Newspaper Record of STARK/JACOBS in Avon, October, 1998

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"Jacobs locks up Avon land: Developer prepared to buy 222 acres for major development

The Richard E. Jacobs Group is positioning itself to launch an Avon real estate megadevelopment with the pending purchase from Norfolk Southern Corp. of 222 acres north of I-90 at Lear-Nagle Road.

Norfolk Southern and the Jacobs Group have the property under contract, according to Kevin Callihan, senior vice president with LaSalle Partners, which provides commercial and industrial real estate services. ``It's got to be a major piece in the puzzle of what (Jacobs Group) is planning out there,'' Mr. Callihan said. ``It's a major land sale.''

Thomas Henneberry, an executive vice president at Westlake-based Jacobs Group, said he was preparing a news release about the transaction and declined to discuss the project before issuing it. ...

Norfolk Southern spokesman Bob Auman said the railroad doesn't yet have an ``executed'' contract for the property, but he likened the situation to that of a homeowner agreeing to sell a house if contingencies are satisfied. He wouldn't say what contingencies there might be with the deal.

Last winter, developer Robert Stark, president of Robert Stark Enterprises of Beachwood, said he was involved in a joint venture with Jacobs Group to assemble 800 acres in the Lear-Nagle area, which includes the railroad land. Mr. Stark last week declined to discuss the railroad land. ...

NEWS ARTICLE from THE PRESS, 10-7-98, By JoAnne Easterday

Jacobs expands potential development area

"AVON -- The Richard E. Jacobs Group has made an agreement to buy 222 acres north of Interstate 90 east of Lear Road to augment the 600 acres under option south of I- 90 between Jaycox and Lear Roads.

...At one point Mayor James Smith had stated that he did not favor rezoning that industrial area north of I-90 to accommodate the retail development proposed. He said that industrial development would bring the city more revenue than would retail.

However, he said last week, "If they can prove to me that we will get as much tax dollars, I'll consider their proposal." Smith said because of the magnitude of the development neither he nor city council wanted to have the final word.

Rezoning would have to be considered by the whole voting population, he said. Smith continued that it is his duty to look at all proposals. He said some individuals were provoked with him for even having spoken with Jacobs Group officials, but he said it is his job to note the merit of each proposal.

"That's why they elected me," Smith said.

In addition to the potential difference in tax revenue, Smith wants detailed plans for those other 600 acres if the previously proposed shopping center and hotels were moved north of I-90.

Smith said selling potential for industrial development of the city is easy because of Avon's ideal location.

"How much better can it get? Smith queried. "We're well laid out. We have man made barriers (the railroad tracks to the north and I-90 to the south) to contain growth," he continued.

Bill Burges, a strategist among the Jacobs Group, said regarding the purchase of the 222 acres, "The deal is not finished yet." An agreement has been made, but all the paperwork is not complete, he said. ..."


College project seen as threat to Avon Commons

"AVON -- A project by a group of urban planning college students has fueled suspicions by the Avon Commons developer that rival developers are working to convince residents to vote against his proposed strip mall issue at the Nov. 3 election.

The controversy began last week when 25 students from the University of Cincinnati's urban planning program arrived in Avon to gather information. Their stated goal was to study Avon and to prepare a plan indicating where parks, homes, shopping centers, industry, roads and highways should be located.

The students' professor, Charles Ellison, was hired previously by developers Richard Jacobs and Robert Stark to study the tax impact their proposed 800-acre project, with its large shopping center and new I-90 interchange at Lear-Nagel Road, would have on Avon.

Avon Commons developer Mitchell Schneider said he thinks Ellison is still working with the Jacobs-Stark team.

''I find it very unusual that these students are coming under the pretense of a class project in the city of Avon when their professor is the same person that has worked with the Stark and Jacobs organization less than three months ago,'' Schneider said. ''My sense is that this is clearly another effort by the Stark and Jacobs people to come off before this election with confusing and misleading information.''

Ellison admitted he once worked for the developers, but said Schneider's theory is nonsense.

''I am not being paid to do this. No one asked me to do this. I didn't speak to anyone outside of the university about this,'' Ellison said. ''It was totally my decision to do it. This is my job.''

Ellison said he got the idea to have his students study Avon this spring when gathering information for Stark and Jacobs.

''If ever a place needed a plan, Avon does,'' Ellison said. ''They've got a plan that's six years old and totally out of date. If they don't get a new one, they're going to wake up one day and have a town with 45,000 people and no tax base.''

Avon Mayor Jim Smith, however, said he's happy with his city's comprehensive plan and wondered why the university students are in such a hurry to gather information.

''It's a good exercise for them,'' he said. ''But we just can't stop all our work here to get all this information for them. Somebody said they need it in three weeks. I don't even make my grocery list out that quick.''

