenbach, used for the construction of a financially irresponsible bus garage. Viable options are available, i. e. contracting with SBS Transit, or building a far less expensive bus garage on the sites offered by the Avon Council on Schneider Court and SR 611.

Reitenbach said on 3-2-06, "The capital improvement funds already exist for the bus garage. That project is moving forward." I find Reintenbach's arrogance towards me as as a taxpayer highly distasteful.

Why can't that project be changed? Since my tax dollars, along with those of all Avon taxpayers, are already in the possession of the Avon BOE for this financial folly of a bus garage, I will never willingly give the Avon BOE and Jim Reintenbach another opportunity to waste my tax dollars. I will vote against the school money issues on May 2 and in the future.

Matthew J. Smith, Avon

Top -- Home

NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 3-7-06, by SCOT ALLYN, Morning Journal Writer

[Judge Edward Zaleski rules against Avon]

``AVON -- A court ruling on one of two rezoning lawsuits facing Avon City Council spurred the city to action last night.

Both rezoning requests, from [Steve Schafer -- ] Gamellia Construction and Lake Pointe Construction, were referred back to Planning Commission for review.

Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Edward Zaleski ruled in favor of Gamellia Construction Feb. 28 [2006], according to Avon Law Director John Gasior. Zaleski gave the city 60 days to rezone about 14 acres at Middleton Lane and Detroit Road, Gasior said. The parcel, currently zoned residential, would allow the expansion of the Avon Commons shopping center if it were rezoned commercial [The proposed Heritage Village will not be part of Avon Commons].

''This means we have to rezone, but the city has many options. It's not an automatic win for the developer,'' said Gasior. ''Basically, it's the judge's way of saying, `Let's get to work.' There is plenty of room for both parties to be reasonable and preserve the look of Detroit Road.'' [Instead of rezoning, Avon could appeal Zaleski's decision.]

Gasior said Zaleski has also been assigned the Lake Pointe case, initiated by developer Greg Romes who hopes to change about 22 acres at the southeast corner of Detroit Road and SR 83 from residential to commercial. Romes, builder of the 2100 Center commercial development on the west side of SR 83, wants to erect a new shopping center if his rezoning is granted.

''Since Judge Zaleski is also hearing the Romes case, it's in the city's best interest to take the initiative there too,'' said Gasior. Council has not asked the Planning Commission to review the entire 22-acre Romes request, however. Only about 14 acres, which Romes has requested be changed to C-2, will be reviewed by the Planning Commission.

Gasior said Avon Planning Commission would review the rezoning requests with Mark Majewski, the planning expert hired by the city to guide the first extensive review of Avon's master plan in more than a decade. The planning commission would also look at the court decision and make a recommendation to City Council, Gasior said.

[See The Master Plan of 1992.]

Avon Planning Coordinator Jim Piazza said the two rezoning issues will be discussed in a special meeting of the Planning Commission March 22. The meeting will be open to the public. [A public hearing is scheduled for 6:40 pm at City Hall on 3-22-06 where citizens will be able to speak.]

Members of the Avon Citizens Committee 2006, a political action committee that keeps a close watch on commercial development in Avon, spoke up at last night's council meeting with concerns about the rezoning. Clark Perrin asked if Romes has acquired more property on SR 83 south of his original rezoning request. Piazza said Romes now has options on two parcels south of the original request.

After City Council adjourned, committee member Jon Pinney said his group wanted to have a public meeting on the two rezoning cases. ''We need time to digest the new information,'' said Pinney. ''We plan to sponsor a town hall meeting ... [on March 19, 2006, at 2:30 pm at the Providence Church, 35295 Detroit Road]. The group will likely invite current and former members of council to the meeting, Pinney said.'' ...''


NEWS ARTICLE from The Press, 3-8-06, By Julie A. Short

``Court favors developer

AVON -- City council voted 6-0 (Ward 4 Councilman Dan Urban was absent) to send hotly contested rezoning requests back to the city's Planning Commission for review.

