Newspaper Record of XXXXX/JACOBS in Avon,
Ohio -- June 2, 1999 to June 23, 1999

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6-11-99Krystowski in Review
6-23-99 Avon Commons Wins!


"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.''"

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NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 6-2-99, By JoAnne Easterday

"The ballots are cast. The election complete. The story may be over regarding the outcome for Avon Commons or Avon Business Park, but ... Gerald Phillips may have to answer to allegations that he "submitted 'false leads' with the intent of impeding the discovery of the truth."

Assistant County Prosecutor Gerald Innes, representing the Lorain County Board of Elections, ... enumerated bit by bit, in an eleven page "summary of facts" the events involved with Phillips' complaint about the Board of Elections to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Phillips and others [such as Stark/Jacobs lawyer Timothy Grendell] "submitted voluminous 'false leads' with the intent of impeding the discovery of the truth ... That shows they have never intended to allow a fair examination of the evidence. Instead, they have only sought to trick (the board) into some procedural error through which they could prevent the citizens of Avon from voting on this matter," the memorandum said.

Phillips employed a "shotgun" approach. That approach "set forth every possible challenge that could be made without specifically identifying any particular error in the petition," the memorandum said.

Innes asked the court not to reward Phillips [and Grendell] because ... They "should not be rewarded for their dilatory tactics and refusal to cooperate." ...

First Interstate Development President, Mitchell Schneider, still has a court case in the wings regarding Phillips making false accusations regarding his business and Avon Commons ..."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE PLAIN DEALER, 6-2-99, By Rich Exner

"AVON - It was an election unlike any other in Marilyn A. Jacobcik's six years as director of the Lorain County Board of Elections.

Moments before the polls closed in Avon yesterday, Jacobcik met with the four-member board in Elyria to go over procedures to comply with the Ohio Supreme Court's May 21 order to seal the results and impound the ballots.

The fate of a proposed shopping center is to be kept secret not only from the general public but also from the board members and other election employees while the court considers a protest [filed by Gerald Phillips and Stark/Jacobs lawyer Timothy Grendell] that the election should have never been allowed to take place.

Only Jacobcik and Deputy Director Iris E. Gracia, who needed to check to make sure the counting was done correctly, would know the outcome, Jacobcik said. The result was to be sealed in an envelope for the Supreme Court.

Then the board office, normally an election night meeting place for people concerned with results, was closed to outsiders, and Jacobcik said she would make no further comment.

The chief supporter of the proposed shopping center, Bob Barnhart, and the chief critic, Gerald Phillips, could only watch the office from the parking lot ...

City officials and the county board ruled in favor of Barnhart's group in scheduling the election.

The uncertainty over whether their votes will ever count did not stop hundreds of people from heading to the polls yesterday.

"It's a better turnout than for anything other than a presidential election," said jane Ehman, presiding judge at the polling place in Avon Fire Station No. 2. Poll workers elsewhere reported similar activity, though no specific numbers were available.

Wolfgang Staub, a 42-year resident of Avon, said the issue was too important to stay away ...

"I firmly believe that is where you voice your opinion," he said in pointing toward his polling place. "That's where it is supposed to be settled, not in the courts."

Several people questioned outside the polls said they voted in favor of the zoning changes because Avon needs more stores ..."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 6-2-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"Wait begins for Avon mall results

Informal poll shows most voters support zoning change

AVON -- Days and even weeks could pass before the Ohio Supreme Court concludes proceedings and the results of the special election for the Avon Commons development are made public, but a majority of voters polled yesterday said they voted in support of the proposal.

An informal poll conducted by The Morning Journal covering all four wards in the city showed more respondents in favor of the shopping center than against it.

Out of the 119 voters who were willing to discuss how they voted yesterday, which represents about 3 percent of Avon residents who voted in November, about 60 percent indicated they voted in favor of the zoning change for the proposed development.

The ballot featured just one issue: whether or not to change the zoning on 85 acres off Detroit Road, to allow a strip mall with superstores to be built.

