Avon Growth News, 3-1-00 to 4-18=00

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3-16-00 Chester Rd. Apartments law suit
3-17-00 Avon sewer rate may jump
3-17-00 Avon OKs Drug Mart plan
3-19-00 Pushing up the price of homes
3-22-00 Red Tail Feud
4-1-00 Swimming Pool Plans
4-9-00 Change or Die


"Keep your guard up when deep thinkers fret about 'sprawl'

No matter how many times Americans demonstrate that they want the convenience of unimpeded auto travel and will make many sacrifices to keep it, they are still at risk.

Anyone who drives a car spends a lot of money in taxes. Here in Ohio, we give Uncle Sam and the State of Ohio 41 cents when we put a gallon of gas into the tank ... Now ... we hear about 'sprawl' ... Another buzz word is 'smart growth'. They are scare words used as tools to divert to other projects the funds needed for better and safer highways ...

It was a surprise to us to read that the United States EPA uses gasoline tax money in efforts to block highway construction.

According to a story published in "Investors Business Daily", the EPA gives tax dollars to anti-car groups to lobby state and local agencies in charge of traffic and development issues ...

Did lawmakers who debated and passed the latest highway bill expect the EPA to take tax dollars and give $695,000 to the Environmental Defense Fund to promote smart-growth programs nationwide? Or $775,000 to the Surface Transportation Policy Project which promotes mass transit?

... The campaigns against 'sprawl' would like to take away your mobility, your choice of where you want to live, and how you wish to travel to work and other destinations ...

Let's be alert to regulations and laws that are proposed to limit our mobility."

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"Cincinnati development firm sues Avon couple

ELYRIA -- A group of investors in Cincinnati filed a $2 million lawsuit against an Avon couple Wednesday that accuses the couple of failing to complete the sale of land for a low- to moderate-income housing project.

The lawsuit, filed by Timber Lake Apartments Limited Partnership against Regis A. and Patricia A. Klingshirn of Chester Road, asks for $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

The lawsuit also asks Common Pleas Judge Thomas Janas to force the Klingshirns to make good on their promise to sell the land.

Sheldon Berns, an attorney for Timber Lake, said the Avon Planning Commission has approved the project. The project later was withdrawn, according to city officials.

The $22 million project calls for two-story townhouses on both sides of Chester Road, just east of Moore Road.

According to the lawsuit, the Klingshirns agreed in June to sell nearly 26 acres for $2.5 million. On Nov. 11, however, the Klingshirns entered into an amendment in which the purchase price was reduced by $75,000 and the date to turn over the property to Timber Lake was extended, according to the lawsuit.

Later, another extension pushed the closing date back by two months to Jan. 21, the suit said.

The suit said the parties negotiated an oral agreement in January in which the Klingshirns agreed to turn over the property on April 30. The Klingshirns promised to sign and return documents confirming the date, but they failed to comply with those plans, the lawsuit said.

The suit said Timber Lake attempted to purchase the property on March 3 but the Klingshirns failed to attend the closing.

In November, special state financing was approved for Timber Lake, which wants to construct a complex of 256 townhouses.

The Klingshirns and their attorney could not be reached for comment.

Mayor James Smith said Wednesday that a Timber Lakes representative told city officials its option to purchase the property expired in January. If the problems are worked out, he said he does not know if it will have to start the approval process from scratch ..."

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM, 3-17-00, By Jacqueline Palfy

"Avon, Sheffield homeowners may see sewer rate jump

NORTH RIDGEVILLE -- Homeowners in Avon and Sheffield soon could see an increase in fees to use the sewer services provided by the French Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

On Monday, North Ridgeville Council will consider raising tie-in fees for the city-owned plant from $350 to $1,100, city Engineer Stewart Lovece said.

The change in fees won't dramatically alter what North Ridgeville residents pay to connect to the sewer service. However, it will increase the fees for residents of Sheffield and Avon who now pay the city $350 to tap into the sewer lines.

That fee structure was set in 1967, and it no longer covers the cost of maintaining the plant, Lovece said.

"Our hands have been tied because any home built in Avon and Sheffield, the city gets $350 for a sanitary sewer fee," Lovece said. "That same home built in North Ridgeville costs almost 10 times that."

The plant was built in Sheffield by the Ohio Water Development Authority and the sewers connected to it. When North Ridgeville bought the plant, an agreement was made to charge $350 to residents of Avon and Sheffield to tie in, Lovece said.