The Lorain County Court of Common Pleas ruled on Feb. 28 in favor of Village at Creekside's (Schafer Development and Gamellia Construction) request to rezone 14 acres of property between Middleton and Detroit roads from R-2 to C-3.

According to court documents, the summary judgment states that the "present R-2 single and two-family residential zoning classification on the subject property is not rationally related to any legitimate health, safety and welfare concern of the citizens of Avon and is therefore determined to be unconstitutional as applied.

[Judge Edward Zaleski wrote:] "The city of Avon shall, within 60 days of this court's entry, rezone the subject property in a manner that is constitutionally permissible. The city of Avon is further notified that its failure to rezone the subject property within 60 days of the date of this court's entry will result in the court dictating a reasonable zoning classification for the subject property and inasmuch as this matter may require further proceedings before this court and plaintiff's declaratory judgment complaint is not fully adjudicated through this order, this court shall maintain jurisdiction over this dispute for further hearings in the event the city of Avon fails to rezone the subject property or fails to rezone the subject property to a constitutionally permissible use within the time prescribed by this court."

Steve Schafer was not in attendance at the meeting and could not be reached for comment.

Law Director John Gasior said Judge Edward Zaleski has also been assigned the Lake Pointe Construction (Greg Romes) case, which initially had requested to rezone approximately 22 acres at the southeast corner of Detroit Road and SR 83 from residential to commercial. ''While there is no court order at this time [regarding the Romes lawsuit] in light of how the courts ruled on the Schafer case, council deemed it necessary to move forward with Romes," Gasior said. Only 14 acres of the entire 22 acres will be reviewed, under C-2 standards.

Both plans will be on the agenda during a special meeting of Planning Commission on March 22 [2006 at 6:40 pm -- a public hearing -- citizens will have an opportunity to speak], prior to the regularly scheduled Master Plan review meeting...

"Both sides can now agree that the properties are not viable as R-2 (residential)," Council President Clinton Pelfrey said. "How much of that property should be rezoned is what we need to review. The ruling on the Schafer case shows that the court is trying to be proactive. We plan to take an open mind and review all the options. We will be dealing with strictly the zoning, not the type of stores that may or may not come."

Members of the Avon Citizens Committee 2006 (ACC) political action committee were in attendance at the meeting and listened for the first time as to the direction council will be taking on the rezoning requests. Arbor Acres resident R. Clark Perrin asked if Romes has acquired more property on SR 83 south of his original rezoning request. Piazza explained that Romes does have options on two parcels, but they are not included in the rezoning request.

"We need time to digest the new information," ACC member and Bentley Park resident Jon Pinney said. "We plan to sponsor a town hall meeting on March 19 [2006] at 2:30 pm [at the Providence Church, 35295 Detroit Road]. We intend to invite the public, the mayor, [and] council ...''


NEWS ARTICLE from The Press, 3-29-31, By Julie A. Short

Planning commission issue one positive recommendation, other waits

AVON -- It was a bit of deja vu during planning commission's March 22 special meeting. Two hotly contested rezoning requests landed on the group's agenda for the second time, and one received the same positive recommendation. The other will have to wait until next month since the developer was unable to attend the meeting.

Last summer, council members voted down a rezoning request by Village at Creekside developers, Jim Gamellia and Steve Schafer, for property located on Detroit Road (Piazza Greenhouse). The group filed a lawsuit against the city and was recently granted a summary judgment by Lorain County Court of Common Pleas Judge Edward Zaleski.

"The court came to a judgment that R-2 was not constitutionally permissible," Avon Law Director John Gasior said. "The judge did not say what it is. This body (planning commission) has been asked by council to consider rezoning that is constitutionally permissible."

The developer had originally requested C-3 zoning, which would allow for stores larger than 70,000-sq.-ft., however, the buildings must be within 1/2 mile from an interchange, which they would not be.

