Avon Growth News, 6-1-99 to 6-16-99

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6-10-99 Red Tail
6-13-99 Gore Sprawl
6-15-99 Mayor Jim Smith on TV8 talks about Gore proposal


"Smart growth?

In response to Patrick Campbell's column ("Smart Growth," May 19) about the burgeoning "smart growth" movement in the country and, more specifically, Ohio -- once again, well-meaning activists are tilting at windmills.

As a degreed urban planner and career land developer, I have encountered this "smart growth" mentality throughout my education and my entire professional life. We in the development business, however, refer to this philosophy as the NIMBYs (not in my back yard).

But, given a lack of other political issues, and spurred on by the Sierra Club's need for a fundraising vehicle, the growth issue has jumped to the forefront of chic political parlor chat. The only problem is that there is no such problem as "urban sprawl," which the smart growth advocates are so vehemently and vociferously trying to squelch ...

For the better part of the century, society had demonstrated a desire to not live in the city, opting instead, for better or for worse, for a more sedate suburban lifestyle. Contrary to the claims of smart growth advocates, though, this has not been at the expense of farmland. In fact, Gregg Easterbrook, writing in the New Republic (March 1999), citing USDA figures, states that since the 1960s, the total of "harvested cropland," or land under cultivation, is actually up 8 percent!

And generally, in the past 50 years, the percentage increase in urban/suburban population growth has far exceeded the percentage increase in urban/suburban land use, indicating a more, not less, efficient use of land ...

Although I don't at all question the intentions or motivation of smart growth advocates, as a matter of public policy the theory is flawed in practice and founded on bad theory. In any metropolitan area where smart growth, or similar, policies have been adopted, the result has been skyrocketing home prices, rapidly diminishing housing stock and, in some cases, exclusionary zoning ..."

[It is no coincedence that in this Age of the Internet, when many of us are turning to tele-working and tele-shopping, that we are flooded with sprawl propaganda.

Many of the 100-year land leases in the central cities of the rust belt are up for renegotiation. With fewer tenants, the relative value of these leases has declined.

Renting in the central city, as opposed to owning a place for spacious living in Avon, is not a reasonable choice. Security and education are obstacles in the central cities to enjoyable family life.

No amount of sprawl-talk by the academics, whose professorships may be endowed by central city landowners, will stem the dispersion that modern telecommunications makes possible.]

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE PLAIN DEALER, 6-10-99, By Rich Exner

"Red Tail club project is unique for county

AVON - The Red Tail Residential Country Club at the center of allegations over the possible bribery of a council president is a unique development for Lorain County.

For the first time in the area, a housing development was designed around a private golf course, with both housing and golf course construction going on at the same time.

The Carnegie Management and Development project - located on the southeast side of Avon, not far from the Westlake, North Olmsted and North Ridgeville borders - could eventually include 650 houses.

Contracts for the first houses sold in 1996 started at $250,000. More recently, the homes have been priced at $300,000 to $750,000.

The main selling point is a championship golf course designed by Robert von Hagge, creator of more than 250 courses in 38 countries. Among von Hagge's more noted works are the courses at the Doral Country Club in Miami and some of the top-rated courses in Europe.

Last year, a group called Senior Tour Players Inc. purchased a 50 percent interest in the course and became the course manager. Two of its more noted members, Sam Snead and Bob Goalby, visited the course for a promotional event in November.

Carnegie President Rustom R. Khouri yesterday pointed to the quality of the development in defending his indicted project manager, Peter Restivo ...

Councilman Jack Kilroy, however, said he continues to be concerned with the treatment the development has received from city officials.

"There are still issues with Red Tail getting special treatment," Kilroy said. "They have not been required to put a sidewalk on the west side of Lear-Nagel in my ward.""

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"Gore looks at urban sprawl

WASHINGTON - ... Vice President Al Gore is betting he has answers ready for the 2000 presidential campaign that will get the attention of voters in far-flung exurbs of the United States ...

The centerpiece of Gore's agenda, called Better America Bonds, is included in the Clinton administration's proposed budget for next year.

It seeks $700 million in federal tax credits to help states and local communities issue no-interest bonds to buy open space, build parks, save farmland, improve water quality and reclaim scrapyards.

With lenders receiving tax breaks instead of interest, the 15-year bonds could finance $9.5 billion in spending over five years, Gore estimates, creating jobs and changing the look of central cities as well.

But the federal role is not an easy sell to local decision-makers.

"I don't think their management means a lot," Avon Mayor Jim Smith said of the Gore-backed proposals.

