Avon Growth News, 7-28-03 to 9-11-03

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7-3-03: A flood of new students

8-14-03: Baghdad is not the only place with power outages

9-3-03: Avon eyes temporary cluster home ban

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[If there seem to be more cars on the roads now (2003) with 14,000 residents, what will things be like when the flood of new homes has 45,000 to 60,000 people living in Avon?

Although it may not be obvious to everyone, more lanes of pavement will have to be put down in Avon to move the increasing population around our town. Questions to be answered are: Where will these new lanes of pavement be laid? How much will they cost? and Who will pay for them?

As new housing developemnts pour more cars onto Avon's original country road system, as a last resort, in desperation, the residents might vote to tax themselves to add lanes to these roads. This approach, adopted under the most unfavorable circumstances, is the most expensive approach.

For example, expanding Detroit Rd. to five lanes of pavement from Colorado to the Westlake line, as recommended by the URS traffic engineer, would require that sidewalks, sanitary sewer lines, gas lines, and water lines be torn up. In addition, the telephone poles would have to be moved.

As an alternative, Middleton, from Jaycox Rd. (Avenbury) east to as close as possible to the Westlake line, could be designated a vehicle access street with no individual private driveways. It would run back of the developments.

No sidewalks, water lines, gas lines, or sanitary sewer lines would be required since only cars and trucks would be using such a street. Electricity could be provided from intersecting public streets coming out of the developments.

These lanes of pavement would be much less expensive than lanes of pavement added to Avon's original country roads; and Detroit Rd. would be protected from desperation measures.

The most interesting question is Who pays for these new lanes of pavement? If they are added to existing roads, the residents must pay for them; and, as is now the case, new housing development projects would pay nothing to alleviate the traffic problems they create throughout Avon.

If these lanes of pavement are put down on new streets (vehicle access streets) the Ohio Supreme Court decision in the Beaver Creek case allows Avon to require new housing developments to pay their fair share.

We are running out of time to create a vehicle access street grid. Blocking developments are popping up in various places. Council and Planning Commission must have the vision to act before it is too late.]

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EDITORIAL from The Morning Journal, 7-28-03

``This past May, voters in fast-growing Avon overwhelmingly approved a $14.95 million bond issue to build a new elementary school and expand another. Plans are now moving forward. But one school board member wants the board to consider changing the plan.

Four hundred new students came into the district last year [2002], and school officials say they expect about 240 more kids each year at the city's current growth rate. The school board forecasts a need for 40 more classrooms in the next three years.

To handle that explosive growth, the May bond issue money pays for a plan to build a new elementary school next to Heritage Elementary School, expand Avon East Elementary, and, this summer, quickly add four classrooms at Avon East to prevent a space shortage there in the fall ...

Board [members] ... note that voters marked their ballots with a new school in mind. Also, simply adding classrooms to Heritage and the middle school would create problems of ... too many kids in one school for proper security ...''

NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 7-20-03, By PHIL HELSEL, Morning Journal Writer

``Where real estate sales are taking off -- Northeastern Lorain County exploding

With interest rates at 30-year lows and more people moving in just outside Cuyahoga County, real estate agents say the market for homes is exploding in eastern Lorain County ...

The three-city tier in Lorain County's northeastern corner -- Avon Lake, Avon and North Ridgeville -- is by far the fastest growing section of the county in terms of people, new housing starts and home values ...

Stoking the demand for homes in eastern Lorain County is an influx of people that has continued unabated since the 2000 census confirmed the area as a population magnet.

Just since then, according to census estimates as of July 1, Avon's population has grown 13.6 percent by adding 1,563 people, and Avon Lake and North Ridgeville have grown 5.4 and 4.7 percent respectively with about 1,000 more people each ...

According to data compiled by the Lorain County Auditor's Office, North Ridgeville has outdistanced Avon and Avon Lake with more home sales, but on average houses are more expensive in the latter two communities ...

In 2002, 777 homes were sold in Avon, according to information from the county auditor's office, with an average price of $243,926, according to statistics from First American Legal Real Estate Solutions, and there were 621 homes sold in Avon Lake last year for an average of $229,189.

