Newspaper Record of XXXXX/JACOBS in Avon,
Ohio -- May 23, 1999 to June 1, 1999

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5-25-99
5-27-99
6-1-99

LETTER TO THE EDITOR of THE CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM, 5-23-99, By Shaun Brady

"The Avon Commons parcel is going to be developed commercial, period. Let's not be foolish. We should embrace the project that gives us the best commercial use for that land.

In addition to the best use of that land, we will receive significant tax revenues for the city and schools, over $2 million in infrastructure and a better traffic situation.

One hopes the open-minded members of our community will not be scared by unsubstantiated doom and gloom threats being circulated. Vote yes on June 1."

EDITORIAL from THE CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM, 5-23-99

" ... We hope the voters will say no again in the June 1 special election ...

Schneider ... offers a study [confirmed by Avon's own traffic engineer] saying that peak - traffic waiting times would be reduced from more than one minute to less than 15 seconds at most of the intersections once improvements are made ...

Traffic is a problem already, one factor that makes Schneider's proposal appealing. Turning lanes and traffic signals would help. We suspect that Avon Commons couldn't succeed without them ...

Voters also shouldn't ignore the potential impact of the Vista development Richard Jacobs proposes just down the road. If approved, the commercial portion of that development would dwarf Avon Commons ...

[In its editorial of 10-29-98, The Chronicle - Telegram said: "... Avon voters should wait for more specifics from Stark - Jacobs before approving Avon Commons ... Avon voters don't have to accept the first offer that is waved under their noses. We suggest a 'no' vote on Issue 14"]

What kind of community does Avon want to be? ... The Planning Commission already approved a small business park ... The City is not prevented from changing the zoning ... Perhaps a mixed use would be best with some residential ..."

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 5-25-99, By COLLEEN MYTNICK, Morning Journal Writer

"Court asked to kill anti-election suit

AVON - Three separate groups filed motions yesterday [5-24-99] asking the Ohio Supreme Court to throw out a lawsuit that attempts to stop a special election to decide the fate of the Avon Commons shopping center.

The motions came just days after attorneys Gerald Phillips and [Stark/Jacobs lawyer] Timothy Grendell filed a lawsuit [5-13-99] claiming the special June 1 election for Avon Commons should should not be held because not enough valid signatures were collected to force the issue onto the ballot.

Though the Lorain County Board of Elections last week [5-20-99] ruled the election should go forward, the Ohio Supreme Court is not expected to rule on Phillips' complaint until after the special election.

The results of the June 1 election were ordered to be impounded and kept secret until the Supreme Court completes its review of Phillips' complaint.

Yesterday, three groups asked the Court to dismiss Phillips' lawsuit, including the elections board, Avon Commons developer Mitchell Schneider, and the group of residents [Avon Citizens for Avon Commons] that collected signatures to put the shopping center on the ballot. Avon Law Director Dan Stringer said the City also plans to file a motion to dismiss.

In its brief, the elections board claimed that instead of cooperating with the elections board, Phillips and Grendell have 'engaged in a deliberate effort to conceal information,' according to the brief.

The brief stated the elections board 'repeatedly and literally begged (Phillips and Grendell) to provide information to help in the investigation.' Instead the attorneys 'played a hide and seek game impeding rather than assisting the investigation.'

Phillips' and Grendell's strategy, according to the brief, was to file every possible complaint that exists, even though they knew most of them were 'bogus.'

The brief goes on to say that Phillips and Grendell hoped they could 'trick' the Board of Elections into making a mistake that would cancel the election ...

Schneider expressed a similar opinion of the campaign waged against his development:

'I think it's the same shotgun approach filled with baseless allegations with no factual backup and intended to mislead the court into taking an action that there is no basis for at law,' Schneider said.

Resident Bob Barnhart, who led the petition drive, said that both Avon and the elections board have ruled in his favor and the case in the Ohio Supreme Court should be dropped."

EDITORIAL from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 5-26-99

"Avon zoning vote shouldn't be secret

Among the silliest things we've heard recently is the decision late last week by the Ohio Supreme Court to order the result of a June 1 special election in Avon sealed after it comes in.