Avon, one of the last Greater Cleveland communities with extensive acres of [former] farm fields and woodlands [second growth on former farm fields], lies astride the I-90 corridor that links the center city with Lorain and Elyria.

[Avon's major "greenspace" businesses are golf courses and nurseries to provide plants for housing developments. There is still some grape farming, but tomatoes are grown in Mexico; and no one stops at farms anymore for eggs and cream. Flowers are grown in Avon, but much of the produce at the roadside stands is shipped in.]

"People want bigger lots, more space - they are going to come out here. There is nothing you can do about it, except maybe manage your growth in the best possible way you can," [said Mayor Smith.] ...

But can seemingly endless suburban expansion, decried by many as sprawl, be slowed by Washington? It was, after all, born of the American dream of better schools, low crime and a backyard fit for barbecues.

Some regard the widening circle of suburbs as the natural order that follows robust economic growth. Gore's immersion in sprawl, they say, is a manufactured campaign issue, harkening back to anti-suburban liberal bromides of the 1960s and 1970s ...

"Can the feds really affect it? I don't think so," said Thomas Bier, director of the housing program at Cleveland State University's College of Urban Affairs. "I would say, don't bother, that is not going to make enough difference. He [Gore] is looking for something to do, but it is up to the states."

Gore, who is to announce his presidential candidacy Wednesday, is convinced he is on to something; other politicians are watching to see if he is right about a revolt in the suburbs, fertile for new ideas in the coming campaign. [The vultures circle, ready to feed on a juicy issue.] ...

Between 1995 and 1996, suburbs across the country gained 2.1 million residents while central cities lost population, according to the Census Bureau. A majority of people in at least 14 states, including Ohio, now live in suburbs ...

The vice president, his aides insist, is not running for master planner.

"If local residents want parks instead of contaminated brownfields in their communities, they should be able to make that choice," said Gore, who lived in Arlington, Va., during his years in Congress. "... If they want to build subways instead of highways, they should be able to make that choice - and we should help them." ...

Experts have difficulty agreeing how to define sprawl, because it "has frequently been described as being 'in the eye of the beholder,'" the General Accounting Office (GAO) said in a recent report. One person's nightmare of sprawl is another's dream development, abutting the fairway of a golf course.

The GAO, a research arm of Congress, found experts in agreement with historical evidence that federal highway spending improved access to outlying areas, helping to create suburbs.

But the GAO reported scant evidence that federal water and sewer dollars contributed significantly to suburban growth. [Now the Internet will make tele-working and tele-shopping easier than ever.]

And there was little consensus on what role, if any, the government in Washington should play in managing rapid growth.

"I have never believed you could put a corral around people just because government says you have to stay there," said former Solon Mayor Robert Paulson ...

Gore says he thinks most voters want federal involvement to develop "smart, green growth" policies.

Opinions in Greater Cleveland are mixed.

In Solon, the tax-preferred bonds could help the city complete the purchase of a 130-acre blue heron rookery, said City Planner Donald Lannoch, who welcomes federal involvement.

"These are federal problems, just like what to do about the AIDS, school systems, the crime rate, poverty. It is much more than a suburb or single city planner can solve. I don't think it is ever going to happen without the feds," Lannoch said.

Avon Mayor Smith has taken steps to control growth in his Lorain County community, limiting the number of units-per-acre for houses, apartment buildings and condominiums. "We didn't want stack-a-shack apartments," he said.

Smith scoffs at the notion that an eager-to-please Congress would become more judicious in handing out highway money.

But the Avon mayor, like Solon's Lannoch and Paulson, says he is intrigued by the Better America Bonds, since the gobbling up of green space and heavy traffic are his biggest problems ..."

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The centerpiece of Vice President Al Gore's agenda is called Better America Bonds.

Avon's Mayor Jim Smith is interviewed by Wayne Dawson and Stephanie Schaefer.

STEPHANIE: Joining us this morning is Avon Mayor Jim Smith who has some doubts about this big plan.

MAYOR JIM SMITH: Well, the part of the plan that lets you buy park land with interest-free bonds is a good idea. This gives communities the ability to put an issue on the ballot ... to buy green space. The richer communities will do this ...

[Gore] also wants to stifle some of the highway money that would go to the suburbs. This is a bad idea ...

WAYNE: You guys have a lot of vacant land out in Avon ... You have an alternate to the Vice President's proposal ...

MAYOR JIM SMITH: You've got to be pro-active. Five years ago we downsized the amount of houses per acre. We used to be 2.2 houses per acre ... We went to 1.8 homes [per acre]. We went from 18 units in an apartment to 12; and we went from 12 condominius per acre to 8 ...

