Avon Growth News, 7-1-99 to 7-14-99

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7-1-99 Apartments for low-income families in Avon
7-2-99 Full-time Fire Department?
7-5-99 Sewer Cooperation
7-8-99 Wetlands Park
7-8-99 Sprawl, a Bogus Issue
7-14-99 Swimming Pool

NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 6-30-99, By JoAnne Easterday

"Local farm markets offer homegrown fruits and veggies

AVON - "Eat your vegetables!" Mom coaches at the dinner table. That's no problem if the vegetables are young and succulent, fresh and firm. The fruits and vegetables offered at local farm markets frequently meet that test of edibility because they're grown on site or close by.

Farmers at Fitch's Farm Market, Mayton's, Nagel's and Pickering Hill Farm can monitor availability and pick just at the peak of freshness without waiting till the peas are hard and the corn is coarse and overripe. Berries keep longer because there is not a long period of time between picking and the sale. They're picked before 10 and can be eaten at noon or can be refrigerated for the next morning's breakfast and not be shriveled or rotted.

Richard Fitch is part of the sixth generation to farm the land at 4413 SR83. The seventh generation, 19-year old Adam, 17-year old Daniel and Michael, 13 are lending a hand in production as well. Richard has been operating the farm on a full-time basis for 19 years and says he grows items ranging from A to Z, Asparagus to Zucchini. Before that he worked a full time job and ran the farm on a part time basis.

The farm is operated as a family affair with Richard's father and with his wife, Rita, who is a teacher in North Ridgeville.

Fitch remembered farming in his youth. He said his father had the last operating team of workhorses in Avon. During a particularly wet spring neighboring farmers had small tractors become stuck in the mud. His father's horses pulled the tractors out of the mud.

Those workhorses were useful when the time came for digging horseradish. Fitch remembered dreading coming home from school and following the plow to root out the plant.

When son Adam complained that he was the only kid in high school who had to come home and dig horseradish, Richard hardly commiserated with him. He merely corrected his son.

"You're the only kid in the state of Ohio who has to dig horseradish," he said considering the fact that that farm is the only one to grow the condiment commercially in the state.

The root is sold to a processing firm in the Dayton area. That rootstock dates back at least to the four generations Richard remembers. They dig most of the crop in February to be made up for dressing Easter hams. By March the remaining roots are planted for the next year. There is a smaller digging in the fall as well ...

The 35 acres surrounding Fitch relatives' homes and the market are enough to maintain a steady stream of produce; but eventually the Fitch family may have to eliminate the pick-your-own portion of the business.

"It's harder to get down the roads with a tractor," Fitch said. "People want rural character but they don't want to wait" for a slow vehicle. The influx of new people is good for business, but the appreciation of those very customers does not extend to courtesy on the road to farmers ...

Mayton's farm at 3815 Center Road has red and black raspberries ready for sale.

"Everything we sell, we raise," Bill Mayton said. Their selling hours begin after picking at 10 a.m. and continue till they sell out about four or five in the afternoon. Mayton predicted their tomatoes and peppers would be available about the end of August.

Raspberries are ripening at the Don Nagel, Jr. Farm at 33294 Detroit Road. His father Hugh said the farm would be opening shortly after the fourth of July with corn.

The elder Nagel said he and his son have "a couple hundred acres under cultivation;" 90 acres of that is in corn. The crops include tomatoes, peppers and cauliflower as well. Perhaps what makes the "down-the-hill" farm distinctive is the sale of fresh garden flowers-tall stately zinnias and gloriously huge magenta celosia entice market shoppers. Hugh's wife Anna Mae and daughter Diane Deitz are in charge of making floral designs and wreaths during the season. The farm has 17 acres of grapes, 5 acres of which is composed of Niagara grapes used by the Klingshirn Winery.

Jay Pickering of Pickering Hill Farm, 35699 Detroit Road, said his family-run market is taking orders for Michigan sour cherries that will be available about July 1 and run through July 15. No one in this area of Ohio grows cherries in sufficient numbers to stock the market, he said.

