Avon Growth News, 12-12-01 to 4-14-02

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12-12-01: Section 8 Housing on Chester Rd.
12-13-01: $20 million project to mirror Avon Commons north of I-90
2-3-02: Historical Society backs Landmark Ordinance
2-7-02: Efforts to save the Lewis house
4-14-02: The average selling price of existing homes in Avon declines in 2001

COLUMN from The Plain Dealer, 12-11-01, By Tom Brazaitis

`` 'Smart growth' doesn't make the grade

... Readers with dangerously long memories will recall a column I wrote more than four years ago extolling the virtues of smart growth as an antidote to urban sprawl.

Well, last week I met a man who thinks smart growth is a stupid idea. His name is Randal O'Toole, and he has backed up his critique of the latest trend in urban planning with a 546-page book, titled, "The Vanishing Automobile and Other Urban Myths: How Smart Growth Will Harm American Cities." ...

"Smart growth" is a term broadly accepted by the Environmental Protection Agency as a way of urban planning that answers the demand for housing while protecting the environment and preserving open space. It involves state-mandated urban growth boundaries outside of which development is limited or forbidden ...

In his book, O'Toole, an economist at the Thoreau Institute in Oregon, ... debunks 73 smart-growth myths, such as this one:

Myth: People would be glad to live in well-designed high-density neighborhoods if only developers would build such neighborhoods.

Reality: For most people multifamily dwellings and other high-density neighborhoods are the last choice.

A native of Oregon, O'Toole cites Portland (which for many urban planners is the prototype for smart growth) as proof that smart growth, far from making cities more livable, in fact, makes them more congested, polluted and unaffordable.

Packing more people into an urban area can only increase congestion, O'Toole says, and, because cars pollute more in stop-and-go traffic than at speeds of 45 to 55 mph, congestion makes urban air dirtier ...

Smart growth is wonderful, O'Toole says, only if your idea of utopian urban living is Los Angeles, the country's most congested city. Despite its reputation as the epitome of sprawl, Los Angeles has the highest density and the fewest miles of freeway per capita of any U.S. urbanized area.

Sure enough, when people are asked whether they support smart growth as a way to counter urban sprawl, they enthusiastically answer yes. But when asked whether they would approve of their own neighborhood being rezoned for multifamily housing, the answer is a resounding no ...''

Contact Tom Brazaitis at tbrazaitis@plaind.com

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 12-21-01, By Brad Dicken

``AVON -- Six attorneys want Avon Law Director Daniel Stringer's job.

Stringer is retiring at year's end, and among the applicants who have submitted resumes to replace him are a city councilman, a former law director, Avon Lake's retiring fire chief and ... Gerald Phillips ...

A public records request accompanied Phillips resume. He requested to see copies of all other resumes submitted for the job. Phillips said he wanted the copies to see who his competition was.

"Based on the resumes, (there are) only two candidates who are qualified and that's myself and [Jacobs' attorney] Thomas Smith," he said ... ''

NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 12-12-01, By Mike Ferrari

[Why the Phillips' petition?

Do we need more Section 8 Housing on Chester Rd.?]

``AVON -- The Timberlake Apartment complex in Avon along Chester Road that is being developed by Brisben Co., a Cincinnati firm, is still not out of the woods yet despite their progress ...''

See the article.

Gerald Phillips is circulating a petition against car dealers on Chester Rd. across from A. J. Rose. Why?

NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 12-14-01, By Brad Dicken

[Phillips stops car dealership on Chester Road

What does he really want?]

``AVON -- A proposed car dealership at the southeast corner of Chester and Moore roads in Avon will be delayed a year because of a petition filed Wednesday [12-12-01] with the city asking for a referendum on the rezoning of the property ...

Phillips filed the petition, which he circulated along with his wife, former mayoral candidate Ted Graczyk, and eight other people who live outside the city [hired by whom?], 30 days after council passed it ...''

NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 12-19-01, By Mike Ferrari

``Phillips gets signatures

...In a questionable move, Phillips could have used an outside company to obtain the signatures from local residents under the premise that the petition they were signing was not [against] the dealership; instead it was for the right to vote only ...''

Click here for more information.

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 12-13-01, By Brad Dicken

[$20 million project to mirror Avon Commons north of I-90]

``AVON -- The city's Planning Commission approved a $20 million project Wednesday that will mirror the Avon Commons shopping center on the north side of Interstate 90.

The project, which includes a 150,000-square-foot retail store and a gas station, is scheduled to break ground in the spring and open next winter.

Mitchell Schneider, president of First Interstate Properties Ltd., which also developed Avon Commons, presented drawings and plans for the project ...

City Council still has to approve plans for $665,000 in road improvements First Interstate plans to make to allow for traffic flow into the new building, which will have the same architecture and design as Avon Commons.

Those plans call for expanding Chester Road to four lanes and adding a turn lane to state Route 83 North. The project sits less than a half-mile from the state Route 83 exit off I-90 and is just east of where Chester Road, Old Center Road and Route 83 meet ...

Concerns raised by Elizabeth Toth, whose parents live on Old Center Road and have the only residential land abutting the project, included privacy and security. Schneider agreed to build several hundred feet of chain link fence along a retention wall that will separate the two properties.

Bob Shelton, whose property is across from the gas station, was concerned about headlights hitting his front window, but Schneider promised to build a berm and plant shrubs to block the lights.

Green space was a concern of Commission members, who pushed Schneider to try to save as many trees on the heavily wooded property as possible. Schneider said he would try, but with the grading required to build a water retention pond, he wasn't sure how many trees could be saved.

"We're committed to saving as much foliage as we can," he said ...''

Contact Brad Dicken at bdicken@chronicletelegram.com

NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 12-14-01, By ANDREA MIGHT, Morning Journal Writer

``AVON -- A new $20 million complex to include a 150,000-square-foot store and a gas station has been approved for Chester Road north of Interstate 90 ...

Mitchell Schneider, president of First Interstate Properties Ltd., which is building the Chester Road store, said retail companies are looking at building in Avon more and more because of its growth.

''Avon is the fastest growing residential community in northeastern Ohio,'' he said.

[Avon Planning Commission Chairman] Piazza said the Avon Planning Commission approved the complex Wednesday, but the tenant didn't want to be identified yet.

''The tenant does not want the name released until a contract is signed,'' Piazza said.

Schneider said he hopes the name of the store will be announced within 90 days.

Schneider said $665,000 will be spent to widen the street and add street lights at Chester Road and state Route 83 ...

Piazza said the new store will be ... as close to I-90 on the north side as Avon Commons is on the south side.

The store will be built with the same materials and colors as Avon Commons, but, unlike its counterpart, it will only have one store and a gas station.

Piazza ... said a public hearing was held on Wednesday [12-12-01], and people expressed any concerns they had.

''Thirty people were there and all their desires were expressed,'' he said. ''We have not heard of any opposition to this project.''

Schneider agreed ... "(Avon Commons) is a quality development, and we set the standard for what a retail project in Avon needs to be," Schneider said. ''We came in with a development plan that matches the quality and landscaping and architecture of Avon Commons.''

Schneider said most area residents were concerned with keeping as many trees and shrubs around as possible. Others who lived close by said they would be more comfortable if there were fencing that would separate their property from the store's.

''Some requested fencing, which he (Schneider) will do for them,'' Piazza said.

Schneider said he also is putting up a mound so that lights from vehicles in the parking lot don't shine in nearby homes ...

Schneider said he hopes to break ground sometime in spring and is planning for April. He said the goal is to have it open prior to Thanksgiving next year [2002]. ''


NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 12-19-01, By Brad Dicken

``Avon Commons getting new store

AVON -- ... Avon City Council ... approved a plan Monday [12-17-01] by developer Mitchell Schneider to make $665,000 in street upgrades near where Schneider s company, First Interstate Properties, will build the 150,000-square-foot store ...

