Avon Growth News, 11-28-03 to 2-3-04

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11-28-03: Detroit Road is safe for now

12-1-03: Appointing the Landmarks Preservation Commission

12-13-03: Good things come in mighty small packages.

12-14-03: Kaiser Permanente is coming to Avon

12-16-03: Avon sued over denial of cluster plan

1-1-04: Jumbo-Mortgage Blues

COLUMN from The Press, 7-2-03, By Julie Short

``Wow, never has one of my columns attracted so much attention and talk ...

My first attempt at this was two weeks ago entitled "Construction in Avon is out of control." Funny how people only give you negative feedback. Those who know me understand that I'm not against growth, provided it is well thought out. For those who don't know me, I guess my column caught you a bit off guard ...

First of all, I never wrote construction in Avon should stop, as was publicly mentioned (for no reason) at a recent city council meeting. Please don't misquote me. I wrote construction should slow down. ... Build a million homes. I could care less. Just do it over a longer period of time. Also, you better work with the schools on the student population and you better get some decent roads throughout the city.

Funny how the "speed of government" only slows down when there is talk of building/paving roads, updating intersections or adding an interchange, yet housing permits and subdividers agreements are approved faster than LeBron James can say "Nike." ...

There are ... a number of existing homes up for sale. Why are so many people leaving Avon? I didn't notice all the "for sale" signs until my parents, who were up for a visit from Florida, pointed them out. They noticed all the new housing starts, but also noticed the number of existing homes that are on the market.

Maybe I should have offered suggestions on how to slow down growth, but that is what we have elected officials for. I'm just an Avon resident who happens to be a reporter for this newspaper entitled to make observations. I also know for a fact that I am not the only Avon resident to mention this topic ...

My inquisitive father also told me during his visit that a few cities in Florida are requiring builders to give $1,000 to the schools for every new home they build in that city. It's definitely slowed down the construction of larger housing developments ...''

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Detroit Road is safe for now

Avon, November 4, 2003, General Election Unofficial Results

#18: Avon City (Ord. No. 119-03 - Charter - Art. XIII, Sec. 9, Detroit Road Preservation)

Yes 2,074

No 1,604

PRESENTATION at the Avon Candidates Night, 10-22-03, By Taylor J. Smith

The 2003 Avon Charter Amendments ...

A Master Thoroughfare Plan was presented by a URS traffic engineer to the Planning Commission on June 12, 2002. URS recommended that Avon put five lanes of pavement on Detroit Road and five lanes of pavement on Colorado Road to carry cars to a proposed I-90 interchange near Nagel Road. The Avon Planning Commission did not reject this recommendation.

Issue 18, Detroit Road Preservation ...

``"Neither Council nor Planning Commission shall act to widen the pavement on Detroit Road ... to more than thirty-six (36) feet, or to divide said pavement into more than three (3) lanes ... except at intersections and approaches to intersections with arterial or collector public streets."

... If there seem to be more cars on the roads now with 15,000 residents, what will things be like when there are 45,000 to 65,000 people living in Avon?

More lanes of pavement will have to be put down in Avon to move the increasing population around our town. Questions to be answered are: Where will these new lanes of pavement be laid? How much will they cost? and Who will pay for them?

Expanding Detroit Rd. to five lanes of pavement would require that sidewalks, sanitary sewer lines, gas lines, and water lines be torn up. In addition, the telephone poles would have to be moved.

Vehicle access streets are an alternative to adding lanes to Detroit Rd. and to Avon's other original country roads. A vehicle access street has no private driveways and is designed to move cars around Avon. No sidewalks, water lines, gas lines, or sanitary sewer lines would be required. Electricity could be provided from intersecting public streets coming out of the developments.

Lanes of pavement on a vehicle access street would be much less expensive than lanes of pavement added to Avon's original country roads. More lanes of pavement are necessary to move cars around Avon. Spreading out these new lanes of pavement will avoid gridlock in Avon.

Who pays for new lanes of pavement? If they are added to existing roads, the residents must pay for them; and developers would pay nothing. If these lanes of pavement are put down on new streets (vehicle access streets) the Ohio Supreme Court decision in the Beaver Creek case allows Avon to require developers to pay their fair share ...''

