8-8-00 Avon wary of new exit off I-90
8-19-00 Avon Commons project on track
8-24-00 Election Protest -- Sound Familiar?
9-11-00 GOVERNMENT BY FAVORITISM
NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAl, 8-4-00, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer
"Jacobs again seeks new I-90 exit
AVON -- The Jacobs Group, which wants a new I-90 interchange at Nagel Road, will present a traffic study at the City Council meeting Monday. Council's reaction could determine the fate of a 500-acre retail-based complex the Westlake developer wants to build along Nagel on both sides of the freeway.
Although the company would pay for at least part of the $15 million interchange, it first needs a large-scale traffic study by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, NOACA, which the agency will not start without a nod from Avon.
This will be Jacobs' second attempt to get Avon's backing. In March 1999, council soundly rejected the company's request without even taking a vote.
Council members are greeting the developer's return with a mixture of curiosity and concern.
Council President Shaun Brady said he is ''very hesitant'' about the proposal.
''With something of this magnitude, it's so difficult to weigh out the ramifications,'' Brady said. ''I don't know if City Council and Planning Commission have the ability to do that. We might need some outside help here.''
The study predicts that under current growth levels the traffic at the SR 83 interchange will be graded as failing by 2002. An earlier study commissioned by a rival firm, Avon Commons' developer First Interstate, had predicted such a failure in 10 years, said Planning Commission Chairman Jim Piazza.
That study was later approved by URS Greiner, the same firm that performed Jacobs' latest study, Piazza said.
''They're using different national standards for the ratio of traffic to development,'' Piazza said. ''Both standards are acceptable, but I think we're going to have to establish what standard we want to use.''
More is at stake in council's debate than roads. The Jacobs Group owns 225 acres north of I-90 and has an option to purchase 250 acres to the south.
Ward 4 Councilman Jack Kilroy said Jacobs representatives told him they were planning a development that included big box stores, restaurants, hotels, offices and multi-family housing.
The land is now zoned for industrial use and single-family homes.
''What they're proposing will not at all alleviate traffic, but will make it much, much worse,'' Kilroy said. ''They say the decision over an additional interchange exit should be taken in isolation of their long-range plans. That's absurd. Nothing happens in isolation.'' ...
Ward 3 Councilman Tim Nickum lives on SR 83 and represents many of its residents. He worries that the opening of the 85-acre Avon Commons shopping mall on SR 254 next year will make his street even busier.
''Somewhere down the path, there MAY be a great need for another interchange,'' Nickum said ...
Residents in the shadow of the proposed interchange disagree, Kilroy said. ''People in my ward are very fearful of an interchange there,'' Kilroy said. ''To put that kind of traffic on Nagel with all those schools and the narrow road -- people are fearful their roads would be torn up, it would be a safety hazard and add more cars.''
Council is unlikely to make a decision on Jacobs' request Monday.
''This isn't something that will happen in one meeting or five meetings,'' Brady said. ''This is going to be a long process.''
Jacobs Group Vice President Tom Henneberry could not be reached for comment yesterday, and other company officials did not return calls."
NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAl, 8-8-00, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer
"Avon wary of new exit off I-90
AVON -- Jacobs Group representatives asked Avon City Council last night [8-7-00] to consider a ''public/private partnership'' to address traffic issues, the latest step in the developer's quest to put a new I-90 interchange at Nagel Road.
... the developer needs Avon to authorize a regional [NOACA] study to even begin the process. Last March, City Council rejected the idea without even taking a vote.
At the time, council members cited concerns over ''Vista,'' the 500-acre shopping and office complex the Jacobs Group proposed to build north and south of the new interchange.
Last night, Jacobs' associate Jeffrey LeBarron briefly referenced Vista. But instead of treating it as a proposal, LeBarron called it a ''conceptual development scheme'' and focused on the company's role as a landowner in Avon.
The Jacobs Group owns 225 acres north of I-90 near Nagel Road. That makes it a ''shareholder'' in the community, LeBarron said.