First Interstate has agreed to expand Chester Road to four lanes and add a turn lane to state Route 83 North. The building will sit at a spur of Old Center Road across from Route 83. It will be between Chester Road and I-90.

At-large Councilman Thomas Wearsch said the changes will ease traffic congestion.

"I think (First Interstate) has a proven track record, and I think this continues it," he said. "(Schneider) is doing substantial traffic improvements in the area." ...''

Contact Brad Dicken at bdicken@chronicletelegram.com

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FEATURE ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 2-3-02, By Brad Dicken

``Avon trying to make the old look new

AVON -- The price of rapid growth in cities like Avon is often paid with the architectural heritage of the past.

But if Avon Council approves an ordinance proposed last month by at-large Councilman Jack Kilroy, the pace of destruction could be slowed, and some buildings might be preserved.

It's an issue Kilroy wants city officials to give serious consideration.

"A landmark ordinance gives communities a tool to help reverse the trend of historic buildings being lost," he said.

Taylor J. Smith, president of the Avon Historical Society, said his group supports the legislation and believes it will offer property owners a chance to reconsider building plans.

"If we had something to slow down the destruction of historic properties, a developer who was in a hurry might look at other properties," he said. "It also would help in maintaining existing landmarks."

Both Kilroy and Smith said a landmark ordinance would not, however, completely prohibit the destruction of historic buildings in the city.

Kilroy said if the proposal is approved, the city will have to hire a professional preservationist to conduct a survey. The survey would determine which buildings in the city have enough historic significance to warrant being protected from a wrecking ball.

"It has to be based on an established standard; you can't just pick the ones you like," he said.

But even if a building were protected, it wouldn't mean it couldn t be torn down or changed significantly. "The point," Kilroy said, "is to slow down the process and allow property owners the opportunity to get grants and other funding to restore or protect aging buildings."

"It's not to prevent someone from doing what they want with their property," Kilroy said. "It's to make sure there's thought, reviews and fair standards."

Avon already has three homes [the William E. Hurst House, the Wilbur Cahoon House, and the Williams House] ... on the National Registry of Historic Places, but Smith and Kilroy believe other buildings in the city are worth protecting as well.

Smith said quite a few homes in the city were built more than a century ago.

"We in Avon have sort of a permissive attitude toward property owners," Smith said. "We don't want to tell people they can't enclose their front porch if that will make them enjoy living there better. We want to prevent the destruction of landmarks."''

Contact Brad Dicken at bdicken@chronicletelegram.com

NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 2-4-02, By Corwin A. Thomas, Plain Dealer Reporter

``Cleveland to host historic-preservation conference

Cleveland, considered one of the most accomplished preservation cities in America, will host the 2002 National Preservation Conference in October.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a private nonprofit organization that helps preserve historic structures, is expected to make the announcement today ...

More than 2,000 preservationists from across the country are expected ... said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust.

The theme of the conference is Cities, Suburbs and Countryside.

About 100 plenary and educational sessions will be held. Tours of various historic preservation sites will also be given during the conference, which will be Oct. 8-13, [2002].

For more information, visit www.nthp.org

Contact Corwin A. Thomas at cthomas@plaind.com

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 2-7-02, By Brad Dicken

``Historic house may fall victim to incoming Wal-Mart

AVON -- After withstanding the forces of nature and progress since 1843, the aging tan sandstone Lewis House on old Center Street faces Wal-Mart's bulldozers.

With less than two months to get out of the way, Ron Larson, owner of the Tree House restaurant in Avon's French Creek District, hopes to save the house by moving it behind his Detroit Road business.

Larson said he has the support of fellow members of the Avon Historical Society and the store developer, First Interstate. But the project remains tentative.

Efforts to get local, state or federal funding for the move failed, Larson said, and banks don't typically lend money for such projects. Still, he thinks it's worth the effort to save.

