Newspaper Record of STARK/JACOBS in Avon,
Ohio -- February 1, 1999 to February 28, 1999

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 2-2-99, By COLLEEN MYTNICK, Morning Journal Writer

"Drive started to keep mall out of Avon

AVON -- A Center Road resident has started a drive that he hopes will permanently kill the Avon Commons shopping center by rezoning its Detroit Road land so that only homes can be built there.

The resident, Robert Ryant, filed a petition in city hall yesterday that will allow him to begin collecting signatures to put the rezoning issue on the ballot this spring. He said he has hired anti-Avon Commons attorney Gerald Phillips for legal help. ...

Ryant's drive, which was discussed at last night's council meeting, is expected to result in a legal battle if successful, because state law prohibits a city from unfairly decreasing the worth of a residents' property.

As commercial land, the 85 acres of Detroit Road property is worth $80,000 to $200,000 an acre, said Mayor Jim Smith. Undeveloped land zoned for single-family homes is worth only $21,000 to $26,000 per acre.

Therefore, if the land was rezoned through a city-wide vote, the property owners could sue the city and more than likely win between $3 to $5 million.

Those numbers, said Smith, leaves residents with a choice: Pay up through increased taxes and keep commercial development out of Avon, or accept the fact that some kind of a shopping center will be built on the land.

''If you want greenspace, you're going to have to pay for it,'' Smith said.

Council President Ted Graczyk said residents are ''quite possibly'' willing to do just that.

''Everybody's talking about stopping commercial sprawl,'' Graczyk said. ''Maybe that's the way you do it. It's a unique opportunity.''

Councilman Jack Kilroy called the idea ''ridiculous, dangerous and reckless'' and said the city should not formally support Ryant's attempts to rezone the land.

''It appears it would end up a disaster,'' he said. ''It would cause untold damage to the city of Avon when we get sued for the taking of property.

If Ryant gathers enough signatures, residents could face two ballot issue involving the Avon Commons project. Spearheaded by Avon resident Bob Barnhart, the other drive is seeking to revive the shopping center in its original form.

In November, residents voted against a zoning change that would allow one large project with superstores to be built on the land. Since then, Avon Commons developer Mitchell Schneider has announced plans to build a series of smaller developments that do not require a zoning change.

Barnhart has said the revised plans are inferior because they could result in more square feet of retail development, but generate fewer tax dollars and less fringe benefits -- such as a gazebo and walking trail -- than the original plans.

Ryant said it was Barnhart's efforts to bring Avon Commons back that prompted him to begin his own campaign.

''I'm doing this because another party in the village has filed a petition to put it back although we defeated it once,'' he said. ''Apparently the voice of the people doesn't matter to some people.''

City Council will vote on whether to support Barnhart's proposal Monday night. Ryant's proposal will be discussed at the next council work session."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM (2-2-99) By Mike Sakal

"Avon gets 2nd rezoning petition

AVON -- A Center Road resident is fighting a petition drive supporting Avon Commons with a petition of his own.

Robert Ryant and other residents plan to circulate a petition that would ask voters to rezone the 85-acre site along Detroit Road from a commercial to residential classification.

Ryant notified the city of the alternative petition on Monday.

If the drive proves successful, the proposed Avon Commons shopping center site could end up a park, walking trails or even a neighborhood.

The battle over commercial development in the city, however, is far from over.

About 22 residents supporting a rezoning request to allow Avon Commons began collecting signatures over the weekend. Former Avon Schools superintendent Robert Barnhart is leading the group.

Both groups need to collect 1,979 valid signatures by March 2 to place their rezoning requests on a special June 1 ballot.

Ryant, 70, said voters already have spoken at the polls once, and they should not have to vote on it again. ...

City Council discussed the issue at its work session Monday and might support a resolution for both rezoning requests going to the ballot. Council also is considering an ordinance to automatically place rezoning issues before voters.

"This definitely is an interesting aspect that Mr. Ryant has added to the issue,'' at-large Councilman Shaun Brady said.

Legal concerns, however, were raised about rezoning the Avon Commons site from commercial to residential.

"I think that the zoning change supporting Avon Commons proposal is clearly the best proposal,'' 4th Ward Councilman Jack Kilroy said. "The city is putting itself in a position to get sued by the property owners by rezoning their land without due process.

"Residents would have to pay for that change in some way. I think voters were misled about Avon Commons in the November election, and it should be given a second chance.''

Avon Mayor James Smith said that residential land in the city costs about $21,000 to $26,000 per acre, while commercial property ranges from $80,000 to $200,000 an acre.

"We don't have to have any commercial development,'' Council President Ted Graczyk Jr. said. "We don't need commercial development here.''

Taylor "Jack'' Smith, who has an option to sell about 70 acres to Avon Commons developer Mitchell Schneider for his revised plans for an office park and smaller retail shops at the site, said he is suspicious of the timing of Ryant's petition.