''Looking only at projects that are already approved, there is going to be a need for additional I-90 access,'' LeBarron said.
''What we would like to do is sit down and work with officials in the city for a public/private partnership, to find out what alternatives are available, evaluate those alternatives to determine what makes the most sense and develop those into a new master plan,'' LeBarron said.
After quietly conferring with council members, Council President Shaun Brady decided there wouldn't be enough time to discuss the request last night.
''We have questions upon questions upon questions,'' Brady said. ''Out of respect to those who have other items on the agenda, we need to schedule a special meeting to address those questions.''
At-Large Councilman Tom Wearsch suggested the majority of those questions should be asked by Avon's planners.
''Planning Commission will have to do a complete and exhaustive study of what this study will mean to the city,'' Wearsch said. ''We have to be careful we don't try to overpower the work of the commission. Let's question it, but let's not predetermine what we want them to say.''
Ward 4 Councilman Jack Kilroy disagreed.
''We've come back with a recommendation from the Planning Commission that everything was fine and would be better for the foreseeable future,'' he said. ''I don't think we should tell them what to say, but we need to tell them what to look for.'' ... "
NEWS ARTICLE from THE CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM, 8-8-00, By Rachel Zinn
"AVON -- An evaluation of the city's master thoroughfare plan commissioned by the Richard E. Jacobs Group states additional Interstate 90 access is needed to support development already approved by the city ...
Council President Shaun Brady said Council will schedule another meeting to further discuss the study.
The Jacobs Group, run by the former Cleveland Indians owner, commissioned URS Corp. to conduct the study. URS has several offices in Ohio and also conducted a traffic study on Avon Commons for the city.
Last year, the Jacobs Group proposed constructing Vista off I-90 between Jaycox and Lear-Nagle roads ..."
NEWS ARTICLE from THE PRESS, 8-9-00, By Mike Ferrari
Council gets presentation from Jacob's Group, questions remain
Representatives from the Jacob's Group gave an elaborate presentation to Avon Council Monday night [8-7-00] ...
Following the presentation Council President Shaun Brady thanked the members of the group for their time and thoroughness of the display and said he would like to discuss all of council's questions in a special work session meeting to be announced later in September. In the essence of time, and because a good portion of the evenings agenda had yet to be discussed, Avon Council agreed with Brady and will wait to meet with Jacob's officials in September.
Before council could move forward with the motion to move the item to a special work session, Councilman Tom Wearsch suggested the traffic study should be investigated by planning commission prior to council determining the factors and results of the traffic study.
The idea caused Councilman Jack Kilroy to disagree with Wearsch and said he feels that council should prepare planning commission for what is coming with the study, so they can be aware of council's concerns about the project.
Councilman Tim Nickum said he is not satisfied with the [Jacobs] presentation because he feels there are several questions that need to be addressed before council would approve the NOACA study.
``It's a project that is going to be a lengthy project,'' Nickum said. ``They are going to have to answer a lot of questions. The same engineering group that came in tonight (URS) represented Avon Commons and gave A and B rating for traffic after signalization, so I have a lot of questions.''
Councilwoman JoAnne Easterday said she thought the presentation was elaborate and very inclusive containing information about numerous questions she had, but added that she wanted to wait to give her opinions about it ...
Wearsch said he is not convinced with the data he has seen from the study and said it would be a good idea if the city would hire an engineer to look into the same aspects that were covered by the Jacob's Group initiated study.
``This is the beginning of a very long process,'' Wearsch said. ``At the very least we, as a city, need to review their reports and hire our own experts to review the report to see if it is the same, if it is then we need to take action to correct it.''
Brady said the extra time for council would be better for the body because it will allow them needed time to investigate all of the findings in the study.
``They have presented an overwhelming amount of information,'' Brady said. ``It conflicts with information we received prior to this and it is going to take some time to digest it and formulate questions form there.
Brady commented on the reasoning behind the study and said he feels the basis for the push from the Jacob's Group is obvious.
``There is no speculation