In addition to city records, Smith said the students are requesting a computer disk owned by the city's consulting engineer that contains extensive information about Avon's topography. Because the disk is technically the property of Bramhall Engineering, Smith said the firm has no responsibility to release it.

Mike Bramhall, Avon's consulting engineer, said he will not release the disk because it contains trade secrets that could give other engineering firms an advantage over his.

Stark and Jacobs did not return phone calls yesterday, but their spokesman said the developers have no part in the college students' project.

''The exercise is 100 percent academic,'' said spokesman Bill Burges. ''Avon is an incredibly interesting place. Anybody would say Avon is worth looking at.''

Schneider remained unconvinced.

'' If that were the case, why then is there a need on the part of these students to rush to town and indicate that they have a project with a completion deadline that coordinates to be one week before the November election?'' he asked. ''I think no one should be surprised when the Stark-Jacobs people try to confuse the issues in the two weeks prior to the election with information like this purported class project.''

Ellison, who said the controversy just proves Avon is worth looking at, said the plans won't be ready in time to interfere with the November elections.

''I would stake my life on the fact that it will not be done before Dec. 1,'' he said. ''This has nothing to do with any election."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE PRESS, 10-14-98, By JoAnne Easterday

Inner Avon studied by out-of-towners

AVON -- Students from the University of Cincinnati are studying the city of Avon as part of an assignment in urban studies. Professor Charles Ellison made the assignment and cautioned the students saying, "You are entering a situation that is very controversial."

Ellison said he told his students, "Be sensitive to the fact that there are tremendous development pressures ...and significant political conflict" regarding the proposed developments in the city. Ellison said he suggested that his students study the local newspapers to determine the magnitude of the controversy.

However, Professor Ellison revealed Friday that he had been a part of the Stark/Jacobs group that had visited the city in March to present ideas about their proposed development at a site between Jaycox and Lear Roads.

Ellison said as part of his job at the university, he is encouraged to do outside consulting one day a week. He said he uses information gathered during those consulting periods to enhance the students' learning processes.

Ellison's interest in Avon had been tweaked during that March visit. He said that he is not being paid by the Stark/Jacobs group to do this study.

"I have no obligation to share this study with anyone," Ellison said regarding his students' findings. He said the quarter long course began Sept. 22 and would be complete by the second week of December. There would be four interim presentations for himself and colleagues during that time period.

First Interstate Developer Mitchell Schneider questioned Ellison's claim of purely academic interest.

Schneider is proposing a development north of Detroit Road and east of SR 83. Citizens will vote Nov. 3 on the rezoning of the commercially zoned area from R-2 to R-3 which allows for larger shopping areas.

Rival developers Stark/Jacob are proposing a larger development both north and south of Interstate 90 in the area of Jaycox and Lear Roads. That development is not as far along in the official city development process. That development would also ultimately require rezoning from residential to commercial and/or industrial to commercial.

Schneider said, "I find it remarkably unusual Dr. Ellison and his students have developed an interest in Avon. I cannot imagine that given the distance that there are many more environments that they might study that are closer to the University of Cincinnati.... The entire circumstance is suspect immediately before the election."

Schneider said concerning Ellison's claim that Avon's master plan is totally out of date, "Ellison's implication that the plan is outdated would contribute to the confusion of voters about the situation with Stark/Jacobs."

Schneider said it appears that the study was designed to create discomfort and confusion among the voters. He questioned the innocence of coincidence that the study would be implemented at a time when the citizens were responsible for making a major decision.

Mayor James Smith took umbridge with the students' comment that they knew the master plan needed reworking.

"That bothers me," Smith said. "We have an excellent master plan," he said. That plan has developed over a 30-year period by long term residents of the city, he said. He conceded that the plan may need some minor tweaking, but he felt comfortable with the work done on the master plan.

Smith rhetorically asked about the students, "What are they trying to do? Reinvent the wheel?" What plan can out-of-town students come up with in 30 days? Smith asked.

On second thought Smith said, "Maybe someone from the outside can come up with a better plan. Maybe I'm just ignorant."

The apparent rush to gather information also bothered Smith because he said, "We are not so flush with personnel that we can stop everything to gather information for the students."

Smith said that ultimately he doesn't see the usefulness of such a plan for the city. However, he said he was eager to help students learn and would cooperate fully in supplying information as quickly as possible.

There is a difference of opinion among students and university personnel about the likely distance that students travel to complete studies termed "studios" by Ellison.

One Cincinnati student present in Avon for gathering information was quoted as saying, "I'm surprised we're here. We don't usually go so far afield."

Connie Dean, administration coordinator for the university said usually studies are done in a five-mile radius of the school. However, she said it depends on the actual chore being studied.

Professor Chris Auffrey a specialist in health planning and economic development at the university said they don't limit themselves to their own area. In discussing the situation with his colleague, Auffrey said "Ellison had a special insight for the community of Avon."

