7-1-99Charter Amendment to Avoid Petition Process
7-2-99Grendell & Phillips back at Supreme Court
7-7-99 Friends of Wetlands
7-14-99 Jacobs wants Avon to ask for interchange study
7-16-99 Jacobs thinks Avon wants his commercial development
7-22-99 Avon Commons Final Plat Approved
7-29-99 Phillips accuses Gar Downing to the Ohio Ethics Commission
7-31-99More on Charter Amendment to Avoid Petition Process
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 ..."
NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 6-30-99, By Kim T. Dudek
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 ...
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 from THE CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM, 7-1-99, By Joe Mosbrook Jr.
"Avon eyes ballot for tough decisions
AVON -- City officials will debate a proposed charter amendment on Tuesday [7-6-99] that would allow Council to send any pending decision directly to residents for a vote.
Some issues are simply too large to place on Council's shoulders, such as zoning changes for major developments, Mayor James Smith said.
"When it comes to something that will change the outcome of the whole city, I don't see why the electorate shouldn't consider it,'' he said. "Tough decisions are sometimes too big for Council.''
But David Mast, a local attorney who chaired the city's 1998 Charter Review Commission, called the proposal a bad idea.
"This is the ultimate abdication of responsibility I have ever seen,'' Mast said. "How do you decide which issues to send to the voters? Do you allow it for one developer and not another? You're opening yourself up to all sorts of lawsuits.''
Fourth-Ward Councilman Jack Kilroy said the charter amendment proposal appears well-intentioned, but would allow Council to shirk thorny issues.
"The people elect us to do a job and research the issues,'' Kilroy said. "I don't think we should throw it back at them.''
If voters are adamantly opposed to a Council decision they have the option of bringing about a referendum, Kilroy said ...
Council members will consider the charter amendment 7:30 p.m. Tuesday during a public work session. City Hall will be closed on Monday."
NEWS ARTICLE from THE PLAIN DEALER, 7-2-99, By THOMAS SUDDES
"Montgomery moves to stop legislator's suit
COLUMBUS - Attorney General Betty D. Montgomery yesterday asked the state Supreme Court to junk a Geauga County legislator's lawsuit against Ohio General Assembly colleagues and to punish the legislator's lawyers for filing a frivolous action.
The suit, filed Monday by Rep. Diane Grendell, a Chester Township Republican, asked the high court to reinsert in Ohio's $22.6 billion non-education budget a $30,000 appropriation for the Geauga County Airport Authority ...
Montgomery also asked the court to sanction the two lawyers acting for Grendell, including her husband, Timothy J. Grendell. If sanctioned for a frivolous lawsuit, lawyers can be ordered to pay the other side's expenses and lawyer fees.
Montgomery charged "no reasonable attorney could believe good grounds exist" for the action. Timothy Grendell, as a taxpayer [milk the State?], is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Rep. Grendell's other lawyer is Gerald W. Phillips of Avon ...
Said Phillips, "This case clearly has merit... We will fight this to the very end." ..."
EDITORIAL from THE PLAIN DEALER, 7-3-99
"Grendell's $30,000 tantrum
State Rep. Diane V. Grendell has garnered headlines for everything from suing her husband's ex-wife for libel to using the Ohio State Highway Patrol to ferry her to Columbus after a bad snowstorm.
But none of Grendell's previous antics can match the spectacle she's making of herself with a lawsuit she filed against the Ohio General Assembly ...
Geauga County voters deserve the benefits of a legislator more interested in legislating than litigating."
ARTICLE from THE FRIENDS OF WETLANDS NEWSLETTER, 6-99, By Kathy Herbst
"Update on Avon Commons vs Vista, 85 acres vs 500 acres.
Editor John Katko (email@example.com) writes:
The results of the June 1  Avon referendum to rezone some commercial land for more intensive use ... [The rezoning from C2 to C3 would result in LESS intensive use because of the C3 30% greenspace requirement -- compare with 20% for C2] ... have been impounded until the courts rule on whether the enabling petitions were valid.
Many opponents of the referendum don't want any commercial development, and there is an assumption by some people that this court challenge has been brought forward by these conservationist opponents who fear the referendum results will allow this Schneider project, Avon Commons, to go forward.