Sweet corn from southern Ohio is available now and the authentic homegrown sweet corn should be ready by July 4. Homegrown tomatoes will also be available in 3 to 4 weeks. With the warm spring peaches are ready now. All the "good stuff," raspberries, beans, and pickles will be ready in 2 to 3 weeks ..."

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 7-1-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"Apartments for Avon

AVON -- A Cincinnati developer plans to build 256 apartments on Chester Road with at least 50 of the units reserved for low-income families.

In a letter to Mayor Jim Smith, Brisben Timber Lake Inc. announced plans to build a complex of two- and three-bedroom garden style apartments on Chester and Moore roads, with partial funding by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency.

This spring, Brisben proposed a different residential development in South Lorain similarly using the tax-free bonds, but has since scrapped those plans for a low- and moderate-income lease-to-own home development.

Avon City Council has until July 22 to comment to the agency about the project's impact on the community. A statement of disapproval or rejection would have to be signed by a majority of council's members, according to the letter.

Council President Ted Graczyk said that to his knowledge, council has no plans to send such a letter.

'The piece of property is zoned properly,' he said. 'If they can meet all the city's criteria, I don't think we have a right to object.'

The city's only restrictions for the property are that no more than 10 units can be built per acre and the buildings cannot be higher than three stories, Planning Commission Chairman Jim Piazza said.

Brisben has applied for funding through the Multifamily Bond Program, which is administered by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, a division of the Ohio Department of Development.

The agency issues tax-free bonds to developers in exchange for units being set aside for lower income families. To get the bonds, 20 percent of the project must be occupied by families with incomes at or below 50 percent of the area median gross, said Rita Parise, director of planning and development for the Ohio Housing Finance Agency.

The Lorain County median income for one person is $18,400, Parise said. For a four-person family, the median is $26,300.

Alternately, the project could reserve 40 percent of the units for families with income below 60 percent of the area median, or $22,080 for one person and $31,560 for four, said Parise ...

One obstacle the apartments may run into as a matter of routine is traffic. Whenever plans are on the table, the city requests a traffic study, Piazza said.

'If the traffic survey said improvements would have to be made, we'd ask them to do that,' he said.

The property has been zoned for multifamily use since 1968, but some Chester Road residents have expressed unhappiness with that zoning. Last April, a group owning about 60 percent of the area's land requested that City Council change the zoning to single-family units for the entire area. Council refused, noting that it would lower all residents' property values.

Single-family property sells for about $20,000 per acre, while multifamily housing can sell for twice that, Piazza said.

Associated Estates Realty Corp. is currently building 315 one-story apartments on the north side of Chester, just west of City Hall, near SR83. The Associated Estates project will be the first major apartment complex in Avon."


"Exodus from city slows to a crawl

Cleveland has lost about 10,000 people this decade. But Mayor Michael R. White says that actually is a good sign.

Last year, the census estimates show, Cleveland's population stood at about 496,000. That represents a 2 percent dip since 1990, when 506,000 people called the city home.

According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released yesterday, Cleveland now ranks as the 28th-largest city in the United States.

The relatively small dip in the city's population this decade contrasts dramatically to the bleeding in previous decades. Cleveland, for example, lost 70,000 people in the 1980s and 177,000 in the 1970s.

"We think this is a big sign of stability," said Laura Boustani, a city spokeswoman.

Still, White's administration is pushing hard to add 4,000 more people to the city's total in the next two years.

The federal government will use the 2000 Census as a guide in doling out millions of dollars for roads, housing rehabilitation, education programs and social services. And if Cleveland's population still stands below 500,000 by that time - the magic number for those dollars - it could lose a big share.

Ohio also stands to lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives because of the population decline in the last decade ...

Although Cleveland and Cuyahoga County have lost population in the last five years, Northeast Ohio has remained relatively stable. Estimates show Cuyahoga has lost 32,652 people, while Lake, Geauga, Portage, Lorain, Summit and Medina counties combined have gained a total of 36,233.