Ellison said he had not cautioned his students to disclose any connection of his with Stark/Jacob because there was no connection. The studio studies do not require students to enter a situation such as existed in Avon and announce such things, he said.

Ellison said he had done a "studio" in Milan, Italy recently. However, he did not say if his study included students.

Letter To The Editor of THE PRESS, 10-14-98, by Eric Schatschneider

Recent business news articles state that the Richard E. Jacobs Group is positioning itself to launch an Avon real estate megadevelopment with the possible purchase from Norfolk Southern Corp. of 222 acres north of I-90 at Lear-Nagle Road. Robert Stark, developer of the Promenade in Westlake, was quoted in January as saying there will NOT be two shopping centers in Avon.

So far, Stark and Jacobs can rejoice with the victory of Grendell and Phillips over the City of Avon in the court of Judge Thomas Janas. I do not understand the Judge's decision. Everyone in Avon knows the City has planned a shopping center on the Avon Commons property for more than 30 years. The Avon zoning ordinance that was challenged by Stark/Jacobs lawyers allowed for a shopping center like Avon Commons to be built there.

Anyway, the Judge changed Avon's zoning law. Now the zoning has to be changed from C2 to C3 for Avon Commons to go forward. But Stark and Jacobs may attack even more savagely. With only 13 acres zoned C3 in Avon, if Issue 14 (Avon Commons) fails, they can argue in court that the master plan has not been properly implemented because there is not enough C3. They can get their Nagle Rd. property zoned C3 in court. Avon will lose again. But if the Avon Commons 86 acres is zoned C3, they won't have this excuse.

DiBenedetto, who I believe works with them, has optioned land on the south side of Detroit Rd. across from Avon Commons. He could ask Council to rezone this land from residential to commercial just before the election on Nov. 3 in a move to confuse the voters.

Nothing could compensate Avon for what Stark and Jacobs would do with 800 acres of commercial development, most of which is zoned residential. The much better alternative is Avon Commons. Like Mr. Stark said, there will be only one shopping center in Avon. Let's make the right choice and vote for Avon Commons.

Sincerely yours, Eric Schatschneider


Avon mega-mall plan grows, moves

AVON -- Developers Robert Stark and Richard Jacobs have revised their plans for Avon to include nearly twice as much commercial land as they originally proposed, meaning Avon could become home to the largest shopping center in Northeast Ohio.

The last time Stark spoke in public about his plans for massive redevelopment around a new I-90 interchange at Lear-Nagel Road, he said there would be 250 acres of industry, 250 acres of housing, a 150-acre shopping center and 150 acres of greenspace, including permanent farms along Detroit Road.

In recent weeks, however, representatives of the two developers have provided city officials with a revised map showing a total of 264 acres of commercial development, 146 acres for new offices, 34 acres of parkland and an unspecified amount of housing.

The new plan indicates the developers would like to have 214 acres of industrial land north of I-90 rezoned for a large shopping center. The proposed new I-90 interchange would be surrounded by 50 acres of restaurants, gas stations or hotels -- for which more land would have to be rezoned to a commercial designation.

In the second phase of their project, the Stark/Jacobs team would develop 146 acres south of I-90 into an office park. That land, which is currently zoned for residential development, would also have to be rezoned.

But, while city officials have copies of the new map, which they received as recently as last week, a representative from the Stark/Jacobs camp said not all the information on the map is correct.

''I don' t know how accurate it is,'' said Bill Burges, who was hired to promote the development. ''I wouldn't confirm that that map is correct. That map is akin to a discussion map.''

Burges said the one point he can confirm is the developers' have changed their plans so that the shopping center would be built north of I-90. Originally, Stark and Jacobs planned on trying to have residential land south of I-90 rezoned for commercial.

''Based on everything we heard from people, it just seemed to us that that was the better plan,'' Burges said. ''It's just 100 percent better. You really can't find a way to make the traffic work as well if you have the retail to the south.''

The rival Avon Commons shopping center proposed by developer Mitchell Schneider for 84 acres of land east of SR83 on Detroit Road is the wrong choice for Avon because of its location, Burges said.

''Mr. Jacobs always says it's not about any development; It's about the right development,'' Burges said. ''Communities can choose smart growth or they can choose not-so-smart growth. People in Avon so far seem pretty smart to us. We think they know that mega-retail south of I-90 is a bad idea.''

Schneider, whose shopping center will be voted on Nov. 3 in the form of a zoning change request, said he's not surprised at what he called the latest attack by developers out to destroy his project in order to eliminate competition.

''I think this north of I-90 business is a ruse, a further attempt to confuse the voters of Avon,'' Schneider said. ''A proposal that involves over 200 acres of commercial land and another 50 acres of (land zoned for gas stations, restaurants and hotels) and a new freeway interchange and hundreds of acres of office land is not what the community is looking for -- no matter how it's packaged.''