"The Lewis House has a lot of meaning for us and for the area," he said.

"The cost to move the building is estimated at $35,000. It may cost another $25,000 to $30,000 to build a new foundation for the building at Larson's Old Avon Village," Historical Society president Taylor J. Smith said.

There already are three historic buildings at the [Old Avon] village [behind Ron Larson's Tree House restaurant] on Detroit Road.

"We see it as salvation of those buildings for generations to come," Larson said. "We want to create a sanctuary for those types of buildings."

Smith said the Lewis House is a historic relic of the early days of the Western Reserve, as the Cleveland area was known in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

"For me it's a real landmark," he said.

In 1843, Thomas Cave, an early settler, added the stone section that still stands at the site to an original two-story frame house, according to research by the Historical Society. No one knows when the original frame section was built, but it disappeared long ago. The stones, quarried in Amherst, remain.

Lewis House
This house is in the way of bulldozers clearing land for a new Wal-Mart on Center Road in Avon. Photo by GENE KREBS/CHRONICLE

"The home is on the Ohio Registry of Historic Sites and was detailed by the American History Survey in the 1930s, a Works Progress Administration project during the height of the Great Depression," said Society member Jean Fischer.

"There are so few of these old stone houses left in the Western Reserve," she said.

Larson said First Interstate, the developer building the new 150,000-square-foot Wal-Mart, is working to help save the building. A gas station will be built on the land the Lewis House now occupies.

"This is the first time we ve had a house (on) a property that's historic," said the company's vice president, Richard Carlisle.

First Interstate has agreed to give the building to Larson and also has done some initial survey work for the move, but beyond that the company hasn't committed to any other involvement.

Carlisle said he is meeting with the Historical Society next week to discuss the house and that the company may do more.

"We like to do what we can," he said.

Larson stressed the project is by no means definite, especially because he will probably end up footing most of the bill.

Mayor James Smith sold the Lewis House, which he owned and rented out until last month, to First Interstate.

"I was hoping that someone would be able to take the house," he said. "It's a unique building, and it would be nice to put it down in [Old] Avon Village."

Contact Brad Dicken at bdicken@chronicletelegram.com

NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 2-21-02, By Catherine Gilfether, Plain Dealer Reporter

``Saving the old requires new cash

AVON -- For Ron Larson, what's new is what's old.

Specifically, Olde Avon Village. When Larson is not running the Tree House Gallery and Tea Room, he's focused on preserving history in one of the fastest growing cities in Lorain County.

First on his agenda is moving the 1843 Lewis home before it's torn down in April for a Wal-Mart. The move of less than a mile will cost $38,000. And that's just the beginning. He estimates another $62,000 is needed for a foundation, architectural and site work, renovation and planning.

But Larson believes the building represents an era well worth the investment.

"There are a lot of stories to be told," he said, rattling off facts about Avon's German pioneers, religious heritage and bustling saw and grist mills.

The farm fields have given way to a community of 11,446 residents. In the town's center, called the French Creek District, quaint antique shops and stores line the main thoroughfare. But also dominating the once rural area are housing developments, offices and retail shopping centers, which soon will include the Wal-Mart.

Similarly, Larson witnessed his hometown landscape of Independence change. "I watched it grow into an area with massive office buildings," he said. "I think everyone regrets it now, but no one took any action."

He envisions the village, near the town center, as a sanctuary for buildings that might otherwise be destroyed. "I think the old and new can coincide and they can run parallel," he said, walking the gravel pathways near the historic homes tucked behind the busy street. "But this can be a little haven in a large growth area."

The Lewis home was built of sandstone quarried in nearby Amherst, but back then it was an eight-day task to carry the load to Avon. The home is the only pyramid-roofed stone home in Ohio and was placed on the Register of Historic Buildings in 1937.