The biggest gains were in Medina, up by nearly 11,000 people and Summit, with a population increase of nearly 8,900. Medina's estimated population is now 144,019, while Summit's is 537,730.

Twinsburg was the fastest-growing community in the seven-county region, with a gain of 5,600 people since 1990. Council President Andy Romito, who moved to Twinsburg eight years ago, credits golf and low taxes for growth that brought the population from 9,600 residents in 1990 to an estimated 15,200 by last year - a gain of 58 percent.

Romito points to the sprawling Ethan's Green subdivision in Twinsburg - which is built around a golf course and is where he lives- as the engine driving the city's growth. And booming development has helped Twinsburg keep its taxes low.

"What can I tell you? It's a great place to live," Romito said ...

The fastest-growing areas since 1990 [in Greater Cleveland] are the region's outlying communities, such as Twinsburg, Avon, Aurora, Hudson and Streetsboro.

The 1998 census population estimates can be found at:

http://www.census.gov/ population/www/estimates/citypop.html"

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"Growing Avon faces full-time firefighters

Beepers summon firefighters when they are needed in Avon. It's a far cry from the 'good old days' when the volunteers were called by the wail of a siren on the firehouse steeple in America's small towns. Welcome to a modern, growing city ...

The current paid-on-call fire department is a first-class outfit with a reputation for quick response and a high degree of skill and professionalism. But sooner, not later, the city has to make a transition to full-time firefighters.

A feasibility study should be done now to show the ramifications of such a move in terms of operating and building costs.

The fire budget is now $300,000 a year. Mayor Jim Smith is guessing it would have to jump to $1.5 million for operating expenses ...

A proposal to build a new safety center next to the old municipal building was defeated by voters a couple of years ago. City officials turned then to another plan, buying a former church to become an interim city hall and remodeling the old one to better serve police.

Around-the-clock duty for firefighters would require addition of living quarters to at least one of the city's two fire houses. That will cost a lot, too, as much as $1 million.

Right now the fire department has the best of both worlds, says Smith. Its one regular employee, Fire Chief Frank Root, puts in full-time hours for part-time pay, and its part-time staff includes highly trained firefighter-paramedics, men employed by other area fire departments but who live in Avon and are ready to answer calls and volunteer for other tasks on their days off.

And more than just beepers are part of the department's advanced technology. For example, the firefighters have two of the infrared imaging cameras that help them 'see' inside smoke-filled rooms. These were paid for with donations, an indication the city still keeps a virtue from the 'good old days' -- small-town community spirit."


"Avon mayor wants to ban used-car lots

AVON - Mayor James A. Smith would just as soon see used-car lots become antiques in the city.

Smith, in response to the opening of a fourth used-car lot in Avon, said yesterday that he will ask council to ban any more of them. The issue is to be discussed during Tuesday's council meeting [7-6-99].

"The ones that are here can obviously stay," Smith said. He would like to mandate that any other used-car lots also sell new cars. "Then they won't end up being junk lots," the mayor said.

Smith's proposal was prompted by the arrival of Checkered Flag Auto, which opened yesterday at Ohio 254 and Center Rd. next to the site of the proposed Avon Commons shopping center.

Some cities, including Avon Lake, already have such a ban. And neighboring Sheffield is considering a similar law. There are no used-car lots in Sheffield ...

Matt Whitman, sales manager of Checkered Flag Auto, said he understood the concerns of some people, but that his business would be different because it would specialize in vehicles 3 to 5 years old ...

Smith said he would like to see Avon act quickly. He said Avon probably will copy another city's ordinance and put that into effect ..."

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 7-5-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"Rural sewage plan has pal: Avon's mayor

AVON -- The plan to channel wastewater from rural townships to Avon Lake's sewage treatment facilities has received vocal approval from one of the cities whose support would be necessary to make it work.