What is the point of doing that? Even if it were possible to keep such a secret with all the people involved in the counting, it seems certainly to be unnecessary and perhaps even unlawful.

The petitions that brought about the vote are being challenged by attorney Gerald Phillips, who contends there weren't enough valid signatures to meet requirements in the law. The Board of Elections thought otherwise, but Phillips took the case to court, and not just a local court, but straight to the Ohio Supreme Court.

The state's highest court couldn't work a hearing date into its schedule before the election day, next Tuesday, June 1, so somebody there decided to just put the results on hold until the justices could get to the bottom of the dispute.

We see no problem in letting the court decide on the validity of the election, but we think it's ridiculous to keep the numbers under wraps in the meantime. What difference could it make in the long run except to perhaps to add the weight of community opinion to the next campaign -- if there has to be one.

Except in some narrowly defined circumstances, where the public good is served by secrecy, Ohio law requires the business of government to be conducted in the open. And there is nothing more basic to government than people voting on a public question such as zoning.

The court is out of order in insisting that the ballots be sealed. We urge Chief Justice Thomas Moyer to rescind the secrecy ruling immediately."

LETTER TO THE EDITOR of THE PRESS, 5-26-99, By Carla Wible

"In a letter to the editor, 3-30-99, Pauline Leboda, currently a candidate for mayor in Elyria, describes Gerald Phillips as "warm and caring." What about the spelling mistake which messed up her water rate rollback petitions last year?

I would guess that the children of Hamlin thought that the Pied Piper was warm and caring. Before the end, did the victims of the Pied Piper realize that the glimmering stream of sound was nothing but deceptive, boring, sprawly nonsense?

Avon is a community that cares about the future. Avon is also a community that has spent a substantial amount of time and energy developing a Master Plan for the City. That is one reason why I am a supporter of Avon Commons. First Interstate's development is a moderate sized 85-acre project which will strengthen the French Creek District.

We wanted to expand our tax base with controlled growth. Avon Commons is controlled growth.

We wanted to alleviate our traffic congestion. Avon Commons will upgrade our traffic signals with nearly $2 million in improvements.

I think it is time we vote for the future and vote YES on June 1 for Avon Commons."

COMMUNITY PULSE... AND OPINION, The PRESS, 5-26-99, By R.J. Hemmer

"... Avon Commons -- Simply put I hope it passes ... As most Avon residents should know by now ... there will be commercial development on that property, and Avon residents will decide what they want.

Elections of this nature always intrigue me. It's a shame that lies, distortions and total manipulations have become a part of such and important community process ... Sprawl is a misused word here -- but at the same time it's a negative, and anytime you can distort in order to win some feel that's OK ...

Many believe as I do that Avon Commons, if approved, will be something people will look back on and wonder why they fought [it] so hard. Again -- I believe it will pass ..."

LETTER TO THE EDITOR of THE PRESS, 5-26-99, By Matt Nakon

"I am a resident of Avon and one of several attorneys representing First Interstate Development Company with respect to the multitude of meritless lawsuits and appeals filed by Gerald Phillips seeking to prevent development of the land proposed for Avon Commons.

While my representation of First Interstate may cause some people to think I am biased, the views set forth below are solely my own.

The fact is that the 85-acre parcel proposed for Avon Commons will be developed in the next 12 months. It will be developed with either Avon Commons, or the Avon Business Park/Park Square Shopping Center project.

Nothing that Gerry Phillips has done, or will do, will change that fact because no zoning variance is necessary for the Avon Business Park/Park Square Shopping Center Project to be constructed. Thus, the ultimate question is which development is best for Avon -- not whether development can be prevented.

On June 1, the electors of Avon will be given the choice as to which project they prefer. I am one Avonite for whom the choice is obvious -- say "Yes" to Avon Commons.

I will put three children through the Avon City Schools. Avon Commons will result in over a million dollars annually for our city schools. With the explosion of new homes in this city, our school system needs these dollars now.

If former school superintendent Bob Barnhart's campaign for the Avon Commons Project hasn't convinced residents of this fact, then they are simply choosing to put their heads in the sand.

I also travel Avon roads on a daily basis and would prefer to spend my retail dollars within the city. The road improvements which will accompany the Avon Commons Project are also critically needed.