Mark Majewski, hired by the city to review the two zoning requests as well as its master plan, advised that C-2 zoning would fit better in the area. "If this property is looked at as C-2, it makes the most sense," Majewski said. "It is more consistent with the pattern and scale of development on Detroit Road. C-2 with some conditions would be an appropriate use for this property."

Those conditions include a landscape buffer, masonry wall and/or earth mound to be constructed and maintained along entire Detroit Road frontage. Heights above Detroit Road centerline grade will be consistent with Avon Commons buffer and to a depth necessary to accommodate such height. Primary access shall be on Detroit Road. The property shall comply with all requirements.

Richard Panza, representing Village at Creekside, said his client is willing to work with the city and accept C-2 as long as council and planning commission remain flexible with requirements. "The developer has made a promise to preserve the historic structures in the area," Panza said. "They would also like to gain access to Middleton Road." Currently, the property in question along Middleton Road is owned by First Interstate (Mitch Schneider), the developer of Avon Commons.

The second rezoning request, which is still in litigation, involves approximately 15 acres of property on the southeast corner of Detroit Road and SR 83 owned by Lake Pointe Construction (Greg Romes). "Council has decided to be proactive on this case," Gasior said. "By random luck of the draw, the same judge was assigned to this case. This issue will be on the agenda for next month."

Several audience members commented about traffic in the area and questioned planning commission's attention to the issue. Many explained that they have difficulty pulling out onto SR 83 when they leave for work in the morning. Much of the morning traffic is residential in nature, as most of the commercial retail in the area is not open for business at that time ...''


NEWS ARTICLE from The Press, 4-26-06, By Julie A. Short

``Detroit rezoning approval granted

AVON -- ... Council voted 6-0 to rezone approximately 14 acres of property on Detroit Road from R-2 (two-family) to C-2 (central business/French Creek District), pursuant to a court order. The request has been commonly known as the Schafer/Gamellia (Village at Creekside) case. Ward 4 Councilman Dan Urban abstained from the vote due to a professional conflict of interest. He works for Wickens, Herzer, Panza, Cook & Batista, which represent the developers. Village at Creekside had initially requested C-3 zoning.

It has taken more than a year to get to Monday night's decision. On Feb. 16, 2005, Steve Schafer's architect, Mark Olson, first presented plans to construct a retail development called Heritage Square [Village] on the property where the former Piazza Greenhouse sits. After months of discussions, as well as a positive recommendation from the city's planning commission, the former council voted down the project later that year.

Soon after, the developers filed a lawsuit in the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas. The item sat in litigation for a few more months until Feb. 28, 2006 when Judge Edward Zaleski ordered the city to come to some type of resolution that would be constitutionality permissible within 60 days. During the past year, the city hired a city planner to review rezoning requests, as well as the city's 1992 Master Plan, which had come under fire during the rezoning request ...

A public hearing was held prior to the meeting at which time, no one from the audience addressed council regarding the rezoning request. According to Law Director John Gasior, the ordinance does not take effect for 30 days. "After that, it's up to the plaintiff to file a motion to dismiss the case," he said. "Council has done what the court has ordered them to do. We'll have to wait and see what the next step is for the developer."

The city's second hotly contested rezoning request saw little action during council's meeting, although members voted unanimously to hire the law firm of Calfee, Halter & Griswold to represent the city in the case of Lake Pointe Construction (Greg Romes) versus the city of Avon. "We had a meeting last week and I suggested to council that they consider engaging other counsel," Gasior said. "Calfee has been working with the city as bond counsel for some time and they have assisted the city on other issues. It was a logical choice to go with that firm to assist us."

Attorney Jim Lang, representing the firm, told members of council that he looks forward to addressing the constitutionality issue with the city. The city is hoping to be proactive and come to a resolution in the Romes case ...