If the voters reject the change, developer Mitchell Schneider has said he will build a series of smaller shopping centers and office buildings.

Schneider said he would not be surprised if the actual results mirror The Morning Journal poll.

''It seems as though it was a high turnout, and the stronger the turnout, the more likely that we will do well,'' he said.

All stations except Avon Village Elementary ... showed solid majorities in support of the zoning change.

Isabelle Wimmer, a resident of Avon for 44 years, said she voted for the change because she felt Avon Commons was better than the alternative.

''I feel the stores are coming no matter what,'' she said. ''I would rather have them look presentable when they do.''

Lee Messenhimer, a 65-year-old electrical engineer, also voted yes. He said viewing the Avon Commons' promotional video helped him make up his mind.

''The opponents talk about urban sprawl. However, the video indicates there will be more sprawl if it fails,'' Messenhimer said. ''They said it won't stop development. It'll just give us a bunch of little stores.'' ...

Rosaline Caramelli, a 61-year-old seamstress, said, ''... This is farm country. We've got to keep it like it is ...''

Voters rejected the proposal last November by less than 50 votes, but a group of citizens gathered enough signatures to put the issue back on the ballot for yesterday's special election ...

Phillips' complaint was rejected by the Lorain County Board of Elections, but a similar appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court is pending. The state's high court ordered yesterday's results ''impounded'' until the court rules on Phillips' complaint.

If Phillips' complaint is rejected, the election stands and the results will be made public, but if the Supreme Court sides with Phillips, the special election would be invalid."


"Voter turnout good for Avon Commons

AVON -- ... Bob Sparks of French Creek Road said he switched his vote, from opposing Avon Commons last year to being in favor of it on Tuesday.

Sparks said he changed his mind after he learned developer Mitchell Schneider planned to build smaller stores and office buildings at the site if the property was not rezoned.

"Why vote against it if he's going to build anyway,'' Sparks said. "The larger plan is better.''

Schneider said he conducted surveys last month that showed the number of voters supporting Avon Commons had doubled since November.

"In an election like this, people who are against it tend to be more apt to come out and vote,'' he said. "So for us, it became an issue of getting (more) people to come out to vote.''

Schneider said he did not conduct his own exit poll on Tuesday.

An official count of the voter turnout also was sealed by the Supreme Court, but poll workers said voter traffic in and out of precincts had been brisk.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide in the next few weeks whether the special election was legally conducted, a court spokeswoman said.

The court intervened after attorney Gerald Phillips filed a motion contending some signatures on the petition to place the initiative before voters were invalid ...

Being denied the results of the election by the high court did not seem to phase some voters, but others, like George Hickernell of Shakespeare Lane, wondered if the election mattered at all.

"I had to explain it to my wife this morning why we're voting again,'' he said. "I think some people are confused why the Supreme Court is holding the results.'' ...

"We're sick of all the backstabbing and political nonsense,'' said Carolyn Nieman of Falcon Crest Avenue, as she left the polls. "It's hard to know who to believe.'' ...

Linda Kugler of Peregrine Avenue disagreed. The zoning change requires a better planned development, she said, which would benefit the city. The controversy surrounding the issue simply leads people to a better understanding, she said.

"People are making a more informed decision. It's all part of the process. In some ways the controversy is necessary,'' Kugler said.

Nick Rak of Meadow Lane agreed. He said he voted for the zoning change hoping the development will bring the city needed tax revenues.

"The larger developments are built better than some of these small strip centers built 10 years ago that are falling apart,'' Rak said ..."

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"Ballots locked to await Supreme Court's decision

AVON -- For Ray Rida, owner of Blue Chip Beverage, a wine shop in the heart of Avon's historic French Creek District, Tuesday's special election [6-1-99] was a matter of economics.

He said the site for the proposed Avon Commons mall only would draw customers away from the smaller family-owned establishments, like his, in town. [The Planning Commission thinks Avon Commons will bring more customers into the area for the benefit of the entire French Creek District.]