By comparison, 932 homes were sold in North Ridgeville in 2002, but the average price was $148,093 ...

The average sale price in Elyria in 2002 was $113,200 and in Lorain it was $98,325.

Although there were only 278 sales in Amherst last year, the average price was $317,255.

There were 162 sales in Sheffield Village, with the average at $231,638, and 257 in Sheffield Lake with an average of $103,733.

Vermilion had 162 transactions and Oberlin had 112. The villages of LaGrange and Grafton had more moderate numbers of 63 and 45, respectively.

Vermilion sales averaged $125,334 last year, while Oberlin averaged $140,109. Sales in Grafton averaged $103,459, but in LaGrange the average jumped to $274,993 ...

Morning Journal Writer Alana Roberts contributed to this story.''

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 8-15-03, By The Associated Press


[A major power blackout hit the entire Northeast at 4:11 p.m. EDT Thursday, 8-14-03.]

The largest power blackout in U.S. history rolled across a vast swath of the northern United States and southern Canada on Thursday, driving millions of people outdoors into stifling rush hour streets -- then darkness.

New Yorkers escaped silenced subways. Nuclear power plants in four states shut down.

At one point, Canadian authorities said it appeared lightning had struck a power plant on the U.S. side in the Niagara Falls region, setting off outages that spread over 9,300 square miles, but U.S. officials quickly disputed that ...

Traffic lights were out throughout downtown Cleveland and other major cities, creating havoc at the beginning of rush hour. Cleveland officials said that without the power needed to pump water to 1.5 million people, water reserves were running low ...

"We have been informed that lightning struck a power plant in the Niagara region on the U.S. side," said Jim Munson, speaking for Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

But Brian Warner of the New York Power Authority said its Niagara facilities were not hit by lightning and "at no time during this incident ceased to operate." ...

The blackouts easily surpassed those in the West on Aug. 11, 1996, in terms of people affected. Then, heat, sagging power lines and unusually high demand for electricity caused an outage for 4 million customers in nine states.

An outage in New York City in 1977 left 9 million people without electricity for up to 25 hours. In 1965, about 25 million people across New York state and most of New England lost electricity for a day ...

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked the city's more than 8 million people to be calm, go home, open windows and drink water ...

Flights at six airports -- Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark, Cleveland, Toronto and Ottawa -- were grounded, according to the U.S. Transportation Department ...

NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 8-16-03, By The Associated Press

``Did it all start in Ohio?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Investigators are focusing on an electrical transmission loop that encircles Lake Erie as they tried to understand a massive power blackout that cut across the Northeast and Midwest, leaving millions of people without electricity.

Although no cause has been determined, officials are taking particular interest in a series of power line interruptions that occurred in the Cleveland area during the hour before the blackout hit Thursday, racing across the region from southern New England to Michigan.

Two minutes after the last of these Cleveland-area line problems there were ''power swings noted in Canada and the eastern U.S.,'' said a document made public late Friday by the North America Electric Reliability Council [NERC] .

But the NERC document cautioned ''it's not clear if these events caused the (wider blackout) or were a consequence of other events.''

Public Utilities of Ohio Chairman Alan Schriber said the information from NERC was inconclusive, but that ''it's in the realm of possibility'' that power was being drawn from FirstEnergy from outside its system because of increased power demand ...

What did become clear, however, was that power grid experts were stunned at the broad reach of the blackout and the speed -- a matter of seconds -- in which it spread thousands of miles across New York and southern New England to the eastern sections of Michigan and into Canada.

''We never anticipated we could have a cascading outage'' of this magnitude and speed, said Michael Gent, chief of NERC, the industry-sponsored organization charged with assessing the dependability of the nation's electric grids ...

About the time power was disrupted at 4:11 p.m. EDT Thursday, technicians noticed a stunning development on the northern leg of the loop: some 300 megawatts of electricity moving east abruptly reversed course and within seconds 500 megawatts of power suddenly were moving west.