[Detroit Road is safe for now. But those who want to make the taxpayers pay by forcing additional lanes on existing roads will be back.]

NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 11-5-03, By Brad Dicken, Staff Writer

``AVON - Voters ignored critics who said widening Detroit Road should be left to the Planning Commission and City Council and approved a charter amendment that bans widening the busy road [to more than three lanes].

The charter change was approved by a 2,074 to 1,604 vote, or a 56 percent to 44 percent margin, according to unofficial results. [The official results are 2,102 YES and 1,618 NO.]

The amendment prompted considerable controversy when the city's Charter Review Commission narrowly approved it earlier this year. It was also a contributing factor to the decision of three of the Commission's members ... to resign.

Commission Chairman Jack Smith, who also serves as president of the Avon Historical Society, said he was pleased with the outcome. "Avon is a special town and a lot of good people live here," he said ...

The Commission members who resigned complained that Smith had an unbeatable voting block because five out of the nine members on the Commission also were members of the Historical Society.

[Also] residents voted 2,577 to 1,031 in favor of creating a Landmarks Preservation Commission, a 71 percent to 29 percent margin [according to unofficial results. The official results are 2,605 YES and 1,044 NO.] ...''

Contact Brad Dicken at bdicken@chronicletelegram.com.

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 12-1-03, By Brad Dicken, Staff Writer

``AVON -- Last month, voters strongly threw their support behind the creation of a Landmarks Preservation Commission in Avon to protect historic building as the city continues its fast-paced growth.

Although the Commission has yet to be formed, many are already looking ahead at what it will do. The four members of the Commission will be appointed by Mayor Jim Smith, the Avon Historical Society, the Avon Garden Club and the French Creek Development Association, said Jack Smith, who chaired the Charter Review Commission that created the measure.

"The first and very pressing goal is to get an interim report of what we have," Jack Smith said. Once the Commission places a building on the registry, it will require [up to] a six-month waiting period after a demolition permit [is applied for] before the building can be torn down.

That will give the Commission and others time to suggest alternatives to destroying a historical building, find another buyer or even move the building.

"We're very concerned that these houses not be demolished," said Jack Smith, who also serves as president of the Historical Society. If no alternative is found, then demolition will proceed ... "Just because something's on the National Registry, doesn't mean it can't be torn down," he said.

Mayor Smith said preserving the past is as important as development. "They should try to save as many [landmarks] as they possibly can," he said ... "They should work on the big houses and buildings," he said. Among the buildings that both Jack Smith and Mayor Smith worry about saving include the Williams House, which currently houses Sweet Caroline's antiques, and Stone Eagle Farm on Detroit Road ...

The Historical Society plans to elect its representative to the Commission at its Christmas Party. Mayor Smith said he's still not sure who he will appoint to serve as his representative.''

Contact Brad Dicken bdicken@chronicletelegram.com.

LETTER TO THE MAYOR, 12-3-03

On Monday, 12-1-03, The Avon Historical Society elected Robert J. Gates, Jr., ... as its representative on the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Bob Gates has a sincere interest in Avon's history and is committed to preserving our landmarks.

One of Bob's hobbies is photographing Avon's century homes; he also collects old pictures of Avon landmarks. He has assisted Agnes Zilka with her art work by providing photographs.

Bob enthusiastically supports history education. He personally sponsored a field trip from St. Mary's School to the Lorain County exhibition of the Ohio Bicentennial at the French Creek Nature Center.

Sincerely yours, Taylor J. Smith, President, Avon Historical Society

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 12-13-03, By Catherine Gabe, Plain Dealer Reporter

``Avon - A simple dog-and-pony show might help city officials see Stephanie Morenberg's side of the story.

Morenberg, who is on disability, has decided she could use some help.

And, in the spirit of the season, she wants to remind officials that good things come in mighty small packages.

Specifically, something about 34 inches high, smaller than a large dog, litter-box trained and sometimes seen sporting tiny tennis shoes to prevent it from falling on slippery floors.