However, Mrs. Herbst, who owns property at the edge of the land marked for the much larger 'Vista' project by Stark and Jacobs (cf. the December 97 and March 98 newsletters), and who has been closely following these developments for some time, offers a different analysis of the situation.
The votes are in and counted, but the results are known only by Marilyn Jacobcik and one other employee of the Board of Elections who is verifying the count.
Although a special election took place 6-1-99 to change the zoning of 85 acres of land on Detroit east of SR 83 from C2 to C3 (to allow Avon Commons Shopping Center), the result of the vote has been impounded by the Ohio Supreme Court until they have a chance to evaluate the merits of a complaint by attorneys Gerald Phillips and Timothy Grendell.
Phillips and Grendell claim the election should not have been allowed due to fraud, deception, and errors made by the citizens committee who got over 2300 signatures on a petition supporting the zoning change. I can understand Phillips not wanting a shopping center across the street from his house, but where and how does Mr. Grendell fit into the picture?
Mr. Grendell is a lawyer who has worked for shopping center developer Robert L. Stark who has to his credit The Promenade in Westlake and The Strip south of Canton. Robert L Stark and Richard E. Jacobs had formed a partnership to develop the 500 acre project named Vista in the NE corner of Avon that included a new interchange on I-90 at Nagel Rd.
The best reason Mr. Stark could give for putting in the interchange was that it would make the distance between interchanges consistent (i.e.every two miles instead of a four mile gap). Early talk of this from the developer's representative included 4 superstores and all the buildings they could fit between Nagel and Jaycox Rds., I-90 and Detroit Rd.
Mr. Stark is no longer with the project. Current pictures show the proposed commercial portion of the Vista Project has been changed to North of I-90 (due to public opinion??) where Jacobs has purchased 222 acres that is currently zoned industrial. Jacobs and Stark held separate options on approx. 300 acres South of I-90 which is proposed to be developed office park, retail, and residential with a 30 acre park, presently wooded wetlands.
The Vista Project would require a new zoning classification in Avon called "multi-use". In my opinion it should be called "Developer's Carte Blanche".
Some info about both (Vista and Avon Commons) projects:
The 500 acres for the Vista project includes woods, wooded wet- lands, wetlands, and land currently used agriculturally for crops and vineyards.
The Vista project will have railroad tracks on the North as the only boundary. Attempts have been made by the Jacobs Group to obtain more land West of Nagel Rd., north of I-90. Queries have been made almost to SR 83 according to one landowner.
Back to Avon Commons: If it's not an either/or decision, why did Tony Wiegand, using Jacobs Corp Headquarters address form a PAC that spent close to $50,000 attempting to defeat the Avon Commons issue last November? Bob Stark stated at an early presentation that there would only be one shopping center in Avon.
Some citizens in Avon, myself included, are of the opinion that if Avon Commons does not go in under C3 zoning that the 500 acre Vista project could go in even if citizens voted it down because Avon only has 19 acres of C3 zoned property.
It COULD be argued in court that 19 acres is not enough retail space to serve the needs of 75,000 people,( Avon at total build-out). Whether or not they could win in court is a MOOT POINT...AVON DOESN'T HAVE THE MONEY TO FIGHT THEM IN COURT. If we have to have commercial let's have the smaller of the two."
Friends of Wetlands is a local grassroots organization fighting to preserve the remaining seven percent of Ohio's swamps, marshes, bogs, fens and other wet places. The group does this through public education, monitoring and shaping government policy, providing guidance to people trying to preserve a specific wetland, and developing resources and networks that facilitate wetlands conservation.
Friends of Wetlands (FOWL) is a not-for-profit group dedicated to the preservation and restoration of wetlands throughout northern Ohio and the United States.
For more information:
Friends of Wetlands at P.O. Box 2016, Elyria, OH 44036. (440) 324-7522
FOWL - Friends of Wetlands
NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 7-14-99, By JoAnne Easterday
"Avon Vista plans to come before planning commission in August 
Thomas W. Henneberry, executive vice president of the Richard E. Jacobs Group, Inc., plans to represent the idea for Avon Vista to the planning commission next month ...
With all the recent residential and industrial growth, Henneberry believes the citizens will see the need to foster a traffic study in the area of Interstate 90 and the proposed interchange in the area of Nagel Road ..."
NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 7-15-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer
"Commons zoning on fast track
AVON -- In stark contrast to the packed halls and contentious battles of his past appearances, an audience of four watched developer Mitchell Schneider breeze through a presentation of preliminary plans for Avon Commons last night.
Schneider, president of First Interstate Development, presented basic plans for the 85-acre shopping center on Detroit Road just east of SR 83 to the Planning Commission, which seemed ready to give preliminary approval as early as next week.
'I don't think anything prevents us from suspending the rules and acting on it next week,' said Paul Burik, acting chairman of the Planning Commission.
The shopping center's public hearing will be held before next week's meeting ...
Construction on the shopping center site is expected to begin in the fall, Schneider said, although the company has yet to finish its final development plans.
'We'll do that in the next four weeks or so,' Schneider said. 'By September, we should have final development approval.' ..."
NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 7-16-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer
"Vista plan set to return
AVON -- With a promise they have no intention of leaving Avon, a Jacobs Group executive said their 500-acre retail, office and residential development will be back before city officials by September ...
Beginning plans for that property will probably be presented to the city in August or September, possibly in an informal work session, Henneberry said.
In March, the Jacobs Group, along with partner Robert L. Stark Enterprises, proposed the first step for the 'Vista' project -- a traffic study for a new I-90 interchange at Lear-Nagel Road.
Council flatly rejected the idea without even taking a vote.
But the Jacobs Group, which is now working alone on the project since Stark's departure, is used to resistance ...
Some in Avon speculated that the approval of the 85-acre Avon Commons shopping center would deter the Jacobs Group, but the recent special election vote has had an opposite result, said Henneberry.
'That vote sends a signal that Avon is still pro-growth,' Henneberry said. 'They voted in favor of Avon Commons; they want development.'
Councilman Jack Kilroy, who spoke against the I-90 interchange traffic study in March, disagreed with Henneberry's take.
'I think he's reading it dead wrong,' Kilroy said. 'It was a vote for growth within the existing zoning. But this project [Vista] is grossly disproportionate to anything in the area ...
While a new interchange on I-90 would be necessary for the project, Henneberry said that an interchange is needed regardless of the property's use.
'Someone on Avon Council made the statement, 'We like our land use plan,'' he said. 'But they can't develop the existing land use plan because they don't have the infrastructure.'
Mayor Jim Smith disagreed, saying that although residential traffic is jamming the city, industries like Manco, located near Jacobs' proposed interchange, have not generated traffic problems.
'We could put another 20 Mancos and it wouldn't stress it that much,' Smith said.
The lack of another interchange has not hurt the city's ability to sell land, Smith added ...
If Avon allows retail in the acreage north of I-90, the [Jacobs] company could make a greater profit than with the land's current industrial zoning, generating more money for the interchange, Henneberry said ..."
NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 7-16-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer
"Jacobs Group hopes to use zoning Avon doesn't have
WESTLAKE -- Rather than lobby Avon city officials and citizens to approve a series of zoning changes, Jacobs Group executives hope to develop up to 500 acres under zoning criteria the city does not currently have in its code.
The group hopes to use a 'planned unit development zone,' which would allow more latitude for large-scale projects like the proposed Vista, said Thomas Henneberry, executive vice president for the Jacobs Group ...
Mayor Jim Smith was sceptical.
'I don't know if it's an option the city would look at,' he said. 'The city has always wanted control over the property in the community -- not when it would be developed, but how. And planned unit developments take away some of that control.' ...
Chagrin Highlands' first building, a four story, 112,000-square-foot office building, opens in eight days -- just 11 years after the Jacobs Group began work on it in 1988.
Chagrin Highlands and Vista have more in common than being large, planned-unit, Jacobs Group proposals. Like Vista, a big part of Chagrin Highlands was an additional highway interchange partially sponsored by Jacobs ..." [How much of the interchange cost, for the benefit of Jacobs, would fall on the taxpayers?]
NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 7-22-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer
"AVON -- Preliminary plans for Avon Commons retail development received unanimous approval from the city's Planning Commission last night [7-21-99], as the public hearing for the 85-acre shopping center drew criticism from just one individual -- longtime Commons foe Gerald Phillips ...
While the Planning Commission gave approval to preliminary plans last night, final approval for the specifics of building and architecture is still needed, as well as Council's approval of the project's subdivider's agreement.