After the meeting, Gasior explained that if the Romes case should go to trial, it would be in the city's best interest to have an experienced litigator to assist ... A pre-trial date has been set for June 13 [2006] in the Common Pleas courtroom of Judge Zaleski in Elyria.''

Top -- Home

EVENTS on 3-19-06 and 3-14-06

The Avon Citizens Committee 2006 is pleased to announce that they will host an Avon Town Hall meeting

All Avon residents are invited

The purpose of this meeting is to discuss major developments in critical rezoning cases and also to discuss other commercial development issues that will impact the city. All residents will have an equal opportunity to state their opinions and views.

Date: Sunday, March 19, 2006

Time: 2:30 pm

Place: Providence Church, 35295 Detroit Road, Avon, Ohio 44011

(East of Avon Commons on the south side of Detroit Road)

The ground rules for this meeting are simple:

No fund raising activity is permitted.

No campaigning for or against any individual or issue - Your opinion relative to issues is welcome and invited.

Verbal attacks against individuals will not be tolerated.

It is intended that this meeting be a cordial exchange of views and opinions.

PLEASE Mark your calendars and plan to attend. All opinions and views are important.

The Avon Citizens Committee 2006


Heart of Avon Antique Show

Sunday, March 19, 2006

10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (Early bird admission 9:00 a.m.)


37545 Detroit Rd.

at Exit 151 of I-90, left on 611 to Detroit

1 mile west of Rt. 611

General Admission $4.00

Early bird admission (9:00-10:00) $6.00

Door Prizes, Free Parking, Delicious Food

This is a great show that you will not want to miss. Quality antique vendors from all over Ohio display their prize pieces -- all available for you to take home and start enjoying. Serious antique hunters, come early (the early bird gets the worm). Stay all day and enjoy delicious lunch on the premises, or have your hand stamped and come back later.

Antique dealers, for information about tables at the show, please call 440-934-6700


NEWS ARTICLE from The Press, 2-15-06, By Julie A. Short

``AHS sports hall seeks volunteers

AVON -- On Feb. 7 [2006], a meeting of the Avon Athletic Hall of Fame Committee was held. At this meeting, new by-laws were approved and officers were selected. A major effort this year will be made to recognize individual and team achievements made in Avon prior to 1950. The committee membership has long felt that these teams and individuals have been overlooked in the past.

The Avon Athletic Hall of Fame Committee is still looking for individuals who are interested in serving in some capacity. Interested individuals may contact Athletic Director Stan Hughes at 934-5111. The next meeting of the committee will be March 14 [2006] at 7 pm in the Avon High School Lecture Hall. Any individual wishing to nominate a team or individual for consideration for selection to the Avon Athletic Hall of Fame may also contact athletic director Stan Hughes for more information.

The chairperson of the Avon Athletic Hall of Fame Committee is Mike Henry. Members of the executive committee are Dr. Chad Coffman, Mike Henry, Tracy Arendt, Jim Baker, Bob Barnhart, Tom Wearsch and Stan Hughes.

Initial membership in several sub-committees was also established. Members of the banquet sub-committee are Nancy McGhee, Gary Simkovich and Mike Beltz. Members of the funding sub-committee are Jim Bommer, Marty Yonkof and Arendt. Members of the veteran's committee are Carla Wible and Tom Wearsch.''

Top -- Home

NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 4-11-06, by SCOT ALLYN, Morning Journal Writer

``Historic Avon homes could benefit from tax rules

AVON -- As many as 100 [about 240] historic Avon homes could benefit from new rules on tax abatements if the city adopts a new system described to City Council last night [4-10-06] by an Ohio Department of Development representative.

Community Reinvestment Areas (CRA) will allow Avon to negotiate abatements on real estate taxes should council pass an ordinance creating a CRA in Avon.

Fran Migliorino, a Department of Development regional representative, said the enterprise zones Avon has used for years to attract companies will be phased out due to changes in Ohio law. She explained how a CRA would allow Avon to negotiate abatements on real estate taxes as it once did with property taxes.