The city also agreed to charge its own residents the same rate, but that has been raised through the years to cover the plant's upkeep. North Ridgeville residents now pay $1,157 to tie into the system. When extra fees for inspections are tacked on, the bill jumps to $3,400, Lovece said.

The tap-in fees from all the residents go directly to cover plant maintenance.

Avon Mayor James Smith said the city expected the rates to increase.

"I didn't know it was going to be $1,000, but I guess that's the cost of doing business," Smith said.

In Avon and Sheffield, residents end up paying about $1,000 when the tap-in, inspection and connection costs are figured, Lovece said.

"It's so low because they don't have a plant," Lovece said. "We didn't just pick a number out of a hat, This is based on what our needs are in the system." ...''

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 3-17-00, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"City OKs Drug Mart plan

AVON -- The city's planners have approved a footprint for a 19,990-square-foot Discount Drug Mart at the northeast corner of Nagel and Detroit roads, with final approval pending engineering and landscaping details.

Discount Drug Mart hopes to build and open the store before the end of this year [2000], company officials said.

With a CVS under construction at SR 83 and Detroit Road and a Medic open one mile west on Detroit Road, Drug Mart will be the third major drugstore in Avon, all on a short stretch of Detroit Road.

The building will be near the site of the Hickory Inn, a weather-beaten brick bar standing between Nagel's northern undeveloped territory and the residential neighborhood to the south.

Discount Drug Mart bought the 2,310-square-foot building and the surrounding 36.5 acres in August of 1990, according to records filed with the county auditor.

In 1990, the land cost $350,000. A similarly zoned parcel today might cost anywhere from $3.6 million to $14 million, based on recent commercial land sales in Avon that have ranged from $100,000 to $400,000 per acre ...

Current plans only use about 4.466 acres of the total acreage, which stretches north down Nagel. The Drug Mart building would cover 19,990 square feet, with two auxiliary buildings covering a combined 10,000 square feet and fronting on Nagel ...

Despite Drug Mart's desire to come to Avon, not everyone in Avon is glad to see a new store on the horizon -- especially Bill Kaplysh, who has rented the Hickory Inn's building from Drug Mart for nine years.

The building is now slated for demolition after all city approvals are secured.

Kaplysh claims Discount Drug Mart officials promised him tenancy until it developed the property and then pledged to build a new facility for rental. At issue is the land's frail sewage aeration system, which Kaplysh said he installed for $30,000 five years ago.

'That was my commitment to them that I wanted to be there when the new shopping center [Jacobs? VISTA?] came in,' Kaplysh said. 'Why else would I pay for that?'

Drug Mart has told the tavern owner the Ohio EPA will only allow one building on the site until improved sewers are installed, Kaplysh said.

A letter from the Ohio EPA to Drug Mart officials, dated May 1999, supports that claim, saying the system will only handle waste generated by a new drug store and no other business.

But Kaplysh, who paid for the system and built up a clientele, feels cheated. He claims the Ohio EPA told him there would also be capacity for his business. Ohio EPA officials did not return calls for comment yesterday.

'I'm just getting shoved around by a big corporation,' Kaplysh said. 'I'm just a small neighborhood joint. I don't know what my recourses are, but I'm investigating.'

Malin's only response was that Drug Mart could not discuss existing contracts in a public forum.

'We have a good relationship with Hickory Inn,' he said. 'We still plan to go forward with the project.'

Planning Commission will have to approve final engineering details at its April meeting, with City Council approval after that.

The Medina-based company opened its first drug store in Elyria in 1969. Since then, 46 other stores have opened throughout Ohio, Malin said ..."

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FEATURE ARTICLE from THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH, Sunday, March 19, 2000, BY Steve Stephens, Dispatch Metro columnist

"... With laws mandating minimum square footage, garage and lot sizes and other burdensome regulations, fancy neighborhoods can and do keep out "affordable'' -- or more accurately, "cheap'' -- housing ...

But the policies don't just keep the poor out of the suburbs. Every time a government legislates tougher housing standards it ratchets up prices throughout the housing market; the ripples are felt all the way to the inner city ...

When OPEC restricts the production of oil in Oman, gas prices go up in Pickerington. When Groveport restricts the production of homes on Hamilton Road, the price of housing goes up in Olde Towne East ...

Sam Staley, acting president of the free-market Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions. ... warns that "anti- sprawl'' laws, becoming popular around the country, can dry up a community's supply of cheap housing.

Staley is co-author of "A Line in the Land: Urban-Growth Boundaries, Smart Growth and Housing Affordability.'' The study, published in October by the Reason Public Policy Institute, documents the unintended consequences of laws that limit development and housing construction.

