Newspaper Record of XXXXX/JACOBS in Avon,
Ohio -- June 24, 1999 to June 30, 1999

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6-30-99Official Avon Commons vote count

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 ...

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.' ...

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

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6-23-99: 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, 6-24-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"Avon Commons mall plan wins at ballot

AVON -- The Ohio Supreme Court has spoken; the people of Avon have spoken, and now Avon Commons is coming to town.

In a unanimous verdict yesterday [6-23-99], the Supreme Court denied claims that petition fraud invalidated the June 1 [1999] special election on zoning for the Avon Commons shopping center project.

The court then commanded the Lorain County Board of Elections to release election results, which showed that a decisive 60 percent of voters said yes to the 83-acre project, according to unofficial results. A total of 2,049 votes were in favor, with 1,345 against.

In a 1998 election, the zoning change failed by 47 votes, but then residents collected signatures to set up the June 1 special election ...

[Stark/Jacobs lawyer Timothy Grendell and] Gerald Phillips who lives near the proposed retail site claimed the June special election petitions were invalid ...

The Supreme Court had the results of the election sealed until it had time to consider those allegations.

In the decision written by Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, the court ruled that the motions filed to stop the June 1 special election were 'meritless.'

The decision ordered release of the results, saying Phillips' group had failed to specify its objections as the law requires and failed 'to act with the diligence and promptness required in election matters.' ...

A total of 3,420 votes were cast, making a turnout of 49.12 percent of registered Avon voters, according to the election board. The results will be certified at the Tuesday [6-29-99] meeting said Marilyn Jacobcik, elections board director. 'It is inconceivable the outcome could change,' she said.

In each district, including Ward 3, the closest to the proposed construction site, a solid majority voted in favor of the zoning change that would allow the retail development.

The court's decision said that by 'engaging in acts of gamesmanship that did not assist the Board [of Elections] in its objective of expeditiously determining their challenges' ... [the Phillips and Grendell group] made sealing the election necessary.

The group made 25 separate claims, 'most of which attacked the validity of petition signatures, but failed to specify the signatures involved in each challenge. Instead, (the group) chose to include a laundry list of general, alleged defects.'

That strategy, the court argued, left the petitioners with 120 petitions and over 2,400 signatures 'and no notice of which specific signatures were being challenged and for what reasons.'

More than a year has passed since Avon Commons was first discussed, and Mayor Jim Smith said the time has come for the city to move on.

'I'm sure the development will be first-class,' Smith said. 'And we'll make sure the tranquility of the neighbors is watched. We'll see that we get the best buffering possible for the neighborhood.' ...

First Interstate hopes to break ground by the end of summer, Schneider said. Before that, the plans are scheduled for review at Avon Planning Commission meetings July 14 and July 21. City Council also must approve the project.

'I'm pleased that it was such a significant majority,' Schneider said. 'I feel good about the way we conducted a campaign that really did educate the people.'

Many Avon Commons supporters echoed Schneider's sentiment and, like Smith, were glad the contentious issue is behind them.

'I feel the electorate eventually shows very good judgment on matters, and this is just another example of that,' said Bob Barnhart, the Avon resident who led the petition drive to put the issue back on the ballot. 'It's very satisfying -- I'm totally overwhelmed.'

Councilman Shawn Brady echoed Barnhart.

'It goes to show you the community is willing to embrace a first-class developer with a first-class project,' Brady said ..."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM, 6-24-99, By Joe Mosbrook Jr.

"Avon Commons passes ...

AVON -- The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday [6-23-99] that a special election this month [6-1-99] was indeed legal, a decision that unsealed ballots showing that voters overwhelmingly supported the rezoning of Avon Commons.

In a vote cast June 1, the measure passed 2,049 to 1,345, or 60.4 percent to 39.6 percent, by unofficial tallies. Voter turnout, at 49 percent, was high, despite that it was a single-issue election following a holiday weekend -- conditions that typically leave voters home, election officials said.

The issue, which failed at the polls by 47 votes in November, now allows superstores as large as 100,000 square feet in the proposed Detroit Road shopping center ...

The second election gave voters a better opportunity to weed through the controversy, Schneider said.

"I think this time we did a better job of educating the public,'' he said. "We overcame all the misinformation that was out there.''

Schneider was referring to a campaign against the shopping center led by local attorney and resident Gerald Phillips [and Stark/Jacobs lawyer Timothy Grendell].

[Grendell and] Phillips' main tactic was protesting the election's validity to the Lorain County Board of Elections and the state Supreme Court. Phillips argued that hundreds of petition signatures used to bring about the vote were invalid.

