Avon Growth News, 9-1-99 to 10-31-99

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9-2-99 Politics blocking I-90 lane
9-8-99 Industrial explosion fuels growth
9-16-99 Minor league baseball team
9-24-99 Restrictions on deer hunting
10-6-99 Rewrite Avon's Planning/Zoning Codes

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EDITORIAL from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 9-2-99

"Politics, not safety blocking I-90 lane

If you travel I-90 through Sheffield Village, Avon and Westlake, you've no doubt noticed a sudden increase in the number of police cars along the roadway. It's part of a special campaign announced last week by police and the Ohio Highway Patrol to slow the traffic there ...

Something else is long overdue along that highway, the opening of that new third lane to traffic, a lane that now goes nowhere. The state built it, but then drew lines to restrict drivers from using it. The limit is ridiculous and unnecessary.

We inquired about the lane's status when Gov. Bob Taft came for a visit last month, and he promised to look into it. The response came this week in a call from David Celona, chief of staff to the director of the Ohio Department of Transportation. And he had a surprise. Don't blame ODOT, he said. The third lane isn't being held up for safety reasons, but by an old political decision.

'This is not an ODOT issue,' said Celona. 'This is a NOACA issue.'

NOACA, the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, is having its way with ODOT because of some horsetrading that was done when the project was first approved about four years ago. Cuyahoga County interests didn't want Lorain County to get a third lane on the super highway before they got one in the section in Westlake, but Lorain County thought it was a priority.

Lorain County's representative to that board, Commissioner Betty Blair, said she fought for the money to build the lane, but Cleveland interests were against it. And ODOT officials said if NOACA couldn't agree, they'd send the millions to a project in Athens County.

So, they made a deal. ODOT could build the third lane, but it couldn't be used until Cuyahoga County got its own third lane in Westlake, a project that still isn't very high on the Cuyahoga list -- it might get built in 2001.

The third lane was completed last fall but the lane was kept closed, and we were told it was for our safety -- traffic would have to go from three lanes back to two at the county line. There might be accidents or traffic jams. Never mind that the lanes expand and contract with no problem along the Ohio Turnpike.

The fact is that just isn't the reason, said Celona. If NOACA's board passed a resolution untying its string , ODOT could add some signs and lines and go for it.

Mrs. Blair said she brought the third lane question up again last fall in response to appeals Lorain County people, but she didn't get anywhere because of the safety question.

Now that ODOT has cleared that up, we urge her to try again. The safety issue is malarkey. It's simply politicians from Cuyahoga County dictating how we should use our state highways in Lorain County.

NOACA's next meeting will be Sept. 10 at the Carlisle Visitors Center of the Lorain County Metroparks, with Mrs. Blair as host. Here's a suggestion for Mrs. Blair: When you send out the directions to guide board members to the meeting, route them via I-90 in Avon. They can see first hand the lane that goes nowhere ..."

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NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 9-8-99, By Bud Henderson

"Industrial explosion fuels Avon's growth

Industrial growth. A phrase heard often around Avon.

But the word growth doesn't really describe what has happened.

Explosion would be more appropriate.

Consider these numbers:

Since 1994, over 1.1 million square feet of industrial space have been added.

City income tax has gone from $350,000 to over $2 million in that time.

Over 1,200 employees have been added.

In 1994-95, total revenue for Avon Schools was $5.4 million. The projected income for 1999-2000 is $8.6 million.

But the industrial explosion is much more than numbers. According to Avon Mayor Jim Smith, "We have not only stimulated a rapid growth in industry, we have set very high standards. New industry coming in will have to meet those standards."

The pacesetter came in 1995 with the construction of the A.J. Rose facility. Including a recent addition, the plant covers over 170,000 square feet and is an architectural masterpiece. From its immaculate exterior to the creative landscaping, the facility is as impressive as it is productive.

"I've seen stamping plants before, "Smith said, "but this place is amazing. It's a beautiful facility with an extremely clean and safe work area. When someone inquires about building on an industrial site in Avon, one of the first things we do is give them a tour of A.J. Rose. This is the standard we have set."

Also in 1995, came the trigger for the explosion.

According to Smith, Jack Kahl, CEO of Manco, Inc., proposed a new 450,000 square-foot facility for the processing of their Duck Tape brand duct tape.

"We were overwhelmed," Smith said. "This was a major breakthrough for us, but we had a problem. The land Manco had purchased was not very accessible. We had no idea how we were going to provide roads, sewers and so forth. But somehow, we got it done. And that opened up a whole new world."

He said the improvement and extension of Chester Road was "the key" for further development. "If we hadn't had that motivation to provide access for Manco, maybe none of the other things would have happened. There might not be a Lear Industrial Park without that road."