'If it helps out other communities, that's our obligation,' Avon Mayor Jim Smith said. 'As long as it doesn't hurt us, we've got to work with everybody else.'

After the sewage in Carlisle and Eaton townships overwhelmed their septic tanks, township trustees formed a group to deal with the problem, said Lorain County Rural Wastewater District Executive Director Fred Alspach.

The district then began searching for cities to take its wastewater, receiving several refusals before Avon Lake indicated interest, Alspach said.

The townships believe Avon Lake's treatment facilities will make a great fit.

'They have the capabilities, and this will help us maintain autonomy for our district and our lifestyle,' Alspach said.

But Avon Lake can only take the water if Avon and North Ridgeville are willing to cooperate, since Avon Lake and the townships have no common border.

Smith said he had discussed the plan with Avon Lake Utilities Director John Kniepper.

'We're taking a look at the overall master plan for our sewer,' Smith said. 'We want to figure out how they can help us out and how we can help them out.'

North Ridgeville officials, however, were less eager ...

Alspach said that taking the township's wastewater could benefit Avon Lake ...

Avon Lake has made similar agreements in the past because of the financial benefit, [Mayor] Urbin said.

'We use the revenue to maintain low rates for our residents,' he said ..."

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 7-8-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"Wetlands park seen solving 3 Avon needs

AVON -- Three big problems may be solved at once by the creation of a park at Mills and Jaycox roads, financed by developers who must replace wetlands eliminated in construction, said Avon city officials.

Such a park, they said, could:

The idea is pretty simple, said Mayor Jim Smith. Take the 29 acres the city owns on the northwest corner of Mills and Jaycox roads, and instead of merely putting in a dry retention basin as first planned, create wetlands with public access.

'We could put a walkway around it, some overlooks, some sight-seeing spots,' Smith said. 'We would use it as a nature preserve.'

The improvements would be funded entirely through 'wetland mitigation,' the process by which developers pay to create wetlands in new areas after destroying them in others.

Under federal law, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers surveys each development site for wetlands. Those found can only be destroyed if they are replaced elsewhere, according to Dan Martin, director of the Lorain County Metro Parks.

'There cannot be a net loss,' Martin said. 'If you fill an acre, you've got to put an acre back.'

Depending on the quality of the destroyed wetlands, each acre filled can mean up to three acres more must be created, Martin said.

The law is important to Avon, since many of its lands could fall under the Corps' wetlands realm, including much of the pricey land along I-90, Martin said.

Past city attempts to preserve wetlands have not always been successful.

Last week, City Council unanimously voted to repeal its strict 1997 ordinance outlawing any type of wetland mitigation whatsoever after it triggered a lawsuit and posed other legal problems.

The city's new, more-flexible, take on wetland preservation, would allow wetland acres to be filled if others are created in the same development. The new ordinance also has a clause allowing developers the option of paying for equivalent acreage in a city wetlands bank.

'It's a good provision,' said Planning Commission Chairman Jim Piazza. 'It would allow us not to have little mosquito ponds in every subdivision.'

City Council has sent the proposal to the city planning commission for its mandatory review.

Avon is now seriously considering creating its own wetland bank, Smith said, perhaps modeling it after on the 130-acre park soon to open in North Ridgeville, developed by the Metro Parks using wetlands fees.

To that end, the city has asked for Martin's expertise ...

The wetlands park would have another plus for the city. Avon originally purchased the land to serve as a drainage basin for water overflow from North Ridgeville, which has been flooding French Creek under current conditions, Piazza said.

As developers continue to build in Avon, their contributions to a wetland bank could eventually leave the city with nearly $500,000 to develop the area into a first-class retention basin, eliminating flooding even while creating a wetlands area and public park, Piazza said."


"Avon plans wetland site

Metro Parks offer to help make it into a useable city park

AVON -- ... Lorain County Metro Parks Director Dan Martin has offered to help with the project ...