The Board of Elections disagreed with [the Grendell and] Phillips contention after a May 20 hearing on the matter. Following that hearing, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case just days before the election, but refused to rule until after the election.

The court ordered that the results of the election be sealed until its decision was handed down. When its unanimous decision came Wednesday, the court ruled that [the Grendell and] Phillips' case was 'meritless.'

Justices criticized Phillips for filing his protest late, a indication to the court that he "did not act with requisite diligence.''

Phillips filed his case with the high court on May 13, weeks after he had copies of the petitions. [Phillips xeroxed the petitions on 3-2-99 at the Avon City Hall, the same day the petitions were filed with the Avon Clerk of Council.]

"By not promptly submitting a statutorily sufficient protest and by engaging in gamesmanship that did not assist the Board (of Elections) in its objective, ... [Grendell and Phillips] necessitated our order to impound the ballots,'' wrote Chief Justice Thomas Moyer ...

Gerald Innes, the assistant county prosecutor who represents the Board of Elections, criticized [Grendell and] Phillips for purposely delaying a hearing on the election's validity ...

Mayor James Smith, who supported the rezoning issue, said the city will take precautions to ensure that the interests of residents who live near the site are met.

"We'll do everything we can to make this a good center,'' he said. "The planning commission will make sure everything is done properly.''"

NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 6-25-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"AVON -- ... First Interstate Development can build the upscale Avon Commons at SR 83 and Detroit Road.

The first stores should open in about a year, according to developer Mitchell Schneider, and although not everyone shopping yesterday morning had heard the news, they all seemed to realize that for better or worse, the area is about to change.

Many shop-owners thought the development might improve business.

Lill and Bill Pigg, who have served everything from pizza to donuts for 20 years as owners of Papo's Restaurant, were pleased with the decision.

'It's really going to be good,' Lill Pigg said. 'The people of Avon will do their errands in Avon and eating in Avon. It'll keep the money right in town.'

Bill Pigg agreed that the Commons wouldn't hurt Papo's.

'That's a whole different thing up there,' he said. 'What restaurants are they getting? Longhorn Steakhouse? I don't do steaks anyway.'

'And we'll get the overflow,' Lill Pigg added.

'Progress is coming,' Bill Pigg said, looking around the quiet dining room. 'I hope it's good.' ...

City officials ... say massive development of the area is not a given, since most of Detroit is still zoned for homes, not stores.

'Council has been hesitant in the past to change from residential to commercial zoning,' Mayor Jim Smith said. 'I can't think of a time they've ever done that.'

Smith pointed out that zoning on the Commons property was not changed from residential to commercial, but rather from one type of commercial to another.

'Especially along Detroit Road, they've been careful,' Smith said ..."

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 6-29-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"Avon easing restrictions on wetlands

AVON -- Avon City Council [6-28-99] voted unanimously to repeal its 2-year-old wetlands ordinance, sending a less-rigid policy to the Avon Planning Commission for consideration.

The proposed new law provides developers more flexibility on property where wetlands exist in exchange for a payment that will eventually be used to create replacement wetlands.

The previous wetlands law, pushed by then Council President Ed Krystowski in 1997, stopped developers from damaging or developing any wetlands, frustrating developers who found that a few large puddles could stop them from building ...

After watching a developer fight a losing battle to work around it, [Council President] Graczyk said he realized the law was no longer working.

'It was non-flexible,' he said. 'It basically said no one could do anything with wetlands. You're allowed to have an ordinance about wetlands, but you need to have reasons,' said Graczyk.

Mayor Jim Smith agreed, saying the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has its own rules for wetlands use that the city should have been content to follow.

'I'm always leery of doing something the federal government already does,' Smith said. 'It was past the realm of our capabilities as far as judging what wetlands are.'

Not only was the law too restrictive, but since council did not refer it to the planning commission before its vote as the law requires, Law Director Dan Stringer believes its 1997 passage was illegal ...

After removing the ordinance, council referred a new proposal to the planning commission, saying that only 'high quality' wetlands are protected.

The new version also calls for experts to find a piece of property suitable for Avon to build replacement wetlands within city limits. Developers who alter wetlands would pay into a fund to cover the cost of such a project ..."

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NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 6-30-99, By JoAnne Easterday

"A resounding YES vote on Avon Commons

After three weeks of waiting for the June 1 election outcome, the Ohio Supreme Court released the results of the referendum. The official count is 2,068 voted in favor of the zoning change to allow for Avon Commons. The no vote came in at 1,358. The totals represent almost 50 percent of the registered voters in the city.