Electricity flows on its easiest path so it is believed the change in direction was caused by a sudden reduction in power somewhere on the line at the western end of the loop, investigators suggested.

''This was a big swing back and forth,'' said Gent, adding that throughout the grid system, power levels began to fluctuate. That caused generators and other systems to trip across the region to protect equipment.

More than 100 power plants, including 22 nuclear reactors in the United States and in Canada, shut down, most of them automatically to protect themselves against power surges, officials said.

The whole process ''essentially took 9 seconds,'' said Gent ''It happened very quickly.'' ...

Terrorism has been ruled out by everyone from grid managers to President Bush.

But Gent said he wouldn't rule out that negligence by someone, somewhere might have been a cause. Investigators will have to determine whether some industry transmission standards might have been ignored, or perhaps simply conclude that the industry-crafted standards are inadequate.''

NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 8-17-03, By The Associated Press

``Officials 'fairly certain' blackout began in Ohio

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A failure to contain problems with three transmission lines in northern Ohio just south of Cleveland was the likely trigger of the nation's biggest power blackout, a leading investigator said yesterday ...

''We are fairly certain at this time that the disturbance started in Ohio,'' Michehl Gent, head of the North American Electric Reliability Council, said in a statement. ''We are now trying to determine why the situation was not brought under control after three transmission lines went out of service.'' ...

Gent did not identify specifically the three power line failures that have become the focus of the NERC investigation. But other council officials said they were among five reported transmission failures in the Cleveland area leading up to the blackout peak Thursday afternoon.

According to NERC, the first report came in at 3:06 p.m. EDT on Thursday and involved a 345-volt line that had ''tripped'' -- or gone off line [preceded by heavy fly ash emission by the Eastlake, Ohio, power plant. The Eastlake plant had gone off line at 2:00 pm.]

That was followed by reports on other lines failing at 3:32 p.m., 3:41 p.m., 3:46 p.m. and 4:06 p.m. ...

[At 4:11 pm the coal-fired power plant in Avon Lake, Ohio, tripped off.]

The transmission system in northern Ohio is operated by FirstEnergy Corp., based in Akron, Ohio ...''

NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 8-18-03, By Robert Tanner and Jim Krane, Associated Press

``Waves of power strong enough to run a midsized city swung wildly between the Midwest, New York and Canada. In Cleveland, the voltage dropped to zero "like a heart attack." ...

Engineers watching the power storm on their screens were as helpless to stop it as the people whose elevators jerked to a stop mid-floor in Michigan or whose subway trains ground to a halt in New York City.

Once it got rolling, the great blackout of 2003 swept from Ohio to Canada to New York City in the time it takes to recover from a sneeze, leaving millions in eight states and Canada suddenly without electricity on a steamy summer afternoon.

So far, the search to fully understand the string of failures that led to the biggest blackout in U.S. history has turned up broken alarms and failed high-voltage lines in Ohio owned by Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp ...

It's 4:05 p.m. Thursday, and the system is wobbling. Utilities in Canada and the eastern United States see increasingly wild power swings as voltage flows first in one direction, then another ...

It's 4:09 p.m. By now, power has begun to drop slightly in Cleveland - then it plummets ...

Now, as utility crews check transformers for damage and homeowners seek repairs for damaged electronics, investigators conduct the post-mortem, examining records of glitches buried in computer logs in the arcane language of mechanical switch behavior.

They are looking back to the hours - and days, weeks and months - before the catastrophe.

One warning sign already uncovered: The Ohio transmission lines suspected as the blackout's origin were buzzing with excess electricity earlier Thursday afternoon, causing trouble for their neighbors, says Pat Hemlepp of American Electric Power Co. in Columbus.

And on the shores of Lake Erie, hours before the blackout, a cloud of ash and a big whooshing sound spewed out of the three chimney stacks at FirstEnergy's Eastlake coal-fired power plant as it shut down [at 2:00 pm].

Why the 680-megawatt plant went off line is still not clear, but FirstEnergy spokesman Ralph DiNicola says the company is examining if it had any connection to the first of the transmission lines to go down.