"I think that Stark and Jacobs have a hand in this,'' Smith said. "That's my take on it. I can't prove it, but I don't like the timing of all of this. I think it's to confuse people at the ballot again.''

Developers Robert Stark and Richard Jacobs, also the owner of the Cleveland Indians, are fine-tuning plans for an 800-acre commercial and residential development on both sides of Interstate 90 less than two miles from the Avon Commons site. City officials expect them to present detailed plans by next month if not sooner.

"I would say there is some kind of legal remedy to pursue for damages if my commercial land is rezoned to residential, but I haven't talked to my attorney yet,'' Smith said.

NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 2-3-99, By COLLEEN MYTNICK, Morning Journal Writer

"Jacobs makes visit to mayor, trying to win support for his mega-project

AVON -- Developer Richard Jacobs visited Avon City Hall Monday [2-1-99] to win Mayor Jim Smith's support for the controversial mega-project he plans to launch soon. ...

Jacobs arrived at the mayor's office in the afternoon with Thomas Henneberry, an executive vice president with The Jacobs Group, and Tom Smith, a local attorney who is also the chairman of the Democratic Party in Lorain County.

Mayor Smith said the meeting lasted about 40 minutes.

''They wanted to talk over some of their proposals,'' he said. ''I told them I felt they should present everything to Planning Commission first -- as did (Avon Commons developer) Mitchell Schneider and everybody else.''

When Jacobs asked the mayor if he would support their project, Smith said he told the group he ''can't support anything he hasn't seen.''

The group then asked about the proper procedure for presenting plans to the city and announced that they would be ready with plans in a few weeks, the mayor said.

Jacobs' spokesman Scott Chaiken confirmed that the meeting took place, but did not provide any additional details. ''They just met to talk about the project,'' he said. ..."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE SUN, 2-4-99, By CHANEL CHAMBERS, Staff Writer

"[Barnhart's petition] ... to rezone 86 acres of land at Center and Detroit Roads to zoning class C-3, allowing for the development of large retail stores. ... In contrast Ryant's [Phillips'] petition would ask voters to rezone the parcel to R-1, which only would allow single family homes. ... The land was zoned commercial more than 30 years ago.

... Some, including attorney Gerald Phillips and developer Robert Stark, have said the site never should have been zoned commercial.

... Some who support Barnhart's petition said many voters were confused when they voted "no" on the original issue last November.

Ward 1 Councilman Niels Jensen said some of his constituents thought a "no" vote on the issue would ... stop all commercial development in the entire city.

'It all comes down to which plan you favor -- plan one, with big buildings, or the smaller one,' he said. 'I kind of like the first one.'

Jensen said the City should look for other sources of tax revenue, instead of relying so heavily on a residential tax base. A large commercial development, he said, would put much-needed revenue into City coffers.

'We need to get a tax break in Avon, because it's getting to be a pretty expensive place to live in,' Jensen said.

... Ward 4 Councilman Jack Kilroy spoke in favor of Barnhart's petition.

'It's time for Council to show some leadership," ...

Kilroy said Ryant's petition is 'ridiculous, reckless and dangerous.' ..."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 2-6-99, By COLLEEN MYTNICK, Morning Journal Writer

"AVON - The man who owns the bulk of the land once slated for the Avon Commons shopping center said yesterday he will file his own lawsuit if a ... drive to rezone his land for residential use is successful.

'If I'm damaged, I'll have to do something about it,' said Taylor J. Smith, who has optioned 70 acres of his land to Avon Commons developer Mitchell Schneider. ...

Even if the drive is successful, Schneider said the two smaller commercial projects he has proposed and introduced to the City Planning Commission ... would be grandfathered and could still be built. ..."

LETTER TO THE EDITOR of THE MORNING JOURNAL, 2-7-99, by Bob Barnhart

This is an open letter to Avon Citizens. First, let me state that I agree with those against the proposed Avon Commons Shopping Center that say, "We do not need a shopping center in Avon."

While we may not need a shopping center, I believe our geographic location dictates that a shopping center is inevitable! Therefore, I believe we should have the highest quality shopping center possible, and that is the Avon Commons with the C-3 zoning guidelines.

There are several benefits coming to our Avon community if we approve Avon Commons, and the single most important benefit is money! While money may not always be the answer to a community's problems, you tell me which community problem is not made smaller by having adequate funds?

The most significant benefits derived from building the Avon Commons include:

I believe many Avon residents are concerned about traffic congestion, and I share that concern. Traffic congestion is upon us in Avon right now! We have traffic congestion because of the additional homes built in Avon in recent years, and it will become much worse over the next 2-3 years.

We have had 396 new homes built in Avon during the past 24 months. Each new home brings two additional cars to travel our Avon streets and roads. In addition, presently under construction are:

This totals 812 homes and another 1,600 cars traveling in Avon. If you think we have congestion in 1999, wait until 2001 - 2002!