Miniature, or pygmy, horses are becoming increasingly popular alternatives to guide dogs for companionship and valuable assistance.

Now, Morenberg just has to convince city officials to make an exception to a city ordinance, which says anyone having a pony, horse, donkey or mule, must also have two acres.

Morenberg and her husband, Steve, live in a housing development with medium-sized lots.

"I have an affinity for animals," said Morenberg, who doesn't yet have the horse. The couple does have three cats and 18 koi fish, which swim in a man-made pond.

While recuperating from surgery last fall, she read how miniature horses helped people by providing stability for walking and even help in getting out of a chair. Morenberg cannot drive and is homebound, and the companionship is an extra bonus for her, especially when her husband is away on frequent business trips.

"I was just at the point where it gave me a reason to push and get out of the hospital," said Morenberg who has lupus, arthritis and Gardner's Syndrome, a disease that causes cystlike growths throughout her body. She has also had colon cancer and heart-valve replacement surgery.

"Stephanie has had a lot of negative things go on in her life, so if she gets a few positives to offset that, it might be nice," says her husband, Steve.

But Law Director John Gasior says whoa. A horse is a horse. Of course. And miniature horses - even if they are used for therapeutic purposes - are still horses, he says.

"It has hooves," Gasior said. "I had visions of it going clippity-clop on the sidewalk in the development and all the neighbors going nuts."

Morenberg can appeal to the city leaders, Gasior said ...''

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Press, 12-3-03, By Mike Ferrari

``Kaiser Permanente physicians, offices join surging business community

AVON -- Kaiser Permanente officials recently announced their intentions to move into Avon along SR 83 in a 3,200 square foot office building owned by developer and former council president Shaun Brady.

The office will be a primary care and pediatrics facility, including a general medical office and exam rooms.

According to Nate Gardisher, public relations specialist out of the Cleveland office of Kaiser Permanente, two physicians could be housed in the building by as early as Dec. 15 of this year [2003].

THe small facility will serve as a temporary office until Brady completes construction of a 12,000 square foot office at Avon Pointe along Chester Road, west of Christian Heritage Church, in late summer of 2004. Office hours for the doctors will be Monday - Thursday from 8:30 am - 5 pm.

Upon completion, and once the lease negotiations are finalized between Brady and Kaiser Permanente, the two doctors will vacate the old offiec and move to the larger facility bringing more physicians, staff, and medical services to the city.

Brady was recently in front of planning commission and earned approval for site plans for the larger building, and said that construction is expected to start late this year or by January of 2004.

The yet-to-built facility will have a lab, radiology and pharmacy when completed ...

"We wanted to get into the city quickly," Gradisher said of using a temporary office first. "We want to serve our members and that best was to open a temporary facility to start providing care as soon as possible; we didn't want to wait until the summer."

Patricia Kennedy-Scott, Kaiser Permanente Regional President said the medical group is excited about the move.

"Expanding services to the Avon area is one of our priorities at Kaiser Permanente," Kennedy-Scott said. "Kaiser Permanente is excited to be providing accessible, quality health care to the residents of the Avon area. We are looking forward to growing with the community."

Brady said Kaiser Permanente could have been enticed by the 1,500 feet of frontage at the facility allowing for more visibility.

"From a development standpoint, you can't ask for a better cornerstone to a professional campus than Kaiser Permanente," Brady said. "They are certainly going to provide a lot of synergy for the campus, as well as the other tenants we are currently in negotiations with."

Brady began negotiations with the medical group several months ago and noted that Kaiser Permanente is the first of many professionals that will eventually call Avon Pointe their home ...

He said the development is part of a seven-year plan, that when completed, will amass over 175,000 square feet of office space.

"We are in negotiations with different medical groups and other types of professional services as well as a five-star restaurant," Brady said. "Hopefully we will be signing more tenants through early 2004."

The buildings will be "upscale Western Reserve" architecture with all masonry exteriors.

Additional building plans, including another seperate, 20,000 square foot multi-tenant facility for Avon Pointe, will be coming later this month or by early 2004 ...''