The ash blanketed cars, homes and picnic tables in the village of Timberlake.''

NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 8-19-03, By Sandy Theis, Stephen Koff and Mark Naymik, Plain Dealer Reporters

``FirstEnergy has friends in high places

... It ranks sixth nationally in money spent by utilities on lobbyists. And its executives - from the CEO to in-house lawyers - have opened their wallets to politicians from Toledo City Council to the White House. Twenty-five executives have contributed a total of $33,500 to President Bush's re-election campaign so far, according to Political Money Line, a database service that tracks money in politics.

What has the company gotten in return for its political clout?

"Everything it ever wanted," said State Sen. Robert Hagan, a Youngstown Democrat who joined the chorus of critics demanding to know more about FirstEnergy's role in what caused North America's biggest blackout ...

FirstEnergy appears well-positioned for its latest troubles. Records in Washington show that over the last year its lobbyists have included Joshua Rokach, a former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission [FERC] lawyer who was involved in electrical transmission restructuring. FERC, which regulates the electricity grid, is involved in determining the cause of last week's power failure.

And on May 1 [2003], FirstEnergy retained Willkie, Farr & Gallagher to help it with "legislation relating to air pollution," according to the federal lobbying registration. Specifically working for FirstEnergy at the firm: Donald Elliott, general counsel of the Environmental Protection Agency under former President Bush, and Russell Smith, former Republican counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Smith's old committee has launched an investigation into what caused last week's multistate blackout ...

"The utility companies pretty much have free rein," said Hagan. "I don't have a lot of confidence that this will be resolved in a way to help the consumer."

His prediction, he said, is based on the company's legislative successes.

Its highest-profile victory came three years ago in Columbus, when Taft signed into law a bill designed to bring competition to the electricity market.

One of the bill's most contentious provisions allows FirstEnergy to bill its customers for past investments, mainly in its nuclear power plants. Consumer groups say that customers will be forced to pay $9 billion. FirstEnergy contends the figure is inflated, but it has refused to produce records documenting the true price.

Before the vote on the bill, the company enlisted some of the state capital's most influential lobbyists and consultants and showered elected officials with campaign donations.

A study by Citizen Action showed that Ohio's four largest electric utilities spent $604,235 on campaign donations between 1997 and 1998. FirstEnergy led the list of givers ($209,970). Taft led the list of receivers ($114,258.)

FirstEnergy began work on the deregulation legislation in the mid-1990s, hiring more than 20 lobbyists and a half-dozen consultants.

In 1997 - the same year the firm attempted to cut costs by laying off 400 employees - it spent $9.3 million on consultants, according to records filed with FERC. The total included money paid to Kingwood Consulting, founded by the late Paul Mifsud, who served as chief of staff to then-Gov. George Voinovich. The firm paid Mifsud $453,700 over two years.

In addition to retaining Mifsud, the firm hired former House Speaker Vern Riffe, Summit County GOP Chairman Alex Arshinkoff and Roy Ray, a former state senator from Akron. Ray received $124,000 from FirstEnergy sister firm Ohio Edison, then introduced legislation favorable to the company ...

Today the firm employs more than two dozen lobbyists in Columbus and Washington.

In April, it expanded its Washington lobbying stable to include the Federalist Group and its all-star Republican team: John Green, who previously ran Sen. Trent Lott's political action committee, the New Republican Majority Fund; Stewart Hall, former legislative director for Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama; and Drew Maloney, former legislative director to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay ...''

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

For more energy policy conspiracy theory, go to enigma.elfrad.org and click on August 14, 2003. According to www.nomorefakenews.com did a special ops team use a scalar electromagnetic pulse weapon to shut down the grid so that those who own the power grid could get subsidies in order to rebuild it? Are the oil companies using the outage as an excuse to drastically raise gasoline prices?

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 9-3-03, By JENNIFER HICKIN, Morning Journal Writer

"Avon eyes temporary cluster ban

AVON -- City Council discussed placing a moratorium on new applications for cluster developments within the city while it better defines what justifies building a cluster rather than a traditional housing development.