Our city officials will do their very best to alleviate and handle the traffic congestion problems, and the money they can receive from the Avon Commons will help significantly.

I'd like to make another point concerning our excellent Avon schools. Our school system is probably the second largest employer in Avon, approximately 130 - 140 employees. The average cost of educating one child in the 1997 - 98 school year in our Avon schools was $4,690. This present school, 1998 - 99, we opened a much needed new Avon High School; and we employed 10 additional teachers plus nine classified employees -- secretaries, cleaning staff, etc.

I estimate these additional staff members cost our Avon Board of Education approximately $400,000. This additional money has come from industrial installations coming to Avon in recent years. A commercial development such as Avon Commons will bring additional tax revenues to help our schools meet the future increase of students coming from those additional aforementioned 1,200 Avon homes.

Another plus is that Avon Commons will receive no consideration of tax abatement.

Our "Avon Citizens for Avon Commons" committee needs your support to get the issue on the ballot for a June 1, 1999, special election. We have scheduled meetings to solicit your assistance in our efforts.

If you would like to help us circulate petitions to get Avon Commons on the ballot, please call my residence, 937-6477; and I will provide you with the necessary forms. If you would like to sign our petitions or have additional questions, please attend one of our scheduled meetings at the Avon Public Library:

LETTER TO THE EDITOR of THE MORNING JOURNAL, 2-7-99, by Kim Yonkers

Don't you just love it? Jacobs/Stark group spends all that money campaigning against urban sprawl and against Schneider's well planned out Avon Commons, and now they are writing us all these wonderful letters on how they are going to take care of Avon.

Friends and neighbors were duped. Schneider is going to put his development in anyway, but it won't be anything at all the way he planned. He was going to spend quite a bit of his own money to make a first class mini-mall and is still willing to do it.

Thanks to the Jacobs/Stark group and a concerned local lawyer, we are really going to get an eyesore and traffic nightmare. Now ... Stark ..., who developed Westlake Promenade down the street, has given us a real example of how smoothly traffic flows at Detroit and Crocker. I avoid going that way altogether.

We have vacant stores and suffering businesses in every mall around us. Fisher Big Wheel in Avon Lake and the Chemist Shoppe in Avon are perfect examples.

We have schools with children playing all up and down Lear Nagel from Lake to Mills Road.

When you read city crime statistics reports, it is a fact that crime rate is much higher with the cities that have mega malls.

We have to admit that Jacobs/Stark did pull a fast one on us when they confused many about Schneider's proposal. Fool us once, shame on them! Fool us again, shame on us!

There will be petitions coming around to put Schneider's proposal back on the ballot this spring. That development is going in regardless; let's all help to make sure it's done right by signing those petitions.

NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 2-9-99, By COLLEEN MYTNICK, Morning Journal Writer

"AVON -- The Jacobs Group needs the support of the City of Avon for its plans to build a new I-90 interchange at Lear-Nagel Road -- meaning Avon City Council's first vote on the proposed Jacobs mega-project could come as soon as a traffic study is complete.

The interchange -- which Jacobs and his partner, Robert Stark, have offered to finance -- is considered crucial to the complex of stores, restaurants, offices and industry the developers want to build around Lear-Nagel Road.

The request for support was made by Jacobs Group representatives Thomas Henneberry and Jeffrey LeBarron at a Friday [2-5-99] afternoon meeting attended by Planning Commission Chairman Jim Piazza, Council President Ted Graczyk, Law Director Dan Stringer and Councilman Shaun Brady.

''There was discussion that Jacobs would like the city to pass a resolution supporting an interchange at I-90 and Lear-Nagel,'' Stringer said. '' I was told that (the Ohio Department of Transportation) does not initiate projects of this nature unless the community supports it and wants it.''

ODOT Planning Director Ken Wright said he ''would assume that some kind of support from the city would be needed'' before an interchange could be built, but said he did not think it's necessary for council to pass a resolution of support.

The first step, said Wright, is for Stark and Jacobs to submit an interchange justification study showing that the proposed interchange would not degrade the flow of traffic on I-90.

The group of city officials met with the Stark-Jacobs team to inform them of the procedure it will have to follow when presenting plans to the city, Piazza said.

''We did not go into detail about the specifics of the project,'' he said.

Before supporting a new interchange, Piazza said Jacobs and Stark would have to submit a traffic impact study to the Planning Commission.

''We'd have to see how it impacts the City of Avon and the adjoining cities, Avon Lake in particular because it's just across the railroad tracks,'' Piazza said. ''We will not give them a recommendation until we have all the facts.''

Other city officials said an interchange would be good because it would provide easier access to the city's industrial area, but they held back from giving total support until more is known about the Stark-Jacobs project.