Developer Mitchell Schneider proposed rezoning an 85-acre parcel of land near the intersection of Detroit and Center Roads to build Avon Commons. Schneider hopes the mall will attract national tenants such as Old Navy clothing store, Cinemark Theaters, Target stores and Linens 'n' Things housewares store ...

Although voters went to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to rezone the land for Schneider's project, the official results won't be known until the Ohio Supreme Court rules on the validity of the election. Until then, the votes will be sealed and kept in Columbus.

Attorney Gerald Phillips, who lives on Detroit Road across the street from the site of the proposed development, claims the petitions which led the issue to the ballot are invalid due to circulation irregularities. When the Lorain County Board of Elections refused to cancel the election, Phillips [with Stark/Jacobs lawyer Timothy Grendell] appealed the matter to the state's highest court.

Betty Guelker, who has lived in Avon for about 50 years, said she is worried about the mall ruining the city's character.

"This is a little, rural town. How are these people going to raise their babies when they have to watch out for traffic?" she asked, pointing to a family with a young child in tow.

The rezoning issue failed by 47 votes when it first appeared on the ballot in last year's general election. In the aftermath of the November campaign, many voters expressed concern about their votes, saying they were misled by Phillips' campaign.

Some said they believed voting against the rezoning would prevent any development on the site. This proved to be false, because soon after the election, Schneider presented plans for Park Square and Avon Business Park, two developments that would be allowed under current zoning guidelines.

Judy Schlather is one such voter. Although she voted against the rezoning in November, she said she voted for it this time because she felt she was "misinformed" last year.

"No matter what, there is going to be development there, and it should be planned," she said."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 6-3-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"AVON -- Both sides in the Avon Commons battle said they are content to wait for the results of Tuesday's election, and this time, both sides claim they will let the decision stand.

The Ohio Supreme Court has sealed the results of Tuesday's special election until it has time to consider allegations of voter fraud. The vote was to settle a zoning issue that if approved would allow for the construction of a deluxe retail area with restaurants, superstores a paved walkway and community gazebo.

While some predict a decision could come as early as next week, Tuesday's election results are a mystery for now.

What is clear is how much Avon residents cared about the vote. Both Mayor Jim Smith and Avon Commons developer Mitchell Schneider both said estimates they received indicated about half the registered voters in Avon cast ballots Tuesday.

''It was a very large turnout for a single-issue ballot,'' Mayor Smith said.

High voter turnout was considered a good sign for passage of the proposed zoning change, Schneider said.

''We have felt that the better the turnout, the more likely it passed,'' he said.

Anti-Commons activist Gerald Phillips agreed that more votes probably meant more votes for Schneider ...

Schneider said that waiting for the Court will not impact his building schedule.

He has not yet hired an architect to design either the shopping center or the proposed alternative development for the site, so construction was not scheduled to begin until the end of the summer, regardless of the decision, he said.

''We intend to begin building in August or September,'' Schneider said. ''We'd expect the first stores to open in 10 or 11 months, and continue to open stores throughout the fall.''

If either the Ohio Supreme Court cancels the election or the voters reject the zoning change needed for Avon Commons, Schneider plans to begin his alternate plan on roughly the same timeline.

''We would start work on the Avon Business Park in late summer,'' he said, explaining that its first phase would be much quicker to build, but the plan as a whole would take longer -- up to seven years for the entire area to be developed.

Other key players claimed to be equally nonchalant yesterday.

Smith said he is not thinking much about the issue, but is confident the Court will allow the election to stand.

''I haven't heard a thing,'' he said. ''I'm just going to sit back, relax, wait for them to tabulate the vote and wait for the Supreme Court to rule.''

Pro-Commons activist Bob Barnhart, who led the petition drive being challenged by Phillips said he is ''optimistic.''

''I have a gut feeling that by next Tuesday the results will be released,'' he said. ''I'm certainly curious, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.''

Barnhart added that if the Commons fails this time, he won't bring it back again.

''I've done what I can do,'' he said. ..."