Schneider warned that it would be detrimental to the community if Stark and Jacobs succeed in having hundreds of acres of residential and industrial land rezoned for their project.

''I don't think the community of Avon wants to give up its industrial and residential land in return for a new freeway interchange and 220 acres of shopping center property, which could potentially be the largest commercial project in northeastern Ohio,'' he added.

Not only Avon is affected by the plans. While Burges said the new concept is good because it moves the shopping center away from residential land in Avon, the new site would be in Avon Lake's backyard.

''Right over the railroad tracks is residential,'' Avon Lake Mayor Vince Urbin said. ''Obviously it sounded an alarm for us.''

Avon Mayor Jim Smith reserved judgment until Stark and Jacobs make an official presentation to Planning Commission, but did say: ''It seems it would be the largest shopping center around.''

Councilman Shaun Brady said he's been approached by the developers through a representative.

''They want to have lunch, but I really don't have any reason to sit down with them,'' Brady said. ''They should bring it through the proper channels of the city. I hope Avon politics doesn't stoop to the level of lobbyists taking us out to lunch.''


Voters to decide on fate of Avon Commons

AVON -- If supporters have their way on Issue 14, 86 acres of land northeast of Routes 83 and 254 soon will be a thriving retail establishment.

First Interstate Development Corp., headed by ... Mitchell Schnieder, has proposed to build a shopping center on the site. Plans for "Avon Commons," as the project will be called, include at least one anchor store (possibly a Wal-Mart), a movieplex and several smaller stores.

Schnieder's plans hit a wall this past summer when citizens and competing developers took the city to court over the zoning of the proposed site.

The plot was ... zoned for light commercial (C-2), allowing for buildings no larger than 20,000 square feet. Schnieder's stores would need a zoning upgrade to heavy commercial (C-3). The city originally had given him the go-ahead for the project, saying that, under the City Charter, the land automatically could be changed from C-2 to C-3. [What the ordinance says is that if a project is 10 acres or more, all the provisions of C3 apply in C2. On June 8, 1998, Judge Thomas Janas ruled against Avon and changed the zoning law in Avon.] ... Schnieder ... has decided to take the issue to the ballot, after getting more than 800 signatures on an initiative petition.

He said the question is not about what commercial project will be built in Avon, but who will build it.

Since the land at the intersection is and always has been zoned commercial, nothing else may be built there. According to Schnieder, if his company can't build in Avon, another group -- namely the one headed by Robert Stark and Richard Jacobs -- will.

Stark and Jacobs already have an option on a parcel of land off Lear Road, which would have to be rezoned from industrial to commercial for their plans. Schnieder said he believes only one commercial development ever will be built in Avon. He wants to frame the debate on Issue 14 as a choice between commercial developers, not a choice of whether or not there will be commercial development.

He said Avon Commons is in a better location than the Stark/Jacobs parcel because it is in accordance with the city's master plan. The plan allows for commercial property to be concentrated only in one part of the city.

"It's in the right location, and it's the best choice," he said.

Avon's leaders were wise to plan for commercial development where they did, he said. The parcel has only 800 feet of frontage along Detroit Road, and the rest is tucked along the highway. This will create only a minimal effect on the appearance of Detroit Road. [No stores will be visible near the SR-83 intersection because of a landscaped mound along the Detroit Road frontage.] The Stark/Jacobs site, in contrast, he said, has no such plans of unobtrusiveness.

"Only one single development that's coordinated can provide this kind of package to the city," he said.

His plan calls for more than 25 acres of "green space," landscaped and manicured; a half-mile recreational pathway; a 5-acre "festival marketplace" for craft fairs and other bazaars; and a gazebo.

Taylor Smith, who owns the property, envisions more than just a shopping center. With the advent of Internet shopping, people are looking to "experience" an outing, rather than to simply shop.

"This is the kind of shopping center that's going to be the wave of the future," he said.

Because this idea of shopping is so different, Smith said it wouldn't be fair to compare Avon Commons to other, nearby shopping centers.

"There is existing space that cannot compete with a new concept," he said. "It's like comparing apples and oranges."

He said the traffic plan for Avon Commons will improve the existing flow.

Schnieder has agreed to widen the streets around the complex and add several stop lights to improve the traffic pattern, which was given failing marks by a government agency. He will bring the rating up to at least a "C" level, something the city would have to do if he didn't.

Schnieder said that, because of city ordinances, a rezoning of the land is better than letting it remain C-2. He said the green space requirements for C-2 land are not as stringent as those for C-3. In addition, it is difficult to attract credit-worthy tenants to a complex without an anchor store.