''I would like to see it,'' Councilman Niels Jensen said. ''I think it would open up that (industrial) area over there, but I'm sure the people who live over there are going to see it differently.''

The interchange would benefit Bay Village, Avon Lake and Westlake more than it would Avon, according to Councilwoman Shirley Piazza Doss, who said she'd have to know more about the plans before commenting further.

Councilman Jack Kilroy, however, said the city doesn't usually pass resolutions unless they were proposed by the mayor or a council member.

''I don't think there's any precedent for this,'' he said. ''I think it's an example of Jacobs exercising his economic clout and expecting it to happen because he has a massive amount of wealth and power.

''As thing stands today, I would oppose (the interchange.) It's premature on a lot of different counts. We certainly don't have any of the facts. I also think it's unnecessary. I think it's a bad expenditure of funds no matter who's paying for it. We don't take care of the roads we have now.''

Kilroy also suggested that any meetings with Stark or Jacobs representatives be held in public -- even if the law does not require it -- simply because of the magnitude of the project.

Brady said it's ''too soon to say'' if he supports an interchange, but said he was encouraged by the Friday meeting. ..."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM (2-10-99) By Mike Sakal

"Letter prompts libel suit in Avon

AVON -- Developer Mitchell Schneider has sued lawyer Gerald Phillips and accused Phillips of making false statements about Schneider's company.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Common Pleas Court, asks for more than $50,000 in damages.

Schneider, the president of First Interstate Development Co. in Pepper Pike, contends that Phillips made false and defamatory statements about First Interstate in a letter to the editor that was recently published in some local newspapers.

"Phillips accused First Interstate of conducting a `slick deceptive campaign' in favor of Issue 14 that was `designed to install fear, panic and confusion in the voters.|.|.,'|'' the lawsuit states.

Issue 14 was a rezoning request for Schneider's proposed 600,000-square-foot Avon Commons shopping center on 85 acres along Detroit Road. The ballot initiative was defeated by 47 votes in the November election.

Schneider contends Phillips made the statements in the letters with malice and reckless disregard, according to the suit.

Phillips represented several residents who live near the site of the proposed project and has campaigned against allowing the retail center to be developed.

First Interstate is requesting a trial by jury on its complaint against Phillips.

No hearing date has been set in the matter. The case has been assigned to Common Pleas Judge Mark Betleski.

"The lawsuit was filed because (Schneider) believes the claims have merit,'' said First Interstate attorney Michael Ungar of Cleveland. "At this point, we prefer to do all of our talking in court. The lawsuit speaks for itself.''

Schneider declined comment Tuesday.

Phillips said he could act as his own attorney in the case but plans to hire an attorney to represent him. ..."

LETTER TO THE EDITOR of THE PRESS, 2-10-99, by Ellen Young

Gerald Phillips speaks of deception. On June 8, 1998, Stark/Jacobs lawyers Timothy Grendell and Tom Smith, with Phillips tagging along, won a victory over Avon in the court of Judge Thomas Janas which has plunged our City into turmoil. Are we supposed to believe that Grendell and Smith were there only to represent some local residents? ...

Phillips repeats the deception of the "traffic nightmare" which Stark/Jacobs used so effectively in their November, 1998, campaign against Avon Commons with large newspaper ads, mailers, and phone banks. The truth is that Avon's own traffic consultant, hired by the Planning Commission, said that traffic flow would IMPROVE in the area surrounding Avon Commons.

Speaking of deception, what about the Indian activist who claimed that there were Indian remains at the Avon Commons site? What about the testimony of Jay Gardner of Metro One? It turned out that Gardner had at one time worked for Stark/Jacobs. Professor Ellison from Cincinnati sent students to Avon to redo Avon's master plan. Ellison, too, had done work for Stark/Jacobs.

The most recent deception is the circulating of petitions to rezone the Avon Commons site to single family housing as somehow benefitting Avon. Phillips has a record of involving Avon in expensive lawsuits. What about the loss of tax revenue? Isn't it deceptive to imply that people in Avon do not shop in stores such as Giant Eagle that are larger than twenty thousand square feet? What about those of us who want to shop in Avon? Isn't it deceptive to pretend that we don't exist? Don't all of us have to drive on roads to go shopping?

Does Avon have the financial resources to defend us against an attack in court by Stark/Jacobs [so ably represented by Tom Smith, head of the Lorain County Board of Elections] attempting to rezone residential and prime industrial land to commercial?

Why doesn't Phillips mention that Stark/Jacobs spent almost $50,000 in their successful effort to defeat Avon Commons last November? Isn't it deceptive to try to hide the fact that only commercial competition from Avon Commons has a chance of stopping Stark and Jacobs from wrecking Avon? As Stark himself said: There will only be one shopping center in Avon.