In Portland, Ore., draconian "smart-growth'' legislation has pushed the cost of housing sky-high. According to the National Association of Home Builders, Portland has one of the least-affordable housing markets in the country.

Anti-sprawl activists, who point to Portland as a success, must acknowledge that there is a price to be paid when development is severely limited, Staley said.

"Low- and moderate-income families are really paying the price because they have fewer housing options than they would in a freer market.'' ..."

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 3-22-00, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"AVON -- The city of Avon will not approve the next phase of residential construction for the Red Tail subdivision until the developer agrees to put in additional improvements, Law Director Dan Stringer said yesterday.

The Red Tail development is the largest in Avon, with more than 600 homes slated to fill 400 acres around a championship-style golf course. The development is about half done, but a feud between two of its partners is complicating progress.

At issue with the city are covers for the ditches along Lear Nagel Road and construction of a bike path, Stringer said. While the city is requiring both to be installed as a condition of a permit for the construction of a golf course clubhouse, final approval of Red Tail's sixth phase is also being held up, Stringer said.

City Council was expected to approve plans for the phase, another 30 homes, next Monday.

Senior Tour Players, one partner, is developing the golf course clubhouse, while the new homes are being developed by Westlake-based Carnegie Development.

Senior Tour Players filed suit against Carnegie on March 1, and the two partners are locked into a war for sole ownership of the course ...

Carnegie President Russ Khouri said he first heard of Avon's decision when contacted by The Morning Journal. He was not happy.

'They're letting Senior Tour Players off the hook,' he said. 'I'm shocked. I don't know why they would take the obligation from it's rightful owner and shift it to someone who's not even responsible.'

Senior Tour Players owns the land with uncovered ditches, Khouri said ...

City officials are resolute.

'We're going to get the improvements done, period,' Mayor Jim Smith said. 'There's no negotiations on it. This is what will be done.'

Ward 4 Councilman Jack Kilroy, whose ward includes Red Tail, agreed.

'Between the two corporations and different entities feuding with each other, they seem to want to pass the buck,' he said. 'Council is adamant that the work is going to be done.'

The problems for the giant subdivision began with the special treatment City Council, under the direction of then-President Ed Krystowski, gave Carnegie at the time Red Tail was started, Kilroy said.

Covered ditches and sidewalks were never required in the original agreements, forcing Council to play hardball now to catch up, Kilroy said.

'Things got off to a bad start in the way business was done with them in 1997,' Kilroy said. 'I feel sorry for the residents who paid top dollars for a first-class development, yet the developers are unwilling to put in basic amenities.'

A Lorain County grand jury later indicted Krystowski on several counts of bribery for his handling of the Red Tail project. Carnegie official Pete Restivo has also been indicted ..."

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 4-1-00, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"Group in Avon has swimming pool plan

AVON -- A citizens' group meeting for the first time this week hopes to turn Avon's 'No. 1 recreation priority' into reality.

The group hopes to bring a swimming pool, of any variety, to the city of Avon. Residents identified a pool as their top desire in a 1998 city-wide recreational survey ...

David Mast, chairman of Avon's Parks and Recreation Committee, advertised a meeting to discuss the swimming pool issue, and about 17 volunteers showed up. Several more have called since to express interest, Mast said.

'We had everything from a guy who moved here six months ago to a working mom who's lived in Avon her entire adult life,' he said. 'Best of all, we had three people with significant experiences doing this in other communities.'

The committee identified three goals: decide what to build, how to pay for its construction and operation, and how to 'sell' it to the rest of the city residents.

'We have consensus on what we want to do,' Mast said. 'Now we have to find a way to make it happen.'

The group has already made plans to visit facilities in other cities, to get ideas for a plan for Avon, Mast said.

Ward 3 Councilman Tim Nickum, who attended the meeting, said he supports the project and believes City Council does as well. However, a publicly owned pool may only be possible with a tax levy, Nickum said.

'I just don't see any deep well of money ready to spend for a pool,' he said. 'As much as everyone wants it, we will have to pay for it. And that can change things a little bit.'

At this point, however, city officials are enthusiastic about the group's goals.

With Avon's growth, a pool may quickly become a necessity, Mayor Jim Smith said.

'This is a service a city our size should have,' he said. 'We're one of the biggest cities that doesn't have a community pool.'

Smith and Recreation Director Jack Zajaros are currently focused on developing the city's 62-acre Veterans Memorial Park on Detroit Road.