The kind of building C-2 allows only would attract smaller, perhaps financially struggling, companies -- those most likely to break leases and contribute to instability, he said. Anchor stores, in contrast, contribute to the long-term stability of a retail establishment.

"In terms of a choice between C-2 and C-3, this is really the best choice," he said.

Schnieder, whose company also owns River Street Square in Elyria, stressed he is committed to future support of the building. He has no plans to sell the building, and will comply with city ordinances which require owners to have $50,000 cash bonds on hand to maintain facility structures.

"We're intending to own these properties for the long term, and to deal with the best tenants in the long term," he said.

Schnieder has not sought any tax abatements for his project. It is expected to bring a total of $2.1 million annually to the city, of which roughly $1 million will go to the schools.


"...In one corner is developer Mitchel Schneider, ... In the other is the tag-team of developer Robert Stark and ... Richard Jacobs.

"Robert Stark said to my face, 'There will only be one shopping center in Avon,' and that if my project goes forward, 'it would be detrimental to their project,' Schneider said. ..."


"Avon mall battle heats up

AVON -- Developers Richard Jacobs and Robert Stark have formed a political action committee this week in an attempt to stop the rival Avon Commons shopping center from succeeding at the Nov. 3 ballot.

With a huge project of their own on the line, the Stark/Jacobs team can now pour money into the fight against the rival shopping center proposed by developer Mitchell Schneider -- leading many in town to predict a flood of anti-Avon Commons signs and mailings in the remaining weeks until the election.

The PAC, which is called Citizens for Good Planning, was registered Oct. 15 at the Lorain County Board of Elections in Elyria and gives the group the legal ability to spend money to oppose the zoning change necessary for the Avon Commons project. The treasurer is listed as Anthony W. Weigand, an employee of The Richard E. Jacobs Group.

Jacobs, owner of the Cleveland Indians, along with Stark, the developer of The Promenade strip mall in Westlake, are working on plans to for a giant shopping center, offices and a new I-90 interchange at Lear-Nagel Road. Their latest map shows nearly 300 acres of commercial development, all of which would have to be rezoned -- from the current residential or industrial classification -- in order for the project to go forward.

When contacted by The Morning Journal, Weigand referred any questions to Thomas Henneberry, a senior vice president for Jacobs. Henneberry did not return a phone call for comment.

While Jacobs executives are publicly keeping quiet on their plans, a group, including Jacobs, Henneberry and Lorain County Democratic Party Chairman Tom Smith, visited with Avon Mayor Jim Smith Tuesday before Jacobs flew to New York for the Indians final playoff game -- a Game 6 loss that ended the American League Championship Series.

When questioned as to the purpose of the meeting, Smith said Jacobs told him they intended to form a PAC and also mentioned funding a PAC formed by Linda Eadelis, the Center Road resident who filed a lawsuit against Schneider.

Since the Jacobs-Stark team announced their mega-project, Avon Commons developer Schneider has accused the team of working behind the scenes to thwart his 85-acre Detroit Road shopping center -- a contention that Stark and his spokesman have repeatedly and adamantly denied.

The PACs, said Schneider, are proof that he's right.

''I think it's becoming crystal clear that the Stark and Jacobs people are actively working against Avon Commons,'' Schneider said. ''Clearly, if the Stark-Jacobs group is so prepared to work against the approval of Avon Commons it must pose a significant risk to their project if Issue 14 passes.''

Three other PACs have also been formed to join the debate over Issue 14, the rezoning of the land for the Avon Commons shopping center. They include:

Citizens of Avon for Responsible Environmental Development. Formed on Sept. 24, the group's treasurer is Linda Eadelis, a plaintiff in the zoning lawsuit filed against Schneider. Ms. Eadelis, who has an unlisted number, was unavailable for comment.

Avon First. Formed Oct. 14, the treasurer is Lynnette M. Schmitz. Detroit Road resident Kathy Herbst said the purpose of the loosely-formed group is simply to keep Avon residents informed about commercial development.

''We are for Avon,'' she said. ''We feel that Avon should be able to make the decisions on what goes on here.''

The group has no signs, but is planning a mailing.

The Vote Yes on Issue 14 - Avon Commons Committee. Formed on Sept. 23, Schneider is the listed treasurer. The PAC has posted yellow signs that read: ''Avon Commons: The right location. The right choice.'' Schneider is also planning a mailing and a Family Fun and Information Day on Oct. 25 at the Avon Commons site.

Any PAC that has spent or received more than $1,000 by Oct. 14 must file a campaign finance report before Oct. 22. If that does not apply, PACs are not required to file any financial information until Dec. 11


We are facing an important decision on Nov.3. The property located at State Route 83 and Interstate 90 consists of 85 acres that is zoned commercially and will be developed commercially. FIRST INTERSTATE wants the property rezoned to allow larger commercial buildings.