DON'T BE DECEIVED. Bob Barnhart is heading a group circulating a petition to put Avon Commons back on the ballot. Please sign this petition. Don't sign the Phillips petition or be deceived and confused by it. Let's give truth a chance.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR of THE PRESS, 2-10-99, by Charles Smith

In response to Mr. Phillips letter on Feb. 3:

You are right Mr. Phillips. Bay Village doesn't have C-3 zoning or little. That is why their taxes are so high. I own a business in Avon Lake and have many customers from Bay. They complain about their tax rate, and many are moving out for that very reason. So for the Avon residents who don't want business or industry, just move to Bay.

To the residents of Avon: In the not too distant future, Avon will need a full time fire department, more police officers and city workers. Where will the money come from for their salaries? We need retail growth in order to take the burden off the tax-paying residents of Avon.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR of THE MORNING JOURNAL, 2-11-99, by Richard E. Herbst

I would like to provide some factual information regarding my family's involvement with Mitchell Schneider since DAVID KAROHL'S LETTER of Feb. 7, was so devoid of facts.

During the summer and early fall of 1997 our family was being approached via letters, phone calls and personal meetings by representatives from Mr. Stark and Mr. Jacobs independent of each other. They were all intent upon getting our family to sell an option on our family farm for the purposes of commercial development.

They were telling our neighbors we were about ready to sell and they were telling us we would be surrounded by commercial davelopment and it would be better to sell. On one occasion our family sat at our kitchen table and listened to a representative state that the developers didn't like trees and that they would probably fill up the area between Jaycox and Nagel, I-90 and Detroit with as many buildings as they could, starting with four superstores along I-90. They also said they would probably widen Detroit, Jaycox, and Nagel Roads to four lanes each and get all of the land along Detroit zoned for mixed-use (a mixture of light industrial, office, housing, retail, and parks ).

In October of 1997, my sister, my brother Bob and I met with Mr. Schneider at my sister's house to discuss his proposal of a deed restriction to prevent the use of our family farm for commercial purposes . Deed restrictions are legal and useful in certain situations. Our family considered Mr. Schneider's suggestion of a deed restriction and turned it down. at no time was any amount of money or time agreed upon or included on any document as I have all of the original documents. In fact, the document Mr. Karohl used is a copy with hand-written figures that could have been added by anyone, is unsigned, is not the final draft, and was probably provided by someone who wasn't even at the meeting!!!

Since my wife Kathy was not present at the meeting, Mr. Karohl's statements that she "had a relationship" with Mr. Schneider prior to the Fall of 1998 is an OUTRIGHT LIE. It was only just before the election last year that she met him although she had seen him at public meetings.

I suggest that Mr. Karohl investigate the integrity of his sources and information before he attaches his name to them and tries to pass them off as the truth.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR of THE MORNING JOURNAL, 2-11-99, by Taylor J. Smith

In a letter to the Editor of The Morning Journal, published on February 7, 1999, David L. Karohl makes the false statement "Taylor Smith was the sole outside contributor to Avon First as reported by their financial statement, and it does not require a giant leap of logic to assume that Mr. Schneider was, in fact, the actual financial supporter of this effort." I would certainly not claim that the $3100 contributed by Gerald Phillips to the PAC headed by Mr. Karohl's wife, Linda Eadelis, was supplied by Stark and Jacobs. Who knows where that money came from? Did it come from the taxpayers of Avon who had to fork over more than $20,000 to Phillips in 1998?

The money I spent for Avon First came out of my own pocket. My family knows that whatever we do will affect Avon for a long time to come. We have a moral responsibility to do what we think is best for our home town. We are proud of Avon Commons. We realize that it may never happen, but we have to try. We have been on the losing side before. The sad history of sewers in Avon can be read on the web at http://www.centurytel.net/tjs11/.

Another of Mr. Karohl's false statements is that the commercial zoning of our property "constitutes an example of spot zoning in violation of the Master Plan." Commercial zoning of our property has been part of all of Avon's master plans, reaching back to 1968. This is the best use of this property for the benefit of Avon. Planning Commission member Paul Burik made this clear during the presentation by David Hartt, City of Avon Planning Consultant, to the Avon Planning Commission on June 29, 1998, in his following remarks:

"I think this central location that has been designated many, many years ago is the right location. It's the spot that will be conducive to re-enforcing the core area.

I think some of the other locations that have been brought forth formally or informally would be more divisive. I think anything away from the core area in the center would cause a split in the City and end up decentralizing rather than centralizing.

Our charge is based on the recent master plan to maintain a village-like atmosphere. We need to create a centrally located town with a core area,

... I think looking at it at large in the community in three or four years, when it all settles, it would be very accepted; and in another five years people will wonder how we lived without it. ..."

Paul Burik is interested in the welfare of our entire community. Karohl and Eadelis bought next to commercial property and now have a specific self-interest.

NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 2-12-99, By COLLEEN MYTNICK, Morning Journal Writer

"AVON -- Developer Mitchell Schneider began clearing acres of trees yesterday [2-11-99] to make way for the Detroit Road office and retail complex he hopes to build on the site. ...