Smith said he continues to get inquiries from other manufacturing facilities interested in joining the Avon industrial community. "There are some interesting ones in the works now," he said. "We have turned down some who couldn't meet our standards. We feel we owe it to the community to make sure new industry coming in puts up solid, attractive buildings that will last a long time."

With 12 other facilities added after A.J. Rose and more on the horizon, Smith sees the growth continuing. "Industrial development is the engine that drives our growth. As long as we continue to add to our industrial base, the community will benefit. We have many more projects needed in the city, and the financial support from our industrial base will help us complete those projects."

He said the schools are "part of the team. They are one of the major beneficiaries of this growth. We need to work together."

On tax abatement, a much-discussed and often-maligned subject, Smith said, "Look at it this way. If a company builds here with a 50 percent abatement for 10 years, and they pay $50,000 instead of $100, 00 in property tax, that's better than nothing. If they build somewhere else, we get nothing. And in ten years, we will get the full amount ...'' "

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM, 9-16-99, By Chrissy Kadleck

"Group wants to play ball with county

Local officials hope a St. Louis company won't strike out with its pitch to bring a minor league baseball team to the eastern part of Lorain County.

Ken Wilson, spokesman for Midwest Sports Ventures, said Wednesday the county is a "perfect'' location for a Class A professional baseball team.

"We are very positive about the area. We like the idea of Avon-North Ridgeville and what it would draw from Cleveland,'' Wilson said ...

Several local officials greeted the prospect of a local team with gusto.

Avon Mayor James Smith said it could be a huge asset for the county.

"I will do everything I possibly can to land them in Avon,'' Smith said. But if the parcels of land that he has in mind for a 20-acre baseball park do not work, Smith said he will focus on bringing the team to another site in the county.

"I'm very, very enthusiastic on what it could mean for the county,'' Smith said. "It's beyond comprehension the things it could do.''

He said he already has requested information about state funding to fuel the project. The thing to do now, he said, is show the company the county wants a local team ...

"The whole thing is fun,'' Wilson said. "This is inexpensive family entertainment outdoors.''

Ticket prices would range from $4 to $6.

A ball park that would cost $5 million to $6 million and seat as many as 4,000 fans would be constructed for the team, Wilson said.

"The trick is that you want to build more than a baseball park, you really want to create a community activity venue.''

The facility could double as an outdoor spectator venue for the community to use for graduations, concerts, community events, even RV shows, he said.

Wison did not specify how much a city would be asked to chip in to build a ball park ...

The Class A team, which would draw fans from about a 20-miles range, would play a short season of 42 games throughout June, July and August.

The earliest the potential team could play ball would be the summer of 2001, Wilson said.

Midwest Sports Ventures, developers of River City Rascals and Gateway Grizzlies, both on the outskirts of St. Louis, decided to branch out of the St. Louis area about three months, Wilson said, and communities near Cleveland were targeted.

"The model is to locate in the Midwest in edge cities of a city that has major league baseball team,'' he said. The company then gathers the ownership group, similar to a franchise.

"We'd really like to have a mix of owners from Lorain and Cuyahoga counties,'' Wilson said, adding that he has already spoken with some interested parties in Cuyahoga County.

At this point, Wilson said "we're just going to look at potential sites and figure out how much it's going to cost.'' "

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE PLAIN DEALER, 9-24-99, By RICH EXNER

"Avon plans to put restrictions on deer hunting

AVON - The city's first superstore is under construction and work is about to begin on Avon's first major shopping center ...

Council is expected within weeks to ban most gun hunting for deer.

James A. Smith, the mayor and a hunter, said the town has grown too populated for open deer season ...

The use of anything other than a "primitive weapon" will be banned when the deer gun season opens Nov. 29.

The archery season from Oct. 2 to Jan. 31 would remain in effect, and hunters also would be allowed to use single-shot muzzle-loading rifles from Nov. 29 to Dec. 4 and Dec. 30 through Jan. 3.

Eliminating the guns with up to three shells readily available should force hunters to become more deliberate in making accurate shots, said David Shinko, the state wildlife officer for Lorain County.

However, even with the new restrictions, the state could still issue "nuisance animal kill permits."

Shinko said allowing some form of hunting is necessary because the deer population needs to be controlled. There are increasing complaints of "damage to vehicles, damage to crops, damage to flower beds, damage to golf greens. . . . As we develop pieces of property, that forces deer to other property," he said.

Police Chief John Vilagi, who drafted the ordinance at the request of council and the mayor, said no particular incidents led to the proposal.

"It's precautionary," Vilagi said. "As everybody is aware, we are the fastest-growing community in Lorain County. We're trying to balance everybody's wants and rights."