By federal law, a builder who fills in a wetland must reestablish a larger one nearby. Size requirements for replacement sites range from 150 percent to 300 percent of the original size, depending on quality and size of the destroyed wetland, said Ric Queen, a director of the Division of Surface Water for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Wetlands are a natural environment with soil that is, or has been, saturated with water, and where water plants thrive, Queen said.

Instead of replacing wetlands, developers can also buy "wetland credits'' -- at a cost of about $17,000 per acre in Lorain County -- to satisfy their replacement obligation. The money then is usually used by a non-profit or government organization to establish new wetlands.

The replacement practice is called "wetland mitigation.'' Developers can combine their new wetlands into larger collectives, called mitigations banks, but there are fewer than 10 mitigation banks in Ohio, Queen said.

Avon, however, could become home to the county's second mitigation bank.

The Sandy Ridge Wetlands Mitigation Bank in North Ridgeville off Center Ridge Road is set to open as a public park this fall. It was built, in part, by developer Mitchell Schneider to replace wetlands he cleared for the Avon Commons project on Detroit Road.

Sandy Ridge has become a model mitigation bank, Martin said, because the Metro Parks was able to integrate the land with a fully functional public park that also fulfilled federal wetland obligations for developers.

The park includes walking paths, a nature center, observation decks and nature preserves on 309 acres. Wetland cultivation, which the Metro Parks started in 1997, occupies 118 acres of the site on old farm land.

A two-mile dike was installed to flood the land and create a marsh-type environment.

[Mayor] Smith said he wants something similar in Avon. The need to mitigate wetlands in Avon is becoming increasingly necessary as developers are drawn toward the marshy lands near Interstate 90, he said.

"If we can do this on a smaller scale, I think it'd be a great way to keep the wetlands inside the city,'' Smith said.

Sandy Ridge is a mitigation site funded by various developers in Lorain County, Martin said. It cost about $2.2 million to build, he said, with mitigation credits funding about $1.7 million of the total cost.

Graczyk said if Avon develops a mitigation park, it would be funded only by credits generated by Avon Development. He said the restriction would make it one of a kind.

But the Lorain County Metro Parks is not the only group offering to establish a mitigation bank in Avon. The Ohio Wetlands Foundation, a non-profit arm of the Ohio Home Builders Association, also presented a proposal to Avon officials last month.

Jim Sutliff, a representative of the Wetlands Foundation, said he is searching for a site in Avon to mitigate wetlands. He told city officials that his group will buy land, cultivate it and monitor plant and animal life for several years.

But Martin warned that groups such as the Ohio Wetlands Foundation are not obligated to spend all of the mitigation credit funds for wetland development.

He said some of the money can be used for administrative purposes, contending that the Metro Parks would spend 100 percent of wetland credits on developing and maintaining sites.

"We've worked with some of these groups before, and they don't always do what we think is best.''

Sutliff could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Smith said the Metro Parks would be a good choice to oversee the project because it has experience in the subject.

This month, Council will discuss creating a wetland fund, into which developers can pay when wetlands are destroyed. What that fund will pay for also remains a future topic for Council, Graczyk said.

Last month, Council repealed a 1997 ordinance that restricted wetland mitigation. Smith said it conflicted with federal laws and devalued developable land.

John Katko, an Elyria Township resident who heads Friends of the Wetlands, an activist group, could not be reached for comment Wednesday."

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"I think the issue of urban sprawl is bogus. The inner ring suburbs you describe -- I live in Cleveland Heights, the worst of all of them -- are decaying from bad management, rotten schools and most of all, high taxes.

There is no way in a free society to legislate where people can live. I applaud my former neighbors who have had the guts and vision (and the dollars) to move out of a decaying inner ring environment, where it is virtually impossible to effect any kind of meaningful change in the local governmental policies which have led over the decades to appalling decline.

It is absolutely ludicrous to assume that citizens can be bullied or forced to live in cities or suburbs that they don't like simply to fulfill some kind of silly utopian fantasy. If the "First Suburbs Consortium" wants to attract more residents to their individual cities, they should concentrate their efforts on

I can save them some time by stating the obvious: People want good schools and fair taxes.