The roughly three-acres of trees and shrubs, which separated the southern portion of Center Road from the proposed development, were planned to remain as a buffer under the old Avon Commons plan.

But when voters defeated a zoning change Avon Commons needed to go forward, Schneider revised his project and now plans a series of smaller developments that do not require voter approval or any type of zoning change. Those plans include only a fence and a row of evergreens as a buffer for Center Road residents. ...

Although there is a grassroots drive underway to put Avon Commons back on the ballot this June, Schneider said he will continue to seek approval for his new plans in case the drive fails.

Schneider said clearing the trees will help him find tenants for his proposed office complex and small strip mall. ...

In contrast to Schneider's new project, Avon Commons was planned to hide the view of the shopping center from Detroit Road and also featured perks such as a recreational walkway, summer concert area and gazebo.

In addition to the drive to put Avon Commons back on the ballot, there is also a movement underway to rezone the land for residential use only. Some city officials, however, have said such a move could land the city in court because it would be considered an unfair devaluation of land. ..."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 2-17-99, By COLLEEN MYTNICK, Morning Journal Writer

"Strip mall buffer questioned

AVON -- Attorney Gerald Phillips filed an appeal with the zoning board claiming the city's Planning Commission illegally approved developer Mitchell Schneider's site plans for the proposed Avon Business Park on Detroit Road.

Filed Monday, the appeal states the fence and row of trees Schneider proposed to separate Center Road residents from his business park does not meet the city's buffering requirements.

Phillips filed the appeal on behalf of himself and 15 other people who live near the Detroit Road site of the office complex -- including Robert Ryant, who is leading a petition drive to rezone the 84 acres for residential use only.

Schneider, who said yesterday he hasn't seen the appeal, maintains he has followed the city's laws.

''I believe that we designed the landscape in accordance with and in excess of the requirements in the code,'' he said.

Mayor Jim Smith said he has not reviewed the buffering plan, but added that Schneider is unlikely to take short cuts given the scrutiny Phillips has showered on him since he first proposed his original Avon Commons plan for the Detroit Road property more than a year ago. ...

The business park, which has not yet received council's approval, is Schneider's second proposal for Detroit Road. His first plan, Avon Commons, failed after voters defeated a zoning change he needed to go forward last November.

While there is a group of residents trying to put Avon Commons back on the ballot, Schneider has said he will continue to seek approval for his business park and small strip mall in case the drive is not successful. Neither of his new proposals require a zoning change.

Phillips was not available for comment yesterday."

LETTER TO THE EDITOR of THE PRESS, 2-17-99, by Bob Barnhart

First and foremost I want to state that I consider Bob Ryant to be a friend. I have had the privilege of knowing Mr. Ryant and family for 25 years. I respect his opinion and integrity, but we disagree with each others' judgement concerning what should be built on the 85 acres in the area of Routes 83 and 254.

If our Avon citizens were to approve Mr. Ryant's proposal to rezone the acreage to residential, we could see an additional 130 new Avon homes. Let us assume the market value of each home to be $200,000, which is reasonable in 1999 - 2000; plus we assume 1.5 children coming from each home: a total of 195 children.

Our Avon Schools would be financially impacted as follows:

A $200,000 house would pay $3,135.91 in property taxes per year. About 80% of the taxes would go to our Avon Schools, for a total of $2,508.73. The total annual taxes from the 130 new homes to our Avon Schools would be $326,134.90.

The cost to your Avon Schools to educate the 195 children would be 195 x $4,690 (the cost actually expended to educate each child in our school year), total cost = $915,550.

Therefore, your Avon Schools would experience a deficit of $588,415.

I believe this example magnifies the necessity for our Avon community to have tax payers, other than homes, to help pay our school costs.

In contrast, if we approve Avon Commons, C-3, your Avon Schools will receive approximately $1,180,000 additional each year without adding any costs to our school system.

If you are looking for information concerning the proposed Avon Commons, C-3, Shopping Center issue, please consider the following:

My only interest is to have an informed voter make an objective decision on a very important Avon issue.

Bob Barnhart, Avon Citizens for Avon Commons, C-3

LETTER TO THE EDITOR of THE PRESS, 2-17-99, by Jim Schmitz

While Avon fights over the Avon Commons issue, it appears Stark/Jacobs are about to make their first move in the destruction of Avon as we know it. If we are going to prevent "urban sprawl" ..., as suggested by Stark/Jacobs in their anti-Avon Commons campaign, we must start our fight with a decisive "NO" - no to the Nagel Road/I90 interchange.

Let's look this GIFT HORSE in the mouth -- it may be the Stark/Jacobs TROJAN HORSE. This will be the beginning of their takeover of the East end of Avon.