Our worry is that IF ISSUE 14 FAILS, IT WILL OPEN THE DOOR FOR THE STARK-JACOBS GROUP to develop up to 800 acres of land on Nagel Road that is presently zoned for industry north of I-90 and for single family homes south of I-90.

For those of you who think that we can vote down both developments, an argument could be made in court that AVON DOES NOT HAVE ENOUGH LAND ZONED FOR THE LARGER COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS. Avon only has 12 acres zoned that way, and the City of Avon DOES NOT HAVE THE MONEY to mount a legal defense to prove that we don't need additional land zoned for large commercial buildings.

The Stark-Jacobs project would permanently change the character and community of Avon. The passage of issue 14 doesn't guarantee that the Stark-Jacobs project will be stopped, but it will have a significant negative impact on their development and remove the legal argument that Avon doesn't have enough of this type zoning.

Bob Stark has stated that there will NOT be two commercial developments in Avon. Do you want 80 acres where it is already zoned commercial or 800 acres in our residential and prime industrial areas? Do you want the choice of where it is or the court telling us where we have to put it?

As citizens of Avon, we urge you to vote FOR ISSUE 14 and help stop the 800 acre project proposed by the Stark-Jacobs Group on Nagel Road.


Thank you, Lynette Schmitz


The shopping center war is heading for the OK Corral, and Stark/Jacobs gunslingers are looking for anything they can throw. Jacobs' recent option on 222 acres of Norfolk and Southern land in Avon's industrial area could have the sole purpose of trying to confuse the voters on Nov. 3. Burges, the Stark/Jacobs PR man, is trying to convince us that a shopping center north of I-90 on Nagle Rd. will not generate traffic that impacts residential areas.

Burges makes the contrast that Avon Commons is located south of I-90. A traffic consultant hired by the City of Avon concluded that Avon Commons will improve traffic flow at I-90, SR-83, Detroit Rd., and Jaycox Rd. Without Avon Commons, Avon itself will have to make the proposed First Interstate improvements to correct the traffic problems that exist right now.

The obvious downsides of the latest Stark/Jacobs play are that it holds Avon's master plan in contempt, could take advantage of the tax abatement that comes with locating in Avon's enterprise zone, and chews up land which the master plan specifies for industrial tax revenue. Land north of Chester Rd. should not be changed from industrial to commercial zoning. It is difficult to find acceptable locations for industrial development, and Avon's good fortune with the barriers provided by I-90 and the railroad tracks should not be squandered. The recent Stark/Jacobs attempt to rewrite our master plan shows that they are willing to use any means to gain their ends.

I do not believe that Gerald Phillips or Linda Eadelis had anything to do with the recent destruction and theft of Avon Commons yard signs. But these acts show that feelings are strong, and that an appeal to reason is necessary: If Avon Commons is defeated, Stark/Jacobs will go forward. They will get their zoning with a court decision. The only thing that can stop them is commercial competition from Avon Commons. If Avon Commons is defeated, development of our property will still go forward as commercial since we are zoned C-2 and have been since 1968.

We are proud of Avon Commons. This is our best choice. Over 25 acres of the commercially zoned land will be permanent green space. First Interstate will also put approximately 10 acres of surrounding residential property into permanent green space, a total of over 35 acres for recreation and nature in the middle of Avon. We were approached by many developers, including Robert Stark. We chose First Interstate because of their track record for outstanding public-private land use planning.

The reason we are asking to be changed to C-3 is because of the building size limitation in C-2. Before 1990, there was no building size limitation in C-2. After 1990, we thought that we would still be able to develop a shopping center on our property because the Avon zoning ordinance stated that if a project were 10 acres or more, all the provisions of C-3 apply in C-2.

On June 8, 1998, Judge Thomas Janas granted victory over the City of Avon to Phillips, Grendell, and Tom Smith, a Jacobs (and Krystowski) lawyer who is head of the Lorain County Board of Elections. Just a few days before the court deadline, Tom Smith pulled out of the hat an affidavit on which Judge Janas based his decision. I believe that the Judge's decision will be reversed in the appeals court, but the delay could give Stark/Jacobs the win if Avon Commons is defeated on Nov. 3. This election is a turning point in Avon's history.

Some of you reading this may have no desire to shop in Avon, but what about your neighbors who would like to shop in Avon? Avon Commons would be an advantage to senior citizens who would prefer not to drive long distances. Let's keep the jobs, traffic improvements, and tax revenue in Avon. We urge you to vote yes for Issue 14 on Nov. 3.