Anyone attempting to exit I-90, onto State Route 83, to travel south, is well aware of the dangers and frustrations with such an endeavor. A vote for Avon Commons will provide needed relief, as well as nearly 2 million dollars in other road improvements. A "No" vote on Avon Commons (or a "Yes" vote for Avon Business Park), on the other hand, will not, and will likely exacerbate the problem.

Finally, there is the issue of city planning. For this, look to what your city officials are saying. Avon Commons is a well conceived plan (consistent with the Master Plan), and brings a community gazebo, an amphitheatre, restaurants, and a well-landscaped setting in which the community will gather. Avon Business Park brings none of these things.

Every community needs a portion of retail development. The question is how much. Having previously lived in North Olmsted, another Great Northern Mall is not what I have in mind. I have no desire to again live in a community with a mega-mall.

However, Avon Commons is not such a project. In size, it is certainly much more comparable to the Promenade of Westlake. Moreover, it will bring the same type of quality stores that Promenade shoppers have enjoyed. In location, it is far more attractive than the Promenade, as it will be tucked in, off Detroit Road, backing to I-90, and none of the buildings will front or even be visible from Detroit Road.

Avon's building and planning officials have required a first-class retail community to be planned. Mitch Schneider and First Interstate have offered improvements to the City far beyond that which could reasonably have been expected.

On June 1, Avon's electors will make a significant step towards planning our city's future. I urge you to compare these two projects. When you do, a "Yes" vote is simply a "no brainer"."

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The Board of Elections, 115 Cedar St. in Elyria, will be open from 8:30 am to noon on Monday, 5-31-99, Memorial Day, for those who wish to cast an absentee ballot because they will be out of town on June 1. The telephone number of the Board of Elections is 322-8228.

JUNE 1, 1999, Special Election Day: The polls will be open from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm. Call Avon Citizens for Avon Commons for information at 937-5133.

NEWS ARTICLE from THE CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM, 5-27-99, By Joe Mosbrook Jr.

"Official: Attorney lied to stop vote

Claims Avon's Phillips misled Board [of Elections] on rezoning issue

AVON-- An assistant county prosecutor contends Avon attorney Gerald Phillips lied in his attempt to stop Tuesday's [6-1-99] special rezoning election.

"Quite frankly, I'm a little tired of him playing fast and loose with all this,'' said Gerald Innes, who represents the Board of Elections.

"It's time to start fighting back.''

Innes filed a 25-page brief Monday to the Ohio Supreme Court charging Phillips "made knowingly false statements (and) deliberately misled, deceived and impeded (the elections board) in their investigation.''

The election Tuesday will determine whether developer Mitchell Schneider can build 100,000-square-foot stores at the proposed Avon Commons shopping center on Detroit Road just east of state Route 83 ...

Phillips fought to disqualify the citywide vote, ... Phillips lost the appeal to the board ... [on 5-20-99], but he already had filed the motion with the Supreme Court. The high court has not made a final ruling but ordered the election to go forward and will impound the ballots without allowing the results to be announced until it does rule.

In the court filing, Innes said Phillips claimed he had not been notified of the appeal hearing, when in fact he had.

"It was clearly a stall tactic,'' Innes said ...

The brief also said Phillips claimed a particular petitioner's address did not exist, when it does. Phillips said Innes is mistaken on that point.

And most importantly, Innes said, Phillips challenged more than 500 signatures "without any reasonable basis for the great majority of the challenges, causing the (elections board) to waste time and effort investigating false leads.'' Phillips said he had a reasonable basis for the challenges ...

Innes said Phillips had not acted in good faith.

"We were trying to help him investigate these signatures, but he was fighting against us,'' Innes said ..."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE SUN, 5-27-99, By CHANEL CHAMBERS, Staff Writer

"AVON - Voters may cast their ballots for or against Avon Commons on Tuesday [6-1-99], but they won't know the results until the Ohio Supreme Court resolves a legal tangle.

Instead, workers at the Lorain County Board of Elections will count the votes in secret, seal the result, and send the ballots to Columbus ...

Marcia Mengel, clerk for the Supreme Court, said the court's decision to keep the ballot secret does not necessarily mean the case has merit ...