With neighborhoods, a church and two schools south of I-90 on Nagel Road, do we want an interchange which will increase traffic beyond our wildest nightmare? Do we want Crocker Road going by Avon East and Holy Trinity Schools? No Thanks!

This interchange will not help Avon. It will help Avon Lake, Bay Village, North Ridgeville, Westlake and STARK/JACOBS. Now is the time to stand up for Avon. ...

I ask our city leaders and planners to look closely at the true purpose of this "gift" and to have the courage to say "no thanks". If we say "no" now, it will be much easier to say "no" later when Stark/Jacobs ask for their own rezoning to create "Avon Vista," a massive 800 acre project which may cost Avon its soul.

Let's try and keep a little bit of Avon. As a life long resident of Avon, I ask all Avon residents to search your soul; call or write our city officials and say "no thanks" to Stark/Jacobs and the Nagel Road/I90 interchange "gift horse".

NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 2-18-99, By COLLEEN MYTNICK, Morning Journal Writer

"'Vista' seen in Avon

AVON -- After more than a year of fine-tuning, developers Richard Jacobs and Robert Stark are now proposing the ''Vista'' project -- a nearly 500-acre complex of retail, restaurants, hotels, offices and parks -- centered around a new I-90 interchange.

The Stark-Jacobs team declined to discuss Vista yesterday, but their intentions for Avon were outlined in an eight-page, glossy brochure obtained by The Morning Journal.

Touted as a ''careful blending of community, parklands and commercial centers,'' the development will include two main segments -- Vista South and Vista North.

Located north of I-90 and east of Lear-Nagel Road, Vista North is dubbed in the brochure as an ''attractively planned and landscaped open-air shopping and entertainment district with restaurants and hotels, away from existing residential neighborhoods, yet conveniently accessible.''

Located between I-90 and Detroit Road, Vista South will line both sides of Lear-Nagel Road and will include an office complex with hotels and restaurants, single-family homes, and a park along Jaycox Road, according to the brochure.

The entire development will include 150 acres of shopping, theater and entertainment; 100 acres of office park and research and development facilities; 110 acres of single-family homes; 80 acres of hotels, restaurants, banking, day care, fitness facilities and professional offices; and 40 acres of parklands and public recreational facilities, according to the developer's information. ...

In addition to the shopping center, offices and houses, the Stark-Jacobs team has offered to finance a new I-90 interchange at Lear-Nagel Road. ...

But, while the color brochure clearly pitches Vista as a positive for Avon, it already has its critics -- both in Avon and in Avon Lake, which borders the project to the north.

Richard Herbst, whose family owns land right in the middle of the proposed Vista South, has been approached to option his land to Stark and Jacobs, but has refused -- creating the potential for his land to become an island surrounded by new homes and offices.

''We want to live here; we've been in Avon our whole lives,'' he said. ''We wish we knew more for sure what's going to happen because it does affect our lives. It's a lot of unknowns. Whether or not (the plan outlined in the brochure) is what actually happens is one of our concerns. It's hard to say.''

Although the project would surround him, Herbst said it would affect the entire city of Avon.

''It's not just that it's in our back yard,'' he said. ''It's in a whole huge part of Avon's back yard. Hopefully, everyone in Avon is watching this.'' ...

''You just deal with it in stages,'' Avon Councilman Shaun Brady said.

The first step, said Brady, is for council to consider passing a resolution to determine whether it supports a new I-90 interchange -- a move requested by the Stark-Jacobs team.

Before anything can be built, however, Stark and Jacobs must have much of their land rezoned. Brady said the developers plan to request a mixed-use zoning currently not available in Avon.

''They're going to be bringing us some ordinances that other cities have adopted for big mixed-use developments,'' Brady said. ''The way I understood it, it was for developments over 400 or 500 acres and allows them the flexibility of doing different types of things.''

Brady said it's unlikely City Council would make any rezoning decisions on its own.

''I think, ultimately, that decision is going to be left up to the people,'' he said.

Avon Mayor Jim Smith said that before he comments, he will wait to see the new plans, which Stark and Jacobs are expected to present to Planning Commission in early March."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 2-23-99, By COLLEEN MYTNICK, Morning Journal Writer

"Avon to see 'Vista' plan soon

AVON -- Developers Richard Jacobs and Robert Stark will make a pitch for their 500-acre ''Vista'' complex of stores, hotels, houses, restaurants and offices at a March 10 Avon Planning Commission meeting.

The project was first proposed more than a year ago around the same time developer Mitchell Schneider began the lengthy approval process for his failed Avon Commons shopping center.

But while Schneider worked his way through the complicated layers of city approval, the Stark-Jacobs team has released few details of their massive project and did not present any formal plans to the city.

Next month's meeting is expected to launch Stark and Jacobs into the lengthy approval process.

The first step, according to city officials, is to review the developers' plan for a new I-90 interchange at Lear-Nagel Road to see how it would affect the area.