Respectfully yours, Taylor J. Smith

Letter To The Editor of THE PRESS, 10-21-98, by Mitchell C. Schneider, President, First Interstate

During the past 18 months, I've refrained from writing any "letters to the Editor" regarding the "process" I've been through for Avon Commons. I'v e been content to allow my public words and behavior to speak for themselves -- and to let the community judge for itself my honesty, sincerity and commitment to quality -- and the quality of the Avon Commons project it self. However, I now feel obligated to write. On October 15, a political action committee was formed called Citizens for Good Planning, naming Mr. Anthony Weigand, Treasurer, with an address of 25425 Center Ridge Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44145. This is the headquarters of Richard E. Jacobs Group. In addition, Ms. Linda Eadelis has formed a political action committee called Citizens of Avon for Responsible Environmental Development. Ms. Eadelis purports to be acting "on her own" with a few local residents (READ GERRY PHILLIPS). But, I'll bet you, dollars for donuts, that in the final campaign reports (AFTER THE ELECTION) we'll find out that her Committee was funded by the Bob Stark and Richard Jacobs organizations. After all, Ms. Eadelis, in the lawsuit filed to stop Avon Commons, is represented not only by her attorney Gerry Phillips, but also by Tim Grendell (who has admitted he is privately working for Stark and Jacobs) and by Tom Smith (who is actively lobbying in Avon on behalf of Stark and Jacobs).

I am writing to express my personal outrage at the business practices of the Stark and Jacobs organizations in Avon. First, they tried to maneuver behind the scenes using David DiBenedetto. When they were exposed, DiBenedetto was gone.

Next they got behind Linda Eadelis and Gerry Phillips, challenging Avon Commons at every stage -- but refusing to come forward to promote their own project in the public forum. In fact, this continued effort to influence this election from behind the scenes is less than forthright. Ms. Eadelis's Committee has placed signs around town that say STOP COMMERCIAL SPRAWL -- regarding Issue 14. In fact, Ms. Eadelis knows for certain that the Avon Commons property is already zoned commercial and has been for more than 25 years. The signs are a misleading scare tactic. ... She's allowing herself to be used by the Stark and Jacobs group to advance their interest in killing Avon Commons so they can develop 800 acres down the street.

We will now see a campaign from the Stark and Jacobs committee, Citizens for Good Planning, trying to confuse and scare voters in Avon over the next 2 weeks. They'll say Avon Commons has 5 superstores -- but the truth is that the zoning change to C-3 for the 85 commercial acres for Avon Commons will result in less square feet of building area than if it remains C-2. And remember -- the Stark-Jacobs proposal for "Good Planning" in volves a shopping center that is potentially 3 times larger than Avon Commons.

They'll tell you that north of I-90 is "Good Planning" and south of I-90 will lead to traffic problems, But remember -- developing 800 acres will forever change Avon and will create more traffic than you could imagine in your wildest dreams. To the contrary, we've been 100% responsible in addressing traffic issues relating to Avon Commons -- and our plan (which has been reviewed and confirmed by an outside consultant hired by the City) will improve the flow of traffic in the Avon Commons area.

I'm writing to ask Avon voters to look carefully at the campaign literature they receive or see over the next 2 weeks. Look at the Committee that produced it. Consider the motives, consider the source.

I understand that another committee, Avon First, has been formed by Lynette Schmitz, a local Avon resident, to support Issue 14. I want you to know that I am not financially supporting Avon First. In fact, while I've heard it was coming, I've never met or spoken with Ms. Schmitz. Her group is truly a grass roots group doing what they believe to be in Avon's best interest.

There's no question that a commercial shopping center is coming to Avon. My question is -- do you want to open the door to a company that has spent the last 18 months attacking from behind the scenes, while at the same time refusing to step into the public forum -- probably for fear that if Avon really knew their plan, they'd be run out of town immediately? Or to you want a project that's been fully reviewed for 18 months by both Planning Commission and City Council, that exceeds the City's requirements for public amenities, and that makes a significant, but not overwhelming, contribution to Avon's road system and tax base -- presented by a company that's been up front and in the public view from day one? Avon Commons is the right location. Avon Commons is the best choice. Please join me in telling Mr. Stark and Mr. Jacobs that they can take their behind the scenes efforts elsewhere. Please vote Yes on Issue 14.

Mitchell C. Schneider, President, First Interstate

Letter To The Editor of THE PRESS, 10-28-98, by Thomas L. Wearsch, Member of the Avon Planning Commission,

I feel compelled to respond to the campaign literature recently circulated by the Citizens of Avon for Responsible Environmental Development, Linda Eadelis, Treasurer.

First, I am flattered to think that a group of people believe that a statement by me would have a profound effect on an election result, specifically Issue 14, Avon Commons. This group has attempted to take a statement that I made in the Clevelabd Plain Dealer almost a year ago and turn it around to say that I am against Avon Commons. I was addressing the possibility of an extension of commercial growth on Detroit Road if this development was not properly planned. Never did I suggest that Avon Commons would cause it.