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

NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 12-19-03, By JENNIFER HICKIN, Morning Journal Writer

[Western Reserve subdivision proposed]

``AVON -- A plan is in the works to build a 26-home subdivision on Long Road, a project that would team up three local developers.

Brady Construction, Gamellia Construction and Schafer Development are working together to bring what is called a Western Reserve subdivision to 35 acres of land on the east side of Long Road, according to Shaun Brady of Brady Construction.

Both Brady Construction and Schafer Development are based in Avon, and Gamellia Construction is based in Avon Lake.

If built, the homes would be about 3,500 square feet with side garages and would start at $375,000, Brady said in an informal presentation to City Council earlier in the month.

The proposal also includes building the homes around a longer than normal cul-de-sac, allowing for extra privacy, Brady said.

''I think if you're going to make a residential development, that's the way to do it,'' said Ward 1 Councilman Mark Julius.

''I'm glad to see someone step up to the plate,'' he said.

A Western Reserve subdivision offers another option for people who don't want to live in a subdivision and want a more rural feel to their home but can't or don't want to buy a large number of acres of land, said Jim Piazza, city planning coordinator.

Western Reserve subdivisions have a minimum one-acre lot requirement and are supposed to look like a rural area, he said.

Now that preliminary presentations have been made to both City Council and the Planning Commission, the developers are seeking approval from the county health department before going back for city approval, Piazza said.

As part of a Western Reserve subdivision, sanitary sewers are not required and the county health department must give approval for private sanitation systems for each lot, he said.''

NEWS ARTICLE from The Sun, 12-18-03, By BRIAN HORN, Staff Writer

``AVON -- A new shopping center is being constructed on the [northwest] corner of Route 83 and Detroit Road.

The center is being built by Zeisler Morgan Properties Limited as a "Gateway to the French Creek District." Zeisler Morgan initially purchased 4.5 acres of land, then decided to purchase 5.5 acres more, bringing the total to 10 acres.

"It's a great deal for the city," Mayor Jim Smith said. "It brings in some businesses that are close to the highway so it won't infringe on the residential neighborhoods."

According to Shannon Blackwell, vice president of Zeisler Morgan, the project will be divided into two phases totaling approximately 85,000 square feet for six buildings.

Phase one will consist of approximately 50,000 square feet of retail space and is scheduled to be completed in spring of 2004.

As part of phase one, Bob Evans Restaurant is currently under construction, as is the Signature Clocktower Building. Zeisler Morgan has leasing commitments with Ci Ci's Pizza, Great Clips for Hair, Cold Stone Creamery, Dryclean USA, Quizno's Subs, United Wireless and Curves for Women, which will be located in the Clocktower building ...''

NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 1-6-04, By JENNIFER HICKIN, Morning Journal Writer

... In other [Avon Council] business, an ordinance authorizing the city to enter into a tax abatement agreement with DM Trinity Development LLC, a company that makes soups, sauces and other food items for the restaurant industry, will go to council for the first of three readings next week.

The Texas-based company had requested a 10-year, 75 percent tax abatement, but a sliding scale abatement is being recommended by a council committee.

For the first three years of the abatement a 75 percent abatement is suggested, then in years four through seven the abatement percentage would decrease by 5 percent each year, according to Gentz. In years eight through 10, the abatement would decrease to 50 percent.

''The committee believes this is a good deal for the city,'' said Gentz, adding in the long run it is also good for the school district ...''

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Sun, 12-4-03, By BRIAN HORN, Staff Writer

``Company sues city of Avon over denial of cluster plan

AVON -- A notice of appeal has been filed against the city in Lorain County Common Pleas Court by South Park Ltd.

Basically, the appeal notifies Avon that South Park feels it was wronged and is taking the city to court.

The appeal, filed by South Park Ltd. and one of the company's partners, Gary Smitek, centers around City Council's decision Oct. 14 [2003] to deny the application for South Park's preliminary plat for construction of an R-2 residential cluster subdivision in Kenwyn Village subdivision, owned by South Park, on French Creek Road.

The notice was filed Nov. 10, the same day the council repealed Ordinance 1266, which specifically involves clustering. The ordinance was repealed so that council could review it; a moratoriun on clusters was in place before that.