'I'm glad there's a group taking a bull by the horns here,' he said. 'There's no way I can do this, and no way Jack can do this. This way they can get the ideas together, and we'll take it from there.'

The group plans to meet again in about a month, Mast said. Any interested citizen should call him at 937-6644."

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''Sampling Hickory Farms' snacks once was as much a part of the shopping mall experience as people-watching and a frothy cup of Orange Julius.

But with more orders coming by catalog and on the Internet, the Maumee, Ohio, retailer is taking its smoked sausage, cheddar crocks and beefsticks elsewhere.

By early May, Hickory Farms will have closed the last of its mall stores, which had once numbered more than 500.

Instead, shoppers will see Hickory Farms kiosks only during the peak-business, year-end holidays - a move that will allow the company to save $30,000 to $80,000 in annual rent per store ...

Those most vulnerable, some real estate experts predict, will be companies that develop, own and manage malls and shopping centers as more stores shrink or go dark and rents fall.

Other industry analysts, including mall owners themselves, believe the threat is overblown. After all, last Christmas season was among the busiest ever. Mall sales and occupancy rates are their highest in 10 years.

They point out that the industry survived similar scares that mail-order catalogs in the 1970s and the Home Shopping Network in the 1980s would spell their doom ...

How, they argue, could sitting in front of a computer screen ever replace the social interaction of shopping with other people?

"It's entertainment. It's an emotional and physical experience that a lot of people enjoy," said Peter Pike, a Ross, Calif., specialist in commercial real estate and the Internet.

Still, the Internet is grabbing the attention of doomsayers and skeptics alike.

"It's fair to say property owners are very concerned," said James Ratner, president of Forest City Commercial Group, a division of Forest City Enterprises Inc. of Cleveland. "Anytime you deal with an unknown, there's always concern."

The Internet's threat also comes at a time of record-low unemployment, adding more pressure to an industry already struggling with high employee turnover and shoddy service.

As real estate firms wrestle with the rise of online retailing and its potential effect on their business, new approaches to keeping the customer satisfied and to squeezing every dime from their properties may soon find their way to a mall near you.

Some operators are embracing the Internet, with computer kiosks and hand-held gadgets, in what the industry calls a "bricks and clicks" or "clicks and mortar" strategy to make shopping more convenient, fun and profitable.

Others hope to generate more revenue by selling naming rights, in-mall advertising and exclusive vending rights to their properties. The Mills Corp., of Arlington, Va., has even introduced its own in-mall television network, with watch-while-you-shop programming and ads to support it.

"The Internet is going to have an enormous impact," said Ratner, whose firm owns more than 40 malls and shopping centers, including the Avenue at Tower City Center in downtown Cleveland and Parmatown Mall in Parma. "Whether it's a threat or an opportunity will depend on how you deal with it."

In truth, though, retail development's major players aren't exactly sure how to react to the computer age.

On the eve of last holiday season's biggest shopping day, the owner of an upscale St. Louis shopping mall banned retailers from promoting the purchase of merchandise over the Internet, only to rescind the order days later.

While wearing a brave can't-we-all-get-along front, worried shopping center lobbyists are busy behind the scenes pushing Congress to wipe out the sales-tax advantage that Internet retailers now enjoy.

And some shopping center owners are simply casting about directionless, floating Internet gimmicks for no other reason than they feel they should be.

"Some of this stuff is people saying, 'We're going to convince everybody we've got an e-strategy,'" said Barry Vinocur, editor and publisher of Realty Stock Review, an industry newsletter.

Companies are scrambling because, real or imagined, the Internet threat is being taken seriously on Wall Street.

While real estate investment trust stocks in general have been battered in the last two years, shares of companies that develop and own retail centers have been especially listless.

Craig Schmidt, a Merrill Lynch REIT analyst in New York, attributes as much as one-third of that price decline to Internet retailing.

Schmidt estimates retail sales on the Internet will hit $100 billion by 2003, up from $8 billion in 1998 - year of the first "e-commerce Christmas." But while the growth is startling, Schmidt expects 40 percent of that increase to cut into mail-order, not store sales.

Most susceptible, he said, are centers dominated by stores that sell books, music, videos, computers and, to some extent, basics such as underwear, socks, towels and sheets.

Better insulated from the threat are properties dominated by stores with products that shoppers prefer to touch, feel or try on, like fashion, home furnishings and jewelry.