Mayor Jim Smith said a CRA would also give Avon a way to help preserve historic homes.

''We've never been able to offer incentives to homeowners to save our beautiful old homes,'' said Smith. ''With a CRA, we can offer incentives to let people do improvements to bring these houses back to their original beauty.''

Smith said the city worked last year with the Avon Historical Society to create a list of about 100 [about 240] homes that could benefit from the creation of a Community Reinvestment Area.

Avon Law Director John Gasior said he would soon write a Community Reinvestment Area ordinance tailored to Avon's needs.

Migliorino said a state law passed last summer will eliminate property taxes on inventory, machinery, furniture and equipment by 2009. ''But that tax reform still has a real estate element,'' said Migliorino.

Companies that want to add to their properties can have taxes on those expansions abated, she said. New companies coming to Avon can negotiate abatements on real estate taxes,

Smith said tax abatements allow his city to attract companies that have relocation options. ''Without abatements, you can't compete,'' said Smith. ''Companies today don't have to be here. They can locate anywhere in the eastern United States. You have to give them something.''

In other business, Gasior said a pretrial hearing in the Greg Romes rezoning case has been scheduled for June 13, [2006]. Avon Planning Commission will discuss options on the rezoning of about 22 acres at the southwest corner of Detroit Road and SR 83. The land, currently zoned residential, could be a shopping center site should council vote to change its zoning to commercial.''


NEWS ARTICLE from The Press, 4-19-06, By Beth Mlady

``Switch from Enterprise Zones to CRAs could benefit historic buildings

AVON -- Mayor Jim Smith wants Avon to continue expanding its industrial base, but not at the expense of the many historic buildings in the area. With the future state-mandated replacement of Enterprise Zone Agreements (EZAs) with Community Reinvestment Areas (CRAs), he may be able to achieve both goals.

Fran Migliorino, Gov. Bob Taft's regional representative from the Ohio Department of Development, presented an overview of CRAs at the April 10 [2006] meeting of Avon city council. She attended the session at Smith's request.

"You need to understand the advantages of CRAs," Migliorino told council members. "The July 2005 tax reform package passed in Ohio will systematically eliminate (through 2008) all personal property tax which our businesses are paying today for the course of doing business. A CRA eliminates the onerous property tax and waiver process...and keeps your school board as healthy as possible. Your EZA will be a moot point except for the real estate portion."

She explained that Enterprise Zone legislation is "going to die on its own vine in 2009" and that the City of Avon can simply "lay its CRA on top of the (current) EZA." A CRA, according to documents, allows "property owners [to] receive tax incentives for investing real property improvements" and is "a direct incentive property tax exemption program." CRAs also "encourage revitalization of the existing housing" which is a point that greatly interests Smith.

Here is how the new system will work. First, city council determines where it wants its CRA to be located. There must be two buildings in that designated area, one of which must be a residence. The next steps involve conducting a housing survey to gauge "evidence of disinvestment in structures" (such as houses in poor condition) and having city council devise legislation to create the CRA. That legislation in its entirety would then need to be publicized "in a newspaper of general circulation" for two consecutive weeks. After that is completed and the legislation is passed, a Petition for Confirmation of the CRA must be completed and submitted to the Ohio Department of Development where it will be reviewed for legal compliance.

The city would be required, however, to engage a Housing Officer whose duties would be "to receive and evaluate applications" for CRAs as well as to notify the board of education of properties being exempted under the CRA. The Ohio Department of Development recommends a full-time employee be assigned as Housing Officer in lieu of any elected official. In addition, properties would undergo annual inspections by a CRA Housing Council established by the city (consisting of two mayoral appointees, two people appointed by city council, and one planning commission appointee; that majority would then appoint two more members who are residents of the city). Terms on the housing council would be for three years.