In my community of Cleveland Heights, decades of addle-brained policy, overspending and bloated bureaucracy have nearly destroyed a once beautiful city, and have given us the second highest real estate taxes in Ohio and one of the worst-ranked school systems in the state.

I think the members of the "First Suburbs Consortium" care less about urban sprawl than attracting more tax dollars for ridiculous, overpriced projects, like Cleveland Heights' Forest Hills expansion, and also about lining their own corrupt pockets.

Laurel Freeder, Cleveland Heights"

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 7-14-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"Indoor pool 'top priority' for Avon

AVON -- Creation of an indoor swimming pool and recreation center is a 'top priority' for the city's parks and recreation committee, and such a complex could be a reality within five years, city officials said.

The parks committee is working to both find a location and secure the needed financing ...

To make that desire a reality, the committee is 'toying with innovative areas of finance,' [Parks and Recreation Director John] Aunspaw said.

One idea might be reducing the income tax credit extended to residents who work outside city limits, Mayor Jim Smith said.

'That way retired people wouldn't have to pay,' he said. 'The people who use it more would be paying for it.'

Aunspaw supported the idea.

'If it's attached to a specific purpose, I think the taxpayers will go for it,' he said.

Voters have rejected such a reduction at least seven times in the last decade, Council members said, but Aunspaw said residents tend to be more supportive of recreation facilities.

'In the nine years I've been here, we've never been turned down for anything -- knock on wood,' he said.

The tax credit reduction might be on the ballot next spring, Smith said.

With money, the next big question is location. The parks committee favors the land behind the police station which currently contains baseball fields, Aunspaw said.

'It would be accessible to all, and with all the bike trails being put in, people could ride there,' he explained.

The project still may take about five years, Aunspaw said, since the city's Detroit Road park must be fairly complete first to provide new fields for baseball before building on top of old ones ...

The key is to work quickly, Smith said.

'As the open land gets used up, there has to be some place we can use for swimming, for a rec center,' he said.

Councilman Jack Kilroy agreed, stressing the need for a pool at Monday's Council meeting ..."

IMPRESSIONS from The PRESS, 7-14-99, By Kim T. Dudek, Editor

"Don't kill the whistleblower; look at the facts

... Does the size of the community and the attitude of the community dictate what is ethically correct? I hope not ...

And if the whistle-blower happens to be fairly new to the community, but sees the injustices, do we point the finger and call him a troublemaker?

Why? Because he's new? Because he doesn't fit into the "set"? Does he live in the wrong subdivision?

I've been there before. I've been the outsider, treated like my ideas meant nothing because I wasn't "from there."

Or maybe there is a fear that he is more representative of all the new people moving to Avon, the "outsiders", building expensive homes, who want more than what the "natives" want, where the general rules of ethics apply to everyone else, but not themselves.

You can't have residential and industrial development and enjoy all the perks without realizing that the people in your community are going to want politicians to be accountable. You can't have it both ways ...

Don't kill the messenger. We won't. Whether or not a person is a part of the old guard, if unethical practices have taken place, they must be addressed. Avon, you are changing. Bigger changes are yet to come.

If you have a person who has the gumption to stand up and say, "hey this is wrong," then look at the situation, and rely less on protecting your image. Who cares if he's annoying?

Avon was probably the only community in the state that tried to remove a councilperson for being annoying. Change is coming. The double standard won't work anymore. The idea of protecting yourselves and having your own set of rules doesn't work anymore. It's time to grow up and be a city ...

The "village" is getting too big for the good-ole-boy attitude, and Lorain County Prosecutor Greg White is watching every move.

It's my commitment to make sure we represent the entire community, not just the "natives" or the people who moved in 10 years ago, but also those newcomers who will be, hopefully, a part of bettering your community and preparing it for what is to come.

And realistically, a community fares very well by the new people who want to be involved, given the opportunity."

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