The 109-day moratorium would be for residential districts that currently allow for cluster developments, with proposed cluster developments already under consideration still being able to move forward, according to City Law Director John Gasior.

The odd number of days for the moratorium was decided on after estimating the time it would probably take to look at the cluster zoning ordinances and propose changes, according to Gasior.

Under the moratorium that would end in December, legislation would be passed no later than Nov. 24 and take effect 30 days later, Gasior said. The moratorium could be extended if necessary.

''I think we need a moratorium to get our act together,'' said Councilman Gerald Gentz, Ward 4, who pointed out that council has tried for almost a year to put parameters around this type of development ...

Mayor Jim Smith said he believes the moratorium won't be phasing out cluster zoning but will help to give council more say in what goes into cluster zoning.

Making changes would prevent last-minute discussions about proposed cluster developments that have already been through the planning commission, Smith said, as is the case with the proposed Orchard Trail development.

Last night [9-2-03] representatives of Orchard Trail, a proposed cluster development, listened to council's concerns about why their development plan may or may not meet cluster zoning requirements.

There are four items that need to be met to allow for a cluster development, according to Gentz, including being creative and utilizing an innovation in land development. The proposal also should be in the best interest of the city and be a better utilization of property than could be done in traditional development, he said.

''My question is 'Could this be built any other way than clustering?''' said Gentz.

''Under clustering, if a developer meets requirements, then they have a right to develop,'' said Orchard Trail attorney Bruce Reinker.

The ordinance authorizing a subdivider's agreement for Orchard Trail was placed on council's agenda for next week."

NEWS ARTICLE from The Press, 9-10-03, By Julie Short

``Council voted Monday [9-8-03] to place a temporary moratorium on cluster development throughout the city. The moratorium is scheduled to expire on Dec. 23.

City officials have been grappling for more than a year on possibly drafting a new framework for cluster subdivisions.

Councilman Jack Kilroy had been opposed to the clustering moratorium from the beginning.

"It infringes on people's right to develop land," Kilroy said during last week's work session of council. "I think we should promote clustering. The only way to have open space is to preserve clustering.

Mayor Smith explained that the moratorium would give council "more of a hand at the final outcome on clustering."

"I don't think anyone wants to put a moratorium on things," he said. "But this will give everyone a chance to discuss the issue in greater detail."

Councilman Gerald Gentz sees clustering as a developers attempt to "squeeze as many homes as possible into a development."

Gentz outlined four objectives for cluster developments: Creative and flexiable utilization of space, innovation of land tech, best interest of the city and better utilization of property than could be done in traditional development.

Council has been at odds with the developers of the Orchard Trail subdivision proposed for Moon Road, south of French Creek. The originals plans, submitted in February, for the subdivision call for 162 single family cluster homes to be built on 71.3 acres ...''

NEWS ARTICLE from The Sun, 9-11-03, By JOHN STEBBINS, Staff Writer

``AVON -- City Council voted to place a moratorium on cluster development until after Christmas to allow for a revision of the city's codes concerning multi-family residential buildings.

Until Dec. 26, [2003] no more applications with cluster homes will be studied, according to the ordinance. However, Planning Director Jim Piazza said proposed developments already turned in are grandfathered under the current code.

The need to study and possibly revise the code came from recent residential developments that, while fitting the current ordinance, didn't please members of council.

"I hope this moratorium will be used well to let us revise the code concerning cluster homes to the point where we can prevent a bad development from happening," Councilwoman at large Joanne Easterday said.

Ward 3 Councilman Tim Nickum said the moratorium would be used to create a better ordinance.

"We're not doing this to end cluster developments," Nickum said. "What we're doing is taking a look at the ordinance we have that permitted developments we weren't too happy with, and prevent further from getting in. There's problems with the ordinance we have, and I think we shouldn't allow anything else to be allowed in under those flaws."

Easterday said flaws in the current code created the need for the moratorium ...''

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