First Interstate Properties, developer of the Wal-Mart, agreed to donate the Lewis home to Larson at the request of the Avon Historical Society. The company also has donated some preliminary survey site work at the village, where the home would be moved.

The concept for Olde Avon Village began in 1981 when Dr. Delbert Fischer bought the 1850's Alten-Casper house, which fronts on busy Detroit Road. Larson's restaurant is now in that house. Fischer moved a train station, caboose and Greek Revival home to the three-acre site. A hobby shop and fiber arts store are housed in those buildings.

Larson sees similar potential for the Lewis home. Perhaps it could become a bakery, candy store, ice cream shop or women's clothing store. Also on his agenda is to dismantle and rebuild an old barn at the village. He wants to move an old brick schoolhouse, one of six original schools in the area. And, he is searching for an authentic wooden greenhouse to honor Avon, which was once a major grower of greenhouse tomatoes.

Any new structures would be built in a Western Reserve-style true to the period, he said. During special community events, like the holiday lighting walk, people might roam the paths in period costumes.

"It would have the look and feel of 1850's Avon," he said. "Avon hasn't experienced the amount of commercial growth that's going on now since 1850 ..."

Tonight [2-21-02], Larson will present his dream of nurturing "a small community within a community" to the city's Planning Commission for approval ...

Jack Smith, president of the historical society, applauds Larson's commercial approach. "The greatest incentive to maintain and preserve structures is the fact that they are profitable," he said.

Scott Hetzel, owner of the village's Heritage Train & Hobby shop, supports Larson's vision. "It's like any other part of history," he said. "You need to leave a little behind."''

Contact Catherine Gilfether at cgilfether@plaind.com

NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 3-18-02, By Brad Dicken

``Donations allow past to be preserved

AVON -- Three donations of $5,000 a piece are helping Ron Larson to achieve his dream of moving a home built in 1843 from its current location -- where Wal-Mart is building a store -- to downtown Avon.

Wal-Mart, developer First Interstate and Taylor J. Smith, president of Avon Historical Society, have donated the money to help defray the expected $100,000 price tag that comes with moving the sandstone structure known as the Lewis House.

Larson, who owns the Tree House restaurant and the buildings that compose Old Avon Village in the city's French Creek District, is pleased with the donations, but still has to worry about covering the rest of the cost.

"I'm still seeking outside help," he said. "And I already have a loan in place."

Wal-Mart, which bought the land and the buildings on it earlier this year, is also donating the house to Larson. The company and Larson still need to sign an agreement for that, but Larson said he doesn't foresee any problems.

He already has set his sights on a new project after learning of a sandstone foundation in the woods behind the house that once provided the base of a barn.

"We believe the barn is older than the house," he said. "It's almost ghostly when you walk back there and see these stones rising out of the woods."

The barn will also be moved to Old Avon Village, and Larson plans to restore it to how it would have looked around 1825, when he estimates it was built. When finished the barn will be about 30 feet tall.

"At that point, I would have the whole Lewis homestead, except for maybe some other small outbuildings," he said.

Larson still has to get final approval from Avon Planning Commission, but Chairman Jim Piazza said he doesn't expect any problems after what the commission saw during an informational presentation last month.

"The property won't be too full even if Larson adds several other buildings to his property," Piazza said. "The only concern left will be how close the buildings are to other properties."

"If there's no problem with frontage, they're fine," he said.

Smith said he donated the money because he believes in preserving the past. He also hopes the city will waive most of the fees Larson could incur from the project ...

City Council is considering legislation that would help protect buildings more than a century old.''

Contact Brad Dicken at bdicken@chronicletelegram.com

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FEATURE AFTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 4-14-02, By Susan Glaser, Assistant Homes Editor

[One of factors not mentioned in the below article is the effect of preservation and restoration on the price of homes in entire neighborhoods of Cleveland and other Cuyahoga County communities.

Although there are many possible reasons for the decline in the average selling price of existing homes in Avon in 2001, future City and County preservation and restoration efforts would help maintain property values throughout Avon.]