We did this somewhat ahead of the development ... It's very difficult to do this unless you're ahead of the game ... We have approximately 3000 approved lots in the City ...

As far as residents moving out [to Avon], we don't try to attract them ... People just want bigger lots.

WAYNE: You feel so helpless when you live in a suburb ... and there's more development. You came out there because you like the greenspace, and all of a sudden that greenspace is leaving ...

MAYOR JIM SMITH: When you buy a 100 by 150-foot lot, that's what you get. You can't expect the person who's owned that property ... to say 'I don't want to sell my property.' ...

The [Vice President's] bond idea actually makes people put their money where there mouth is. If you want the greenspace you're going to have to pay for the greenspace ...

Mayor Jim Smith comments on Vice President Al Gore's Better America Bonds.

The idea of making it difficult for people to get out to the suburbs is not a good idea ... One of the largest growth areas in our economy is small business ... A gentleman or lady has his business in Cleveland. You make it so difficult for him to to get in and out that eventually he moves his business out to the suburbs.

Everybody wants to get to their "country club." That's where the greenspace is at. People want to play golf ... That gentleman or lady who drives back and forth to Cleveland is going to say 'I can't get in there anymore.' ...

NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 6-16-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"AVON - Thanks to a recent purchase of nearly 63 acres off Nagel Road, Avon is now home to the largest Catholic cemetary in Lorain County ...

The land, purchased in two parcels for a total of $1.89 million by the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, adjoins St. Joseph's Cemetary on Detroit Road, said diocese spokesperson Bob Tayek ...

The diocese purchased 55 acres a year ago to create St. Joseph's cemetary and the adjacent 40 acres of independent Elmhurst Park Cemetary in 1996 ..."

NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 6-16-99, By Craig J. Heimbuch

"A 5-1 vote was made by City Council [6-14-99] in favor of a tax abatement for North Coast Bearings, Inc. ...

Avon Law Director Daniel Stringer has created a log sheet for residents that feel they are disturbed by emissions from Xerxes ... The sheets are available from the Clerk of Council and are designed so that when a resident smells emissions..., they can log the date and time.

''It is subjective,'' said Stringer, ''We just want to get an idea of the pattern of the disturbance, time of day and such.'' ..."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM, 6-17-99, By Nick Kowalczyk

"AVON - The Northgate Park ... will reap the benefits of a $67,000 Nature Works Grant that Avon received Wednesday [6-16-99 from the State of Ohio].

Mayor James Smith said ... Avon was the only recipient this year. The grant money will be used to complete a planned $100,000 project to add a restroom facility, a paved parking lot, and new playground equipment, Smith said ..."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE SUN, 6-17-99, By CHANEL CHAMBERS, Staff Writer

"Drawing industry becoming a big business

AVON -- When it comes to drawing industry to the city to keep residential tax burdens low, competition is the name of the game.

Mayor James Smith has made attracting "clean industry" to Avon one of his top priorities, and lately has been getting a boost from City Council.

This week, council approved two proposals that make clear the city is serious about aggressively recruiting industry.

Council voted 5-1 to approve the hiring of special legal counsel to help with the formation of a community improvement corporation. Ward 4 Councilman Jack Kilroy voted against the plan, and Councilman Shaun Brady, at large, was absent.

Kilroy said that, although he supports the idea of forming a CIC, he objects to the ordinance's condition that the special counsel be paid $5,000 to help form the corporation.

"The concept is good, but I don't think we should pay such exorbitant lawyer's fees," he said.

Smith said the city would recoup the cost of the lawyer through application fees to companies which have proposals before the CIC. The CIC would allow the city to offer incoming businesses industrial revenue bonds, which are exempt from federal taxes and have lower interest rates than other bonds.

Smith said the CIC would foster industrial growth in vacant land north of Interstate 90. The land already has sewers and is ready for construction.

"It's one of the tools to fill up our 20-something-hundred acres of industrial land," he said. "There is a lot of open land in the state of Ohio, and in the United States, and we want an edge to sell our community."

Harold Babbitt, an attorney with Cleveland law firm Calfee, Halter and Griswold, said tax breaks generated by the plan would be available mainly for the construction of factories, not office buildings. Babbitt was hired by the city to help hammer out the details of the CIC plan.

The CIC would approve any industrial revenue bonds the city may issue, and would be governed by a board of trustees. The board of trustees must include a certain percentage of elected or appointed city officials.

Babbitt said the advantage of the plan to the city is that the bonds would not negatively affect the city's debt capacity. If the manufacturing company defaults, the debt would affect the company's credit, not the city's.

"The city is only a conduit for the bond," Babbitt said ..."

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