While Avon Law Director John Gasior was aware the notice was filed, he could not speculate on arguments South Park Lts. may present.

"We know they have filed a notice of appeal and we're not waiting to find out the exact nature of their claims. Once those are made known to us, I'll be in a better position to address them," Gasior said.

According to an attorney for South Park Ltd., Bruce G. Rinker, this appeal is one of two ways to file a complaint.

"This is known as an administrative appeal where city officials did not follow their own rules," Rinker said.

When a developer wants to build a cluster, it first must present a plan to the Avon Planning Commission before meeting with city council. The commission can recommend that council approve or turn down the plan.

Although Rinker said he has not been able to review all the facts, he added that Smitek did change some of his plans based on input from the Planning Commission. Both the commissions and Smitek followed guidlines and met requirements, he said, adding that, the problem occured when City Council viewed and turned down the proposal ...

One reason that Ordinance 1266 - which is read in conjunction with another ordinance, 1262, that deals with single-family and two-family residential district regulations - was repealed could become a factor in the appeal: the subjectivity of language used in both ordinances.

A trial date has not been set.''

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 6-27-04, By JENNIFER HICKIN And KATIE GALLAGHER, Morning Journal Writers

``Lives unravel with foreclosures

The housing market has been a bright spot in the area's economy, but ever increasing foreclosure rates show it has a dark side.

As of Wednesday [6-23-04], there already have been 783 orders for sheriff's sales of foreclosed properties in Lorain County this year ...

''It's clear that the problem is growing in Lorain County,'' said Amy Hanauer, executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, a Cleveland nonprofit research institute which, after finding in an earlier study that foreclosure filings in Lorain County had almost tripled between 1995 and 2001, is now working on an updated study on Ohio foreclosures.

Sheriff's sales in Lorain County are up by an average of 30 a month, now totaling about 136 each month, compared to last year [2003] when the monthly average was 103, according to sheriff's Lt. William Davis. And between 2002 and 2003, sheriff's sales almost doubled, with 724 sales in 2002 and 1,221 sales in 2003, Davis said ...

A foreclosure usually occurs when a borrower is unable to meet mortgage payments and defaults on the loan. A sheriff's sale is the final step, the actual transaction in which a foreclosed home changes hands and the proceeds go to the lender ...

Lending industry officials agree the causes include the weak economy, but they also blame rising consumer debt and increased housing prices, while consumer advocates contend the explosion in foreclosures is also fueled by subprime and predatory loans.

Subprime loans, often made to borrowers who may not otherwise qualify for credit, charge higher interest rates and extra fees to compensate for the extra risk and are usually legal. Predatory lenders go farther, say consumer advocates, using fraudulent and manipulative tactics to extract exorbitant fees and interest.

According to Policy Matters Ohio, both subprime and predatory lending often tie unsecured debt to a borrower's home equity, rather than to an ability to make scheduled loan payments, and often result in foreclosure ...

As an attorney for Legal Aid in Elyria, Tory Bartels sees at least one person per week who is going through a foreclosure.

''People losing jobs,'' is one reason for the high foreclosure rate, according to Bartels ...''

FEATURE ARTICLE from Harvard Magazine, January-February 2004: Volume 106, Number 3, Page 10, By Harbour Fraser Hodder

``Jumbo-Mortgage Blues: The Middle-Class Trapdoor

In 2001, more men and women went bankrupt than filed for divorce or graduated from college (1.5 million versus 1.1 million and 1.2 million, respectively). In 2002 those who declared bankruptcy far outnumbered those who suffered heart attacks or were diagnosed with cancer.

At present rates, one in every seven children in America will live through a bankruptcy between now and the end of the decade. And it's not the working poor, credit-crazy youth, spendthrift "DINKs" (dual income, no kids), or fixed-income seniors who are swelling the ranks of the insolvent. The hardest hit are middle-class families, says Gottlieb professor of law Elizabeth Warren.