A Tax Incentive Review Council would also need to be created and consist of three appointees from the Board of County Commissioners, two representatives of the city appointed by the mayor and confirmed by council, the county auditor, and a representative from the city's board of education. Its job would be to decide on an annual basis if particular commercial or industrial exemptions should continue, be modified, or be terminated. According to Migliorino's information, however, "there is no state review or approval of the CRA creation process."

One possible complication is the requirement that CRAs "have to have contiguous boundaries" meaning the designated borders have to be touching each other, Migliorino said. People also need to be made aware that the city "will be required, if a company is moving into the municipality from another municipality, to notify the other community that Avon is offering a CRA." Migliorino went on to say that "there is nothing that other community can do to stop that move, but (Avon) has to notify that other municipality." Smith later said that Avon "will do everything (it) can to make their transfers into the city the best they could be." The mayor also added that he hopes "that people can get an incentive to add value to their historic homes instead of just tearing them down."

The next step, according to Smith, is to present the CRA information before council for further discussion at a future work session. Since he and Migliorino have been discussing CRAs for Avon "for the last six months to a year," he is optimistic CRAs will mean a bright economic future for the city.''

Top -- Home

NEWS ARTICLE from The Sun, 4-13-06, By Mary Davies, Staff Writer

``AVON -- Whether the Avon Citizens Committee 2006 will pursue a charter amendment regarding residential property rezoning will depend on results of a survey hitting registered voters' mailboxes this week.

The committee will ask about 5,000 residents if they'd support a change to the city's charter requiring voter approval of attempts to rezone residential property to commercial use.

"We are very aware that the wording of such a charter amendment is very important," said ACC leader Tim Bresnahan. "It would never be our intent to 'handcuff' City Council or the administration in attracting good corporate citizens who would wish to develop commercial or industrial land." ...

ACC organizers Bresnahan, Clark Perrin, Jon Pinney and Tom Berges said they have yet to determine exactly how the charter might be amended. Survey results -- the men hope for at least 500 -- could help them decide.

They're examining requirements for voter-approved rezonings of residential property to commercial use in other cities, including Brecksville, Independence and Bay Village.

Several options are being discussed, such as requiring rezonings to be approved by the affected ward or mandating a ballot issue if the majority of council supports a proposed zoning change opposed by the affected ward's representative ...''

See the survey.

Top -- Home

NEWS ARTICLE from the Plain Dealer, 4-21-06, by Carl Matzelle, Plain Dealer Reporter

``Rail line from Cleveland to Lorain urged

A new passenger rail line is proposed between Lorain and Cleveland as a way to limit pollution, fight high gasoline prices and link poor city residents to jobs in growing areas.

The proposed West Shore Greenway would include stops in Sheffield Lake, Avon, Westlake, Rocky River and Lakewood, on the way to the West Boulevard Regional Transit Authority station.

At West Boulevard, riders could transfer to buses and trains headed to Tower City Center, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, North Coast Harbor and other destinations.

The proposal comes from NEOtrans consultants, led by transportation activist Ken Prendergast of Lakewood, who calls it "a once-in-a-generation opportunity."

The idea will be presented at a transportation observance next Friday [4-28-06] at Lorain County Community College, said Commissioner Betty Blair, a longtime rail supporter.

Don Dawson, project manager for the Ohio Rail Commission, said he hasn't seen Prendergast's proposal but thinks it would fit nicely with the Ohio Hub Plan, which would link Cleveland to Toledo, Columbus, Cincinnati, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Buffalo, N.Y.

The north shore corridor "is one of Cleveland's best options and would tie in nicely with Lorain," Dawson said ...

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich and several western Cuyahoga mayors also opposed the project, fearing increased train traffic. Kucinich spokesman Doug Gordon said Thursday that the congressman would not stand in the way of the latest plan if Rocky River, Bay Village and Lakewood agree it is a good idea.