The developers must also have much of their land rezoned to allow for the stores, hotels, restaurants and offices they hope to build.

And, while the meeting is still weeks away, City Council President Ted Graczyk said all members of council yesterday received colored brochures in the mail outlining the project, which will be divided into two areas: Vista North and Vista South.

''It's certainly interesting,'' said Graczyk.

Councilman Shaun Brady said he received a letter with the brochure saying the developers will use the March 10 meeting as a ''starting point'' to introduce city officials to their project.

According to the brochure sent to council members, the entire project will include 150 acres of shopping and entertainment, 100 acres of offices and research and development facilities; 80 acres of hotels, restaurants, banking, day care, fitness facilities and professional offices; 110 acres of single-family homes and 40 acres of parks. ...

While Stark and Jacobs prepare to unveil their plans, Avon resident Bob Barnhart said he has collected more than half the signatures he needs to give Avon Commons a second chance at a special June 1 election.

Schneider, who had his Avon Commons plans defeated by voters last November, has said he will wait to see if Barnhart is successful before breaking ground on alternate plans for his Detroit Road land.

Council had considered passing a resolution saying it supported Barnhart's efforts to put Avon Commons back on the ballot, but delayed taking a vote on the resolution last night because two council members were absent.

Barnhart, who must turn in his signatures by March 2, said the resolution of support is now a moot point because -- even if passed -- it would be too late to help him. ..."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM (2-24-99) By Mike Sakal

"AVON -- Attorney Gerald Phillips and 15 Center Road residents who live near the proposed Avon Business Park site filed a lawsuit Tuesday [2-23-99] against the City of Avon.

In the suit filed in the County Common Pleas Court, the residents contend the City illegally issued developer Mitchell Schneider an incorrect permit allowing him to tear down trees ...

A preliminary hearing in Common Pleas Court before Judge Edward Zaleski is scheduled for 9 a.m. on March 5."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 2-26-99, By JOHN STEBBINS, Morning Journal Writer

"AVON -- ... last night's [2-25-99] Avon Zoning Board of Appeals meeting over the city Planning Commision's Feb. 10 approval of the proposed Avon Business Park office building ...

Following a 30-minute presentation by attorney and landscape consultant Steve Targrove, brought in by Phillips to detail the failings of the building's compliance to zoning code, Phillips cited the need to halt the project. ..."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM (2-26-99) By Mike Sakal

"AVON -- After nearly four hours of a heated debate, the Zoning Board of Appeals did not make a decision Thursday [2-25-99] night on the landscape buffer and final approval for part of the Avon Business Park. ...

"I think the plan is fully in accordance and exceeds the requirements of the code," said Schneider. ..."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE PLAIN DEALER, 2-27-98, By Rich Exner

"AVON ... filed a complaint yesterday [2-26-99] with the Ohio Ethics Commission yesterday accusing Mayor James A. Smith of having a conflict of interest ... Gerald Phillips who prepared the complaint said the value of Smith's 3.8 acres would increase if Avon Commons were built. ...

The request for an investigation comes as proponents for Avon Commons enter their final days of a petition drive [for] ... a special election on June 1 ... Phillips ... also this week ... filed a lawsuit in Lorain County Common Pleas Court claiming the site was being cleared illegally and a complaint with the Lorain County Board of Elections claiming proponents were misleading people to get petition signatures. ...

Lorain County Prosecutor Gregory A. White said he was aware of Smith's holdings and said he doubted there was any reason to suspect Smith had done something wrong.

White said his office had been 'looking at a number of things going on in Avon,' including allegations raised last year of potential conflicts involving former Council President Edward Krystowski. But he said Smith's properties were not part of the investigation. ...

Jackie Scott, a former member of the Avon Zoning Board of Appeals, said she believed the mayor had conflict involving Avon Commons '... that leaves the corner where the mayor has property,' said Scott, a former real estate agent. ...

Richard Sweda of Sweda, Sweda and Associates said he did not think nearby developments would affect Smith's property ... "

NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 2-28-99, By COLLEEN MYTNICK, Morning Journal Writer

"AVON ... Zoning Board of Appeals meeting held Thursday night [2-25-99] which lasted past midnight [2-26-99]. The Zoning Board met Thursday to discuss an appeal filed by Phillips ...

After hours of debate, the Board denied Phillips appeal.

'I think that our plans conform to the ordinance and the regulations of the City, and I think the Board of Zoning Appeals recognizes that,' Schneider said. 'It became obvious that Mr. Phillips is making any number of allegations that simply are not true.'

During the debate, Schneider's attorney walked Phillips through each of the 18 allegations ...

'Mr. Phillips wasn't able to substantiate, or to prove, or provide any evidence to the Board of Zoning Appeals that the Planning Commission made an error in its review of the site plan,' Schneider said ...."

Newspaper Record of Stark/Jacobs in Avon

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

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