Marilyn Jacobcik of the Lorain County Board of Elections said that when the Supreme Court released the impounded ballots, the board counted those and the provisional ballots; that is, absentee ballots. The results are certified.

Jacobcik noted the "harshness" of the opinion of the Supreme Court in their announcement concerning Gerald Phillips' and others' request to dismiss the results.

The opinion stated that the action was "meritless." The Court accused Phillips and Attorney Timothy Grendell of "engaging in gamesmanship" and "delaying tactics." The opinion admitted "relators" (Phillips and [Stark/Jacobs lawyer] Grendell) unjustified delaying tactics lead to our impoundment order and resulted in prejudice of the electors of Avon."

Phillips' complaint revolved around the idea that a significant number of signatures on the initiative petitions were not valid. The Board of Elections had considered and examined the complaint and determined there were enough valid signatures. Phillips took his complaint to the courts.

"Nearly every year we have some issue with Mr. Phillips that affects the election process," Jacobcik stated.

In Ward 3, one of the areas closest to the site for Avon Commons, and the ward with the highest opposition to the issue in last November's defeat of the zoning change, had 607 votes in favor with 442 no votes.

"What an ordeal," First Interstate Development President Mitchell Schneider said, of the proceedings his company has gone through since the plans for Avon Commons formalized about two years ago. After developing fully engineered technical plans, the development should get under way in the fall. Schneider said for his presentations to the planning commission and city council, he would proceed as was reported with the original plans with the traffic improvements, walking trail, gazebo and greenspace requirements.

Schneider will be "getting together" with the stores that had been waiting to hear the news of the elections ...

Regarding plans for Avon Vista located between Jaycox and Lear Roads, the project planned by the Jacobs Group; Schneider reiterated his previously stated stance of some months ago.

"I think that we will utilize our best efforts to protect our investment and that includes prohibiting other parcels of property from obtaining zoning that would allow for competitive projects.... My sense is that a similarly large-scale commercial project may not be the focal point of the Vista project; but we will have to wait to see what the plan shows," Schneider said.

Robert Barnhart, the former Avon School Superintendent who is credited with having resurrected the plans for rezoning, said he was "extremely pleased and gratified beyond my fondest thoughts that so many people got involved with the election process. I was a little apprehensive" because of the long wait for the Supreme Court's decision.

"I never heard of anything like this happening," Barnhart said.

Mayor James Smith, who has been in favor of the development, is intent on making sure First Interstate complies with their initial intent.

"We are going to make sure that there is considerable buffering between the development and any residences. We'll make sure they stick to the original plan with setbacks and with a lot of greenery to protect the neighborhood. It's going to be a nice project. He (Schneider) is a man of his word. He wants the project done first class and wants it done properly. No matter who you talk to, mayors or construction people, there are always positive comments about him (the developer)," Smith said ..."

NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 6-30-99, By Kim T. Dudek

"Vista developers view Commons vote as positive

Thomas Henneberry, executive vice-president at the Richard E. Jacobs Group, inc., said Monday that he thinks the yes vote to Avon Commons is a good thing for the city of Avon ...

"I don't really think the vote effects what our plans are," Henneberry said. "We are still moving forward with our plans for Vista."

Henneberry hopes to address the planning commission in July. "Now that the Commons problem is resolved, I think they they'll be happy to hear our plans," he said."

NEWS ARTICLE in the Akron Beacon Journal, June 30, 1999,

[Another frivolous law suit?]

"Rep. Diane Grendell sues over budget vote

A legislator has angered Republican colleagues by suing to recover $30,000 for her district that she claims was taken away in punishment for her vote against the state budget.

State Rep. Diane Grendell, R-Chesterland, filed the lawsuit Monday with the Ohio Supreme Court.

It claims that E.J. Thomas, chairman of the conference committee that worked out the final version of the $22.6 billion general fund budget, told her it would not include a $30,000 grant for the Geauga County Airport Authority if she would not promise her vote ...

Grendell said she believes removing the $30,000, which survived the House and Senate versions of the budget bill, violates legislative rules and the Ohio Constitution and makes the current budget illegal.

House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson said the airport issue was addressed by putting more money -- a total of $7.3 million -- into the county airport improvement fund ...

``This is really not a matter for the courts to decide. This is a matter for the House and the Senate,'' said Sen. Roy Ray, R-Bath Twp. and vice chairman of the conference committee, who called Grendell's lawsuit frivolous. ``Independent of her claim, there's a separation of powers.''"

Newspaper Record of XXXXX/Jacobs in Avon

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

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