Everyone that knows me is aware of my commitment to protect Detroit Road as residential property thereby preserving our rural character.

Since the initial presentation, Mr. Schneider has spent many hours in front of the Planning Commission. With input of our Planning Commission, Mr. Schneider removed all buildings that were facing Detroit Road. Most impressively, Mr. Schneider presented a landscape plan for his entrance that far exceeds any code we have and practically blocks any view of his commercial development from the street.

In over 24 years of my involvement in this community, as a councilman, Council President, Mayor, and now as a member of the Avon Planning Commission, I know of no other development that we have scrutinized more than Avon Commons. I don't know of any project where we have extracted more ouy of the developer than this one. No other developer has given more amenities to the City than Mr. Schneider has. I am personally proud of being involved in this project as a representative of the City.

Finally, I would remind the community that the Avon Planning Commission has made the recommendation to City Council that the property be rezoned from C-2 to C-3 based on our interpretation of the Master Plan.

While I am disappointed that this group has chosen to use my statement out of context for their supposed benefit, it now affords me the opportunity to state that I am supporting Issue 14.

As in the past, I have every bit of confidence that the citizens of our community can and will make decisions based on facts that have been presented to them. We all can and shall respect that.

Sincerey, Member of the Avon Planning Commission, Thomas L. Wearsch

Letter To The Editor of THE PRESS, 10-28-98, by Nancy Sidwell

Please don't be fooled by the letter from Richard E. Jacobs. The letter was paid for by a political action committee which is trying to defeat Issue 14 in Avon.

Their friendly letter is significant in what is DOESN'T say. It says "...outright purchase of 222 acres ... key component of an exciting mixed-use development ..." IT DOESN'T SAY that Jacobs and Stark hold options on approx. 400 additional acres south of I-90 that is the mixed-use part of the development. The 222 acres north of I-90, they are "purchasing" is for retail and commercial development to pay for an interchange that Jacobs and Stark are telling us WE need. THEY need it in order to put in their commercial development. Can you see Nagle as a five lane Crocker Road??? All of the homes on the east side of Nagle might need to be demolished to make way for the road.

The letter says "Over time, this ... development will attract clean, high-paying light industry, and technology companies and attractive offices, as well as retail services ..." IT DOES NOT SAY that they will build these. I think our Mayor is doing an outstanding job of attracting clean industry to Avon, which will continue to locate in Avon because we have an ideal location.

With Stark and Jacobs, what they think is "good planning" CHANGES EVERY TIME THEY COME TO TOWN!!! They haven't even met formally with our Planning Commission which is responsible for planning in our city. With Avon Commons, we see the plans. We know what we are getting; and it is more reasonable than 622 acres of unknowns, In fact, the Morning Journal said AVON COMMONS is "an outstanding example of public-private land use planning."

Ask yourselves: Why are Stark and Jacobs working so hard to defeat Issue 14??? Say YES to 85 acres and NO to 622 acres. Please vote YES on Issue 14.

Sincerely, Nancy Sidwell


"AVON - Most people would agree that the proposed site for Avon Commons has been zoned for commercial development for [over] 25 years. It is close to two state highways, Routes 254 and 83, and is close to an Interstate 90 interchange. This area is "ripe" for developmenmt. ... Those opposed know it would be illegal to exclude commercial development. ...

If voters approve the C-3 zoning required to build Avon Commons, it will allow for a unified, aesthetically pleasing, well thought out plan. To some, that may not be as beautiful as the rustic field and trees in the area; however, there will be development in that area. It could be a car dealership or an outlet mall. [One combination is a car dealership - theater complex as proposed in North Ridgeville plus an outlet mall.]

With Schneider's plan, as approved by the Avon Planning Commission, the City would be assured of ... major improvements to the state roadways. There will be more reserved greenspace with Avon Commons than if C-2 were maintained. Those greenspaces will contain a recreational walkway, and a festival market area and gazebo for community events [more than 35 acres of permanent greenspace]. ...

Schneider has been open and above-board in his relationship with the City. That is more than can be said for the Stark/Jacobs Group. ... Howard Beder of the Group at one time complained of the "malicious grapevine" active in Avon. Although gossip isn't the best form of communication, there is something to be said for a close-knit community where people still talk with each other.

People with land under option with the Stark/Jacobs Group complained they were not told the whole truth. People talked among themselves and discovered interesting facts.

Schneider worked in good faith with the City. The tenuous ties of subterfuge of so-called experts with The Group raises a red flag. Do the residents of Avon want to reward questionable behavior by Stark/Jacobs? If not, vote YES for Issue 14. Avon Commons may not keep out the other development, but it will slow them down.

The PRESS endorses the actions and plans of Mitchell Schneider and Avon Commons.

Newspaper Record of Stark/Jacobs in Avon

More Documents Relating to the June 8, 1998, Decision Against Avon


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