Lakewood Mayor Tom George said he would support the plan, but Rocky River Mayor William Knoble said he is "dead-set against it." "We just got the number of trains through our city reduced to a palatable level," he said. "RTA's doing a good job."

Prendergast estimates fares at $5 for the 52-minute trip between Lorain and Tower City. A sample schedule shows eight trips each way, starting before 6 a.m. and ending after midnight.

A trial "Starter Service" could be established with temporary stations for about $13 million, plus an operating subsidy of about $2.5 million, Prendergast says. Blair said no funding source has been identified.

Earlier opponents said commuter rail would lure residents away from the central city and inner-ring suburbs. Already, 15,700 people a year move out of Cuyahoga County, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday.

Prendergast argues that rail transportation would help deal with the damage of sprawl. "Much of the West Shore rail line passes through older, established communities that have been devalued by urban sprawl," his proposal says. "Rail transit has a proven track record of increasing the value of older neighborhoods and even adding compact development at stations in urban sprawl areas."''

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: cmatzelle@plaind.com


NEWS ARTICLE from the Morning Journal, 4-22-06, by ALEX M. PARKER, Morning Journal Writer

``Commuter rail line is getting renewed push

ELYRIA -- A commuter rail line from Lorain to Cleveland -- the long-stalled dream of Lorain-area officials -- is getting new life, with support from a statewide group hoping to link Ohio through rail lines.

''Traffic is going to increase on our highways, due to increased population, due to increased freight needs, and it is time for us to be looking at alternatives to highway travel, such as a rail line and commuter rails,'' said Commissioner Betty Blair, chairwoman of the Lorain County Community Alliance, which has long been pushing for a rail line.

''Lorain County is waiting for a train to come. The Black River station was built for a train to come there, and there's federal, state, county, port and city dollars in that structure,'' she said of the building at the Black River Landing in Lorain.

A new study from Ken Prendergast, a rail enthusiast, shows that a rail could be maintained with stops in Sheffield Lake, Avon, Westlake, Rocky River and Lakewood for $13 million, said Blair.

The proposal will be discussed at the upcoming Transportation Day on ... [Friday [4-28-06] at Lorain County Community College] sponsored by the Lorain County Community Alliance and the Lorain County commissioners, and it will be attended by the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Ohio Rail Commission, the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency and All Aboard Ohio, a statewide, nonprofit group that promotes rail development.

''It would bring people to the city of Lorain and Lorain County,'' said Commissioner Ted Kalo. ''It would help our downtown.''

Both Blair and Kalo blamed U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Lakewood, for blocking the project before on the grounds of increase railroad traffic in westshore communities such as Lakewood. ''Congressman Kucinich has fought having the railway coming through,'' said Kalo. ''He stopped us from completing that project. I would love everybody to jump on board and for Mr. Kucinich to change his mind.''

The train station at the Black River Landing was constructed using federal funds given to the Lorain Port Authority seven years ago.''


NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle Telegram, 4-23-06, by Brad Dicken

``Rail plan has been around for a while

ELYRIA -- The idea of a commuter railroad between Cleveland and the western edge of Lorain County has been floating around for a long time. Backers have been tilting at the windmills of public opinion and political reality for more than a decade in hope that something will give and bring rail service from Cleveland out to Vermilion, with stops in Lorain, Sheffield Lake, Avon and several Cuyahoga County cities.

In a perfect world, the plan would cost as little as $13 million to start up a small test line, which could be up and running in the next five years, said Dominic Liberatore, executive director of All Aboard Ohio!, the group that has released the West Shore Greenway plan. But first, it needs to win about $45,000 in grants from local foundations to hire a point person to work full-time on making the plan a reality.

Lorain Mayor Craig Foltin said commuter rail would be a boon to his city by encouraging economic development, improving tourism and entertainment options and giving people a chance to live in Lorain and work in Cleveland. "I think that would be outstanding for the city," he said. "But it's been like beating my head against the wall."