"As a 32-year Avon resident, I have never before experienced an election day without a winner or loser.

The Supreme Court of Ohio has made an error to withhold the results of our special election on June 1.

I support Avon Commons. I have knocked on doors, gathered petition signatures, put up yard signs, and attended public meetings in support of this progress of our community.

It disturbs me that the Ohio Supreme Court can strip the privilege of election day away from us. I don't believe there is a resident in Avon who does not want to know the results of this election.

Mr. Phillips fought to change our city's charter so we could vote on zoning changes, and now he files a motion in the Supreme Court to suppress the results of the election. [Were the results of the Jacobs survey made available to Phillips during the petition drive?]

I am not alone in my disapproval. The Lorain County Prosecutor said Phillips had 'not acted in good faith.'

We ask that the Supreme Court of Ohio make good on their promise to the people of this state to uphold justice and let us know the results of this special election.

Win or lose, we deserve to know!"

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Announcement from the OHIO SUPREME COURT, Monday, June 7, 1999

"MOTION DOCKET 99-941. State ex rel. The Ryant Commt. v. Lorain Cty. Bd. of Elections. In Prohibition. This cause originated in this court on the filing of a complaint for a writ of prohibition regarding an expedited election matter.

Upon consideration of the motion for leave to intervene by the city of Avon, IT IS ORDERED by the court that the motion for leave to intervene by the city of Avon be, and hereby is, denied.

F.E. Sweeney, Pfeifer and Lundberg Stratton, JJ., dissent."

LETTER TO THE EDITOR of THE PRESS, 6-9-99, By Bob Barnhart

"The votes have been cast and we all await the results with a certain degree of anxiety and apprenhension! Nevertheless, I'd like to compliment each of our committee members for their cooperation, hard work and integrity during our campaign.

While I am hopeful that our issue is successful, I can truthfully say that I have been very pleased with the conduct of our committee over the past three to four months. Our basic theme was to present factual information to the citizens of Avon and refrain from any personal or character attacks.

I believe our committee members conducted themselves in a very positive and professional manner.

In addition, our committee extends a most sincere "thank you" to the many Avon citizens who welcomed us into their homes, signed our petitions, and supported us with their Yes vote on June 1, 1999.

It is important for all Avonites, at this time, to put our differences behind us and work together on future challenges to keep Avon a great place to live. Regardless of the final outcome of the June 1 vote, I pledge myself to that goal."


"Krystowski indicted ...

When he resigned last May, Krystowski was adamant it was not due to The Morning Journal's investigation. He said he stepped down because ''rumors and lies'' were being spread about him. He has not appeared at a council meeting since ...

Councilman Shaun Brady, ... said only, ''I think it's unfortunate.'' Mayor Jim Smith ... was equally tight-lipped yesterday. ''All I'm going to say is that it's just too bad,'' Smith said. ''I just feel very bad.'' ..."

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 6-11-99, By JOYCE McCARTNEY, Morning Journal Writer

"Krystowski free on bond in bribe case ...

Krystowski Chronology ...

May 11, 1998: Councilmen Shaun Brady and Jack Kilroy publicly accuse Krystowski of trying to stall the proposed Avon Commons shopping center in order to give rival developer Richard Jacobs an advantage ..."


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NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 6-16-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"Superstore to open in Avon in November

AVON -- The land has been cleared, the ground is ready to be broken, and BJ's Wholesale Club, Avon's first 'superstore,' will open on SR 611 in November, First Interstate Development President Mitchell Schneider said.

The building will cover 108,268 square feet of a 17.2 acre site on SR 611 abutting Moore Road, site drawings show ...

BJ's is a wholesale club chain with stores spanning the eastern U.S., according to the company's website. Food is 61 percent of the company's sales; the rest is general merchandise, including everything from eyewear to electronics to apparel, the website said.

In 1998, BJ's opened its first Ohio stores in North Canton, Willoughby and Akron. It added a store in Dublin in February of this year.