BJ's Wholesale Club, the city's first superstore, is expected to open near the end of the year. And work is to begin this year on the 85-acre Avon Commons shopping center. About 200 new homes have been built each year in Avon for the past four years.

The city will allow some limited use of guns for hunting wildlife other than deer - but with some new restrictions. Hunting areas with a minimum of 10 acres must be registered each year with the Police Department. Currently, Vilagi said, hunting is permitted almost anywhere except within about 500 feet of houses and roads. "

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NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 10-6-99, By Bud Henderson

"Consultant answers council's questions

... when the smoke had cleared, D.B. Hart was still standing.

It now looks like the Cleveland consultant will be hired at the next council meeting to rewrite the city's planning and zoning codes.

Councilmen Jack Kilroy and David Kaiser had requested last week that Hartt appear in person. Kaiser said he would "feel more comfortable" by interviewing Hartt face-to-face.

Kilroy and Kaiser got their question-and-answer session.

Most of the questions dealt with finances. Kaiser was concerned about the possibility of escalating costs.

"I'm concerned that, if we go to phase four, or have any additional problems, the $48,000 figure could increase."

Hart did not rule out the possibility of increrased costs, but said, "It's your call whether more work is needed after the first three phases."

... Kilroy asked, "So if we ask our expert for his opinion on something, it will cost us money?"

Council President Ted Graczyk replied, "His time is not free."

Kilroy also asked Hartt about the absence of attorneys on his staff.

Hartt replied, "No, I'm not an attorney. Bt we have a pretty good understanding of the law as it pertains to these codes."

Hart explained further that his job was to clarify the codes, working with council and planning commission.

He told The Press that "It will be a close working relationship. It's not like we just turn in a finished document. We will be looking for their input all the way. There will be many meetings where we will offer our proposals and give them a choice."

Kilroy asked about the proposed one-year time frame proposed by Hartt for the completion of the task.

"I thought we just wanted the codes cleaned up, not completely rewritten," he said.

Hartt said it was possible to shorten the time frameand save some money, but also said he felt his proposal, including the one-year projected time was realistic.

Hartt is generally recognized as the area's top expert in this field. He has done work locally for both Avon Lake and Sheffield, with praise from both communities.

Piazza upset with council's delay on codes

By Bud Henderson

Planning Commission Chairman Jim Piazza is frustrated and a little confused over council's tabling of planning commission's recommendation to hire D.B. Hartt to rewrite the planning and zoning codes.

"Hartt is easily the best man for the job," Piazza said. "He should have started on the project in September.

"Council has not only delayed an important process, they have basically given us (planning commission) a slap in the face.

"Besides that, if we continue to question Hartt's capabilities, as Mr. Kilroy has, he may very well decide he doesn't need the aggravation."

At last week's council session, council tabled a resolution to hire Hartt after a lengthy discussion.

Following comments by Councilmen Jack Kilroy and David Kaiser, who wanted a face-to-face meeting with Hartt to answer their questions, Councilman Shaun Brady pushed for a vote to table the resolution.

"I support both Mr. Piazza and the hiring of Mr. Hartt," Brady said. "I could see the direction things were going, and I didn't want to risk a negative vote. I don't know where Mr. Kaiser's objections came from, but I thought it best to table rather than take a chance on the vote.

"Anybody with the city's interest at heart should welcome Hartt's expertise. If we want meticulous planning, he's the man to provide it."

Brady agreed with Piazza, saying "There comes a time in this process where if we continue to badger people like Mr. Hartt, he may very well say it just isn't worth it."

Piazza said planning commissioners were unanimous in recommending Hartt.

... Piazza said Hartt had written a master plan and zoning codes for Avon Lake in 1996.

"I talked with Vince Urbin (Avon Lake mayor) and he was very satisfied with Hartt's work."

Hartt, a Cleveland-based consultant, has an "impeccable reputation," according to both Piazza and Brady.

"Our codes are in such bad shape that it's taken me six years to understand most of them. Applicants don't have a clue," Piazza said.

"They were put together over 30 years ago by copying other municipalities' codes, then adding things here and there as times changed and new laws were passed. They are a total patchwork and are virtually impossible to understand in a lot of cases.

"Where we used to look at one document, now we might have to look at several to try and get the proper interpretation.

"Things like signs, which shouldn't even get to planning commission, are much too complicated."

Piazza added that planning commission and council have to work closely together on this project ...

He said it is "especially important for planning commission to be able to fully understand the codes. If they're so complicated that we don't understand them, we can't expect applicants to understand."

In answer to Kilroy's concern about lack of legal expertise on Hartt's staff, Piazza said, "We need Hartt to clean up the technical aspect of the codes so they are understandable. Our law director should be able to handle any legal questions." "

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