Forward-thinking firms such as the Rouse Co., of Columbia, Md., which owns and operates Beachwood Place in Beachwood, are gradually thinning their centers of Internet-sensitive retailers, replacing them with fashion and lifestyle stores, restaurants and modern theaters.

Rouse and some other leading mall and shopping center owners are also rolling out new in-mall Internet programs.

"Most of the whiz-bang stuff is still being birthed," said Michael McCarty, senior vice president and market research director for the Simon Property Group, the nation's largest mall operator, with about 260 centers.

Pushing innovation The Indianapolis firm, which locally owns and manages Great Lakes Mall in Mentor, Randall Park Mall in North Randall, Richmond Town Square in Richmond Heights and Summit Mall in Akron, is considered among the industry's more progressive companies.

Simon has been active on several fronts, from forging marketing and vending alliances with corporate giants including Pepsi-Cola Co. and AT&T to publishing a monthly magazine for mall shoppers in a joint venture with Time Inc.

At 100 of its stronger properties, the developer is installing high-speed wiring that will allow retailers to receive and send video. With the technology, retailers, for instance, could conduct in-store fashion shows or more efficient employee training sessions companywide.

"We see this as being a major revenue source for us," McCarty said ...

Simon is testing innovations called FastFrog.com and YourSherpa.com at the Mall of Georgia in suburban Atlanta. Depending on their success, shoppers could see them hit local malls. Company officials were unsure of any definite roll-out plans.

FastFrog.com, designed for teens, allows young shoppers to scan items from participating stores with a hand-held "zap stick" available at a mall kiosk.

When the wand is returned, the scanned items are entered into a FastFrog Web page that can be e-mailed to friends and relatives, creating a high-tech shopping list.

The idea of teenagers making "I-want-it" lists by waving a magic wand is enough to shake any parent to the core. But Simon doesn't see it that way.

"You could argue that your 13-year-old daughter is being unduly influenced to purchase something," McCarty said. "I think it's more about entertaining the 13-year-old daughter rather than causing her to buy something she wouldn't have bought anyway."

YourSherpa.com, named after the Tibetans living on the slopes of the Himalayas, is for adults. It's an Internet version of the personal shopper that service-friendly retailers such as Nordstrom have built their reputations on.

YourSherpa allows shoppers to scan items and, if they choose, have them gift-wrapped and delivered to their homes or shipped elsewhere. No lugging bags from store to store. No waiting in lines at the register.

Obviously, some ideas will fly and others won't.

"But if you ignore [Internet retailing] and don't pay attention to it," McCarty said, "you're going to get flattened like a steamroller."

Forest City, Glimcher Realty Trust in Columbus and Taubman Centers Inc., of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., have begun installing Internet kiosks at selected malls.

Provided are such services as mall directories, free online access, and the ability to shop online and print out discount coupons. There is also information on sales being offered at the mall that day.

"It's going to be in all of our malls by year end," said John Hoeller, senior vice president of Glimcher, which owns 22 centers and has been testing the iPort kiosk at Dayton Mall in Dayton and another in Elizabeth, N.J.

Likewise, Ratner said he expects Forest City's version of the Internet kiosk - called Centerlinq - to start appearing at Forest City malls in the next year.

Along with selling off weaker properties and shaking out weaker tenants, the Rouse Co. is focusing on improving customer service - with both physical and technological improvements.

Within a year to 18 months, Beachwood Place and other Rouse malls may see what it calls a "consolidated customer service center," offering delivery service, a pick-up window and other conveniences.

Rouse is also introducing Web sites for preferred shoppers and for each mall, allowing customers from home to buy gift certificates and call up such information as hours of operation, mall events and job openings at the center.

The Web sites also provide links to the merchants, allowing consumers to save time by checking the availability and pricing at various stores before heading out.

"The idea is what we call pre-shopping," explained Robert Minutoli, the firm's vice president of new business ...

Perry Gruber, of Developers Diversified Realty Corp. in Beachwood, said "the jury's still out" on whether the company would pursue any e-commerce strategies. Unlike mall owners, storefronts at his firm's strip centers are out in the open, not hidden inside, he explained. Many of DDR's tenants, including Home Depot and Target, already do a great job of self-promotion, with weekly fliers and extensive advertising.

"Why try to confuse the message?" Gruber said.

Realty Stock Review's Vinocur believes that online retailing will never replace the in-store experience, that some sort of hybrid will evolve. But he cautioned property owners from operating with a false sense of security that - like QVC and mail-order before it - this, too, shall pass.

"The Internet is different," he said. "It's the Industrial Revolution. It's change or die." ''

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