Schneider indicated that would happen soon, saying the company wanted the project to move 'quickly.'
Council's approval, if granted, will be the first new step in the process since 1998 ...
Finally, the three-year process is reaching the end of the road, as First Interstate hopes to break ground by September, with the first stores opening next summer ..."
NEWS ARTICLE from THE SUN, 7-29-99, By CHANEL CHAMBERS, Staff Writer
"AVON -- The conflict of interest allegation filed [with the Ohio Ethics Commission] against Gar Downing, a consulting engineer for the city [by Gerald Phillips], is untrue, according to Law Director Daniel Stringer ...
The city selected Downing Technical Services Inc., owned by Downing, to review plans for Avon Commons, a commercial development planned ... by First Interstate Development Company ...
Downing was hired to review the plans after Michael Bramhall, who performs most of the city's engineering work, withdrew from the review process. Bramhall excused himself from reviewing most of First Interstate's projects to avoid potential conflicts of interest ...
Phillips claims Downing also should have excused himself from reviewing First Interstate's plans because he often does contracting work for Bramhall's engineering firm ...
Downing, however, said he is a consultant, not an employee, of Bramhall Engineering, and insists there is a big difference between the two. He added he has not been on Bramhall's payroll since 1997.
"My reviews are objective, and I have no political connections of any kind. I don't even live in Avon," he said. "I have only one interest at heart, and that is to protect the engineering issues that the city wants me to protect. I've been doing the reviews for almost three years, and this is the first time anyone has ever questioned it."
Stringer said both Downing and Bramhall asked him for advice when Downing was first appointed to do the First Interstate work. Stringer said he, in turn, asked the Ohio Ethics Commission for advice."
NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 7-31-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer
[More on Charter Amendment to Avoid Petition Process]
"AVON -- Issues that members of Avon City Council consider to be too controversial could skip any type of legislative debate and be placed on a ballot for a citywide vote if a proposed ordinance is approved.
Under the proposed ordinance, a majority of Council could approve submitting a question to the electorate on a regular November ballot rather than taking any type of vote themselves.
Mayor Jim Smith said the plan 'could be excellent, or could be terrible.'
'If they use it as a crutch, it will be bad,' he said. 'If it would be strictly adhered to on certain issues with major effect, that's another thing.'
Although partly a reaction to the controversial Avon Commons project, Council President Ted Graczyk said the ordinance is more accurately seen as preparation for future, bigger developments.
'Anyone who doesn't think the Vista project is going to be coming up in three or four years ought to have their head examined,' Graczyk said.
Developer Dick Jacobs has proposed funding a new I-90 interchange at Nagel Road to facilitate his 500-acre Vista project, and although Council sent him away once without a vote, Jacobs Group officials have said they plan to return ...
Graczyk said that overuse of the referral option is unlikely.
'I've sat on Council for six years,' he said. 'I don't know that Council has ever backed down from its responsibility.'
Ward 4 Councilman Jack Kilroy disagreed, saying that any use of the policy would be overuse.
'I wouldn't want to deprive voters of their right to overrule Council, but they have that,' he said, referring to referendums, in which residents petition for issues to be placed on the ballot. 'We should be accountable. People need to take a stand, even if it's controversial.'
With Avon's small size, Kilroy said, council members can easily gauge public opinion.
'The level of decisions that had to made in the past couple years scared some people on council,' he said. 'They didn't want to deal with situations, and they said they wished they had a way to leave it to the voters. But we're there to do a job.'
At-large Councilman Shaun Brady felt similar to Kilroy, but admitted he has changed his mind.
'If our city was like Bay Village, where we were just doing basic business, there would be no need for it,' he said. 'But 80 percent of our land has yet to be developed. These are issues where we need to get the voter's input.'
Brady proposed that the majority necessary for a referral be changed from two-thirds to three-fourths, meaning that six of Council's seven members would have to vote to send an ordinance to voters.
'We have a really attentive electorate,' he said, suggesting that voters would get 'aggravated' with a Council that referred many items rather than taking a stand. 'Between that and the three-fourths majority, I think that'll keep it from being abused.'' "
Newspaper Record of XXXXX/Jacobs in Avon
More Documents Relating to the June 8, 1998, Decision Against Avon