The company is growing fast, increasing from 87 stores to 97 in just one year, according to the company's website.

First Interstate owns a total of 20 acres at the site. After BJ's is constructed, up to four more buildings could be added, Schneider said.

The company is negotiating 'primarily' with restaurants, Schneider said, but it has no signed commitments.

Two of those buildings could join BJ's on its 17-acre lot, which is zoned for bigger stores and carries stricter requirements for construction.

Site plans show that First Interstate will add a traffic light on 611 and a turn lane in front of the store's entrance.

'The traffic study indicated that would fully address the traffic issues for the facility,' Schneider said.

BJ's will include a parking lot with 604 spaces and feature 55 percent greenspace, according to site plans.

Avon's Planning Commission had approved the store's construction without knowing who would occupy it. First Interstate had BJ's in mind for the location all along, Schneider said.

And unlike the Avon Commons shopping center planned for 85 acres on SR 83, BJ's was easily approved, Schneider said.

'There was no controversy with respect to this project,' he said.

Approval of the plans was 'cut and dry,' added Smith, because the property had been zoned for superstores long ago.

'You knew it was just a matter of time,' he said.

Schneider was on tonight's Planning Commission agenda to present plans for Avon Commons, but because the case is still tied up in the Supreme Court, that has been canceled, he said.

'We won't make our formal presentation before the results are resolved,' Schneider said.

The Supreme Court sealed the results of the June 1 election that would authorize the zoning change necessary for Avon Commons' construction.

If the court rejects the Commons, the first phase of First Interstate's backup plan has already been approved by Planning Commission, said Chairman Jim Piazza."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 6-22-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"AVON -- ... [At the Council meeting on 6-21-99] several proposed policies were discussed, all inspired by the legal wrangling over the proposed Avon Commons shopping center. One proposed change would give petitioners 60 days, not 30 days, to gather signatures to challenge a zoning change.

Planning Commission member Tom Wearsch pointed out that with such a rule, zoning changes would similarly not take effect for 60 days.

'Otherwise, you would have new zoning in effect for 30 days before the referendum comes up,' he said.

Another proposal would allow City Council to put controversial matters to a city-wide vote whenever it chooses.

'It would be good to have the discretion to submit matters to the electorate,' said Law Director Dan Stringer. 'Right now, we don't have that authority.'

But Kilroy said it is council's responsibility to take on controversial issues.

'In this city we have too many special elections as opposed to not enough,' Kilroy said. 'I'm a little uncomfortable with bumping hot issues to the voters because council's afraid to touch them.'"

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AVON COMMONS WINS! ----- 2049 yes, 1345 no

The Ohio Supreme Court has denied the Grendell - Phillips challenge to the June 1, 1999, election.

NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 6-23-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"Avon Commons developer to present plans

AVON -- A confident Mitchell Schneider has scheduled a special meeting July 14 ...

Schneider, president of First Interstate Development, said his company is fairly positive the court's decision would be handed down in time for the meeting -- and would be in their favor.

'We're feeling pretty confident,' he admitted.

Schneider's company will pay a non-refundable $300 fee to cover the cost of the special meeting, Planning Commission Chair Jim Piazza said.

'We want to go forward as soon as possible and get the ground broken as soon as possible,' Schneider said. 'We're presuming by the 14th, we ought to have a result.'

At the meeting, Schneider will formally present the same plans he showed Planning Commission in April, he said.

'Comments came from the commission was that it was even better than the plan they had approved previously,' Schneider said. 'I would certainly think that the review process will proceed fairly quickly this time.'

The final plans are now scheduled for the planning meeting July 21, which would allow First Interstate to break ground by the end of the summer, Schneider said. The first stores should open 12 months after that, with the entire project completed six months later.

Schneider said that the wait for a go-ahead has not affected the center's prospective lineup of retailers.

'They're all just waiting for the results of the election,' he said, adding that although no formal agreements can be signed until the legal battles are over, 'all the same names' are still interested ..."

Newspaper Record of XXXXX/Jacobs in Avon

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

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