Some blame "affluenza", the disease of overconsumption, and the "immoral debtor" for this rash of bankruptcies. "Too many trips to the mall, too many designer toddler outfits, too many Gameboys," as Warren herself initially thought. But government statistics and data from the 2001 Consumer Bankruptcy Project (Warren was one of 12 investigators) told a different story.

In `The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke,' Warren and her daughter, business consultant Amelia Warren Tyagi, propose a counterintuitive explanation. When working parents have to commit both incomes to middle-class basics, a nice home in a safe neighborhood with good schools, they double their financial risk. Without the safety net of a mother at home ready to enter the workforce if disaster strikes, two-income families are more likely to go bankrupt than those getting by on a single wage.

"The whole economic picture was one that surprised me, because it's not the story we tell ourselves about what's happened to middle-class families," Warren says. "The irony of the story is that the two-income family is the most successful economic model in America. Mom and Dad both have good educations and good jobs, that's the twenty-first-century version of the American success story and the middle class." But in fact, "the cost of being middle class is out of reach for many of these families."

The myth of rampant spending actually distracts people from what will bankrupt them, says Warren. "The overconsumption myth is a comforting myth, because families who buy pasta in bulk and don't eat out and wouldn't dream of spending $200 on a pair of sneakers say to themselves, 'We'll be all right.' But the reality is they won't be all right. If they have built a budget around two incomes, they now have double the chance that someone will lose a job and double the chance that someone will be too sick to go to work", two of the "Big Three" reasons that 87 percent of bankrupt families cite for financial meltdown (divorce is the third).

High fixed costs are the culprit. "Huge mortgages are driving families into financial ruin," and a failing educational system is to blame, Warren explains. Families compete to buy houses in a shrinking number of decent school districts. This triggers real-estate bidding wars, fueled by dual wages, driving up prices astronomically. "Mortgage costs for families have risen 70 times faster than a man's income over the past generation," Warren notes ...

... Between monster mortgages, tuition for nursery school and college, and the other costs of raising middle-class kids, "couples with children are nearly three times more likely to go bankrupt," Warren says.

Sending working mothers home is not the answer, she asserts: "Families trying to live on one income can barely hang on to the ragged edge of the middle class." Instead, she and Tyagi propose several reforms.

First, reward middle-class and lower-income families who bank money by exempting all savings, not only those for retirement, medical care, or college tuition, from taxes, they say. Cap consumer-interest rates, and outlaw "predatory lending" that targets families in financial trouble. (Since high-cost credit became legal 25 years ago, credit-card debt has increased 6,000 percent.) Re-regulate a mortgage industry that approves loans that soak up 40 to 50 percent of family income, and perpetrates "loan-to-own" scams by lending to ineligible borrowers and waiting for foreclosures, which have tripled in two decades ...''

Elizabeth Warren e-mail address: ewarren@law.harvard.edu

Amelia Warren Tyagi e-mail address: amelia.tyagi@verizon.net

FEATURE ARTICLE from The Center for Economic and Policy Research , 12-18-03, By Dean Baker

``Who to Blame When the Next Bubble Bursts

Greenspan has been helping to inflate the housing market.

Any assessment of Alan Greenspan's long tenure at the Federal Reserve has to present the stock bubble as his biggest failure. If Greenspan had effectively and consistently warned investors of the irrationality of stock prices in the late 1990s, the bubble never would have reached such dangerous proportions. His "irrational exuberance" comment just wasn't enough.

The collapse of the bubble, which destroyed more than $8 trillion in paper wealth, was the immediate cause of the 2001 recession ... After his failure regarding the largest financial bubble in the history of the world, it looks like Greenspan is now actively promoting the world's second-biggest bubble: the housing market.

The basic story is simple: Over the last eight years housing prices have outpaced the overall rate of inflation by more than 35 percentage points ... In the past, home prices largely kept even with the general rate of inflation ...

If underlying factors, rather than irrational exuberance, are the basis for the increase in home prices, then these factors should be having the same effect on rental prices ...

From 1998 to 2001, rental prices rose more rapidly than the overall rate of inflation, but not nearly as fast as home prices. If higher home prices are the result of a real shortage of housing, then rental prices should continue to rise to catch up with homes prices. That isn't happening ...''

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