``Appreciating Cleveland

The average price of a home in Cuyahoga County grew by more than 7 percent in 2001, the biggest increase in the region.

Despite the recession, the housing market, as measured through rising resale home prices, stayed strong in most Greater Cleveland communities.

Buyers in Cuyahoga County paid an average of $125,987 for an existing house last year, up from $117,458 in 2000 - even though some of the area's wealthiest communities, such as Hunting Valley and Gates Mills, saw the average price of their homes actually decrease.

Low-interest mortgage rates and a strong first-time home buyers' market, meanwhile, boosted sale prices by 10 percent or more in some of the county's more affordable communities, including the East Side of Cleveland and several eastern suburbs.

Outside of Cuyahoga County, the greatest increases in home values were found in the rural townships of Medina, Lorain and Portage counties, where the skyrocketing prices of new houses and vacant land are pushing up the prices of existing homes.

For the last three years, local real estate giant Realty One has tracked the sales of the region's residential property, defined as single-family homes, two-family homes and condominiums. New construction is excluded, as are foreclosure sales and other transactions that don't reflect fair market value.

An analysis of the sales proves a broad point: Residential real estate in the area remains a solid investment nearly everywhere.

The average price of a home in Cuyahoga County grew by more than 7 percent in 2001, the biggest increase in the region.

"There's significant evidence to suggest that real estate has outperformed the stock market," says Jim O'Connor, a former market analyst for Realty One who now works for Neighborhood Progress, a local development organization.

Indeed, the Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 5 percent of its value in 2001 alone -- a rate bested by housing prices in the great majority of Northeast Ohio communities ...

The average sale price, of course, doesn't directly correlate to how much an individual home appreciated (or depreciated) over the past year. That's more a function of how well the home and property are taken care of and whether the house is located in a neighborhood that is desirable and sought after, as well as other factors ...

Realtor Barb Bruhn, who manages Smythe, Cramer Co.'s Bainbridge office, says the market is still very hot for homes priced at about $150,000. "But for homes priced above $600,000, the market has gotten very quiet."

The same factors are at play in Cuyahoga County's wealthiest communities. The average sale price of a home in Hunting Valley in 2000 was $1,313,031; it dropped to $1,035,375 in 2001. (Granted, the number of sales is small: 13 homes sold in Cuyahoga's section of the village in 2000, and just four in 2001.) In Gates Mills, the average price declined from $612,846 to $481,608. (Out of a total of 39 sales in 2000, and 38 in 2001.)

Meanwhile, some of Cuyahoga County's more modest communities, many of them in the eastern suburbs, registered significant gains: Oakwood was up 37 percent, Bedford was up nearly 14 percent, Lyndhurst was up more than 16 percent and Euclid was up nearly 9 percent ...

Buoyed by record-low interest rates, first-time home buyers were a major reason the housing market stayed strong last year, despite a faltering economy. And they tend to favor lower-priced homes ...

Cleveland still has among the cheapest houses in the area -- but not as cheap as it used to be. The average home on the West Side last year sold for $80,701, the average house on the East Side for $63,981.

Cleveland real estate agent David Sharkey, the vice president of Progressive Urban Real Estate, says the rehabbing of older homes and the construction of new houses is bringing up residential property values in nearly every neighborhood of the city, from Fairfax to Tremont and everything in between ...

Buyers who want country living but can't afford to build a new home are pushing up the price of existing houses, says Wayne, the president of Medina Appraisal Co. "It goes in cycles. People want a lot of land right now. People selling older homes are benefiting from that."

In contrast, homes in the county's more densely developed areas, the cities of Medina and Brunswick, aren't experiencing the same kind of price increases. The average price of a home in Medina actually decreased slightly last year; in Brunswick, the price increased by just under 4 percent.

Even so, given last year's recession and the volatility of other investments, any increase might be worth celebrating.''

Contact Susan Glaser at sglaser@plaind.com

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