The four other parties involved [besides Stark/Jacobs lawyer Timothy Grendell and Phillips] -- the Lorain County Board of Elections, the City, developer Mitchell Schneider, and the residents who circulated the petition -- all have filed motions to dismiss the case.

Although the case has been accelerated, Mengel said there is no way to know when the court might decide whether to grant the dismissal. If the case is dismissed, the result of the election will be released. But if the court decides to hear it, the votes will sealed remain for what could be months until it is settled.

Bob Barnhart, who spearheaded the drive to get the issue on the ballot, said he doubts the Supreme Court will hear the case, considering the signatures already were reviewed three times.

The signatures were counted by the Clerk of Council in Avon, then certified by the Lorain County Board of Elections, then reviewed by a separate body at the elections board. All three decided the election should proceed."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 5-29-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"AVON -- ... filed volumes of supporting documents with the Ohio Supreme Court ...

Among the filings was a motion, described as a ''merit brief'' by Avon lawyer ... Gerald Phillips, which opposes the motion to dismiss filed May 24 by the Lorain County Board of Elections ...

Along with Phillips' motion, filed late Thursday [5-27-99], were volumes of supporting documents that stacked about 6 inches high, a Supreme Court spokeswoman said ...

Barnhart, who led the citizens petition drive, said Phillips will do anything to stop Avon Commons.

''His list of complaints throws out every possible error that could possibly be made, hoping to find that needle in the haystack,'' Barnhart said. ''He's pulling out all he can hoping to find one to hold some water.'' ...

If voters reject the Avon Commons zoning change Tuesday [6-1-99], developer Mitchell Schneider plans to build a series of smaller projects -- including a small strip mall and an office complex -- that do not require a zoning change."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE PLAIN DEALER, 5-29-98, By Rich Exner

"Zoning changes sought for retail

AVON - ... Many supporters of the project say the center [Avon Commons] is an example of good planning to make shopping more convenient while increasing tax revenues and improving traffic flow with improvements paid for by the developer.

The highly unusual step of impounding the results -- Supreme Court officials were unable to identify a similar case in recent years ..."

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In review -- JUNE 1, 1999, Special Election Day: The polls will be open from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm. Call Avon Citizens for Avon Commons for information at 937-5133.

NEWS ARTICLE from THE CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM, 5-27-99, By Joe Mosbrook Jr.

"Official: Attorney lied to stop vote

Claims Avon's Phillips misled Board [of Elections] on rezoning issue

AVON-- An assistant county prosecutor contends Avon attorney Gerald Phillips lied in his attempt to stop Tuesday's [6-1-99] special rezoning election.

"Quite frankly, I'm a little tired of him playing fast and loose with all this,'' said Gerald Innes, who represents the Board of Elections ..."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE PLAIN DEALER, 6-1-99, By Rich Exner

"Avon to vote on shopping center's fate

AVON - The polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. today in Avon for a special election involving a controversial issue for a proposed shopping center.

First Interstate Development Inc. of Pepper Pike wants to build the 550,000-square-foot Avon Commons center on 85 acres near Interstate 90 and Ohio 83.

But before construction can begin, the company needs approval of the proposed zoning changes on today's ballot. The same issue was defeated by 47 votes in November.

The center would involve a theater complex, three "superstores," and a variety of smaller stores and restaurants. No lease agreements have been announced, although First Interstate President Mitchell Schneider has named Kohl's, Target and Home Depot as potential anchors.

The issue has been hotly contested by some ... neighbors [and Stark/Jacobs lawyers Timothy Grendell and Tom Smith who] won a Lorain County Common Pleas Court ruling on June 8, 1998, declaring that the land needed to be rezoned from small commercial to large commercial before the center could be built.

An appeal is pending.

The results of today's election are not to be released under order of the Ohio Supreme Court.

Opponents of the project are contesting the validity of petitions that forced the special election."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 6-1-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"Avon voters to decide fate of mall

AVON -- The ballot for voters in Avon today looks simple. It features just one issue: a proposed change in commercial zoning on a piece of land on Detroit Road just under 85 acres.