There are road blocks even if All Aboard Ohio! gets the grants. U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Cleveland, has expressed concerns about the various plans in the past, and is not taking sides until there's an agreement between all the cities that would be affected. And several Cuyahoga County cities, including Bay Village and Rocky River, have raised concerns about the increase in train traffic. "It's not that he opposes it; it's not that he supports it -- he's waiting for consensus on a local level," Kucinich spokesman Doug Gordon said.

Even Avon Mayor Jim Smith ... believes commuter rail would be great for Avon residents ... "It's great if they can financially make it happen," Smith said. "The costs have to be weighed against the benefits."

Under the plan, there would be up to eight trains running between the two ends of the line during the week. Proposed fares would range from $2.25 for a short trip up to $5 to make the Cleveland to Lorain trip. The Greenway could also dovetail nicely into the Ohio Hub plan, which calls for $3.3 billion to be spent over 30 years to build a high-speed rail line that runs throughout the state.

Lorain County Commissioner Betty Blair, a long-time supporter of commuter railroads, said the Northeast Ohio Area-Wide Coordinating Agency completed a study four years ago that shows broad public support for commuter rail in the greater Cleveland area. While she isn't sure if the Greenway plan, which will be presented publicly at the Lorain County Transportation Day [on Friday, 4-28-06, at Lorain County Community College] is the best way to go, she's willing to discuss it. "We can't all just sit back and say it's a great idea, it's not going to happen then," she said. "I'm not sure that this is the best or the be-all, but it's a start."''

Contact Brad Dicken at bdicken@chroniclet.com.


NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle Telegram, 4-29-06, by Adam Wright

``Trains would connect Ohio, other states

A railway connecting Lorain County to Detroit, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Toronto might sound pretty good right now to travelers, given rocketing gas prices. That's exactly what officials at the Ohio Rail Development Commission are hoping as they inch toward implementing a regional train system to connect systems already in place in states surrounding Ohio ...

Nicholson reported what the commission has been working on for years at Lorain County Transportation Day at the Lorain County Community College campus. About 50 people crucial to the development of the state's road, rail and waterways attended, including county Commissioner Betty Blair, Engineer Ken Carney, State Highway Patrol officers and officials from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Nicholson said Ohio's highways will continue to be congested, given its status as the No. 3 state for truck freight traffic. Ohio anticipates a 57 percent increase in such traffic by 2020, he said. "For every one on the highway now, predict that you'll see two," he said. This isn't all bad, although everyday drivers may disagree. The trucks bring in $1.3 trillion dollars each year in business and goods shipped to and from the state, he said.

To increase productivity on the roads, thereby increasing profits for businesses and revenue for the state, Nicholson proposed the Ohio & Lake Erie Regional Rail, or "The Hub," for short. A proposed 860 miles of rail would stretch through Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati, with 32 stations, carrying passengers and goods on what would effectively be a bridge connected to both coasts.

It will differ from the current national rail system, Amtrak, because these trains would be available throughout the day. "You can get a train from 6 am to midnight, when the trains run most of their freight goods," Nicholson said.

Ohio still needs money, including $500 million in startup funds, and federal legislation to pass that will allow federal transportation dollars to subsidize state transportation projects. Nicholson said the Ohio rail would require an 80 percent federal subsidy to become a reality. "We've got to start officials in Washington to start talking about mass transit as a solution to high gas prices, he said.

Piggybacking on the proposal was Ken Prendergast, director of the nonprofit consultant firm for Ohio's future road projects, NEOtrans. He said a plan to build a commuter railway from the county to Cleveland is gaining steam in area communities, especially after hearing how little it could cost.

Chicago's Metro train system is selling 1960s-built double-deck train cars for as little as $1 each and are being used by cities like Albuquerque, Nashville and Salt Lake City, he said. "This project can give more people purchasing power ...''

More on Commuter Rail

The Latest News

Growth News -- Top -- Home -- What's New