That change itself seems small, since both the shift from one business zoning classification to another will allow First Interstate Development to build stores and restaurants. The vote simply decides if the development will include smaller shops, or superstores ...

The road to today's special election began in November 1997 with First Interstate developer Mitchell Schneider's proposal for a major shopping center on Detroit Road, just east of SR 83.

Schneider's Avon Commons would be Avon's first major commercial development, beating a bigger proposal from developers Richard Stark and Dick Jacobs ...

Schneider's plans also included several stores larger than 20,000 square feet, which became a catalyst for controversy. Avon attorney Gerald Phillips [along with Stark/Jacobs lawyers Timothy Grendell and Tom Smith] contended such ''superstores'' would require Avon's residents to approve a commercial zoning change, and Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Thomas Janas agreed in a June 1998 decision.

The land's current classification only permits stores 20,000 square feet and smaller. The proposed change places more restrictions on the land regarding green space and restricts office buildings, but allows the larger superstores.

The proposed change, if approved today, also carries stricter provisions for buffers. Residents with abutting property could expect 85 feet separating them from the buildings, rather than the 10 feet previously required. Buildings would also be set back farther from the road -- at least 115 feet rather than the 15 feet currently required.

The issue was taken to the ballot in 1998, and the zoning change failed by just 47 votes.

Schneider then scrapped his Avon Commons proposal for a series of smaller strip malls and office buildings at the site that do not require any zoning changes ...

''There would be a larger number of smaller stores, and it's doubtful they would be the same quality national retailers,'' he said.

Some Avon residents didn't like Schneider's smaller store alternative.

''I was one of those residents who was confident Issue 14 would pass, so I didn't get involved,'' Bob Barnhart said of the previous election.

When confronted with Schneider's alternative, Barnhart swung into action. ''I didn't think that it was the best possibility, so I took the job to get the issue back on the ballot,'' he said.

Supporters like Barnhart collected about 2,400 signatures, creating the special election today.

But Phillips [and Grendell] kept fighting.

He reviewed the petitions, found signatures he believed were invalid and has taken his case all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court. The court had no time to consider Phillips' claim, so it ruled that today's vote should proceed but that the results be impounded, effectively sealing the outcome until the court has a chance to investigate.

Some believe Phillips' tactics are just a smokescreen.

''These are the same people who tried to block the library and the high school,'' said Avon Councilman Jack Kilroy. ''They can't deal with progress, so they go to the courts to block the will of the majority.''

''If it doesn't pass, we'll still end up with some tax revenue, but not as much,'' added Councilman Shaun Brady. ''The land will be developed piecemeal, and there won't be as much green space.''

Barnhart argues that the stability provided by the superstores would increase the city's revenue much more than a series of small stores.

''A higher quality mall would be much more beneficial to the community and the school system,'' he said.

Mayor Jim Smith points to the road improvements Schneider promised as part of his development -- something he said is needed ''even without the shopping center.''

''Most of our lights and turn lanes are rated at an F,'' Smith said. ''With those improvements, we'll be at a B in almost every intersection.''

The plan still has its opponents, however, especially those living in the area adjoining the proposed center.

Robert Ryant, a 35-year Avon resident, described the battle as ''a case of whose ox is being gored.'' Ryant, who lives on Old Center Road near the contested site, said he would prefer no building, ... Ryant doesn't believe Schneider will go ahead ... if he doesn't get the zoning change ...

Regardless of what happens today, Schneider will build something on the site. And although Avon City Council rejected the initial steps on Jacobs' giant Vista project, that development may not be dead yet ..."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM, 6-1-99, By Joe Mosbrook Jr.

"AVON - ... Results of the election will not be known immediately ...

Phillips said today that he will be at the Board of Elections tonight to ensure those results remain secret.

''If for some reason something leaks out, I'm going to the Supreme Court with a contempt order,'' he said. ''If any of that hits the street, I'll know who leaked it out.'' ...

Election officials are barred by the Supreme Court from discussing details of the election, including voter turnout, said Marilyn Jacobcik, director of the county Board of Elections.

''We can't say anything,'' she said. ''We'll count it up and send it to Columbus.''"

Newspaper Record of XXXXX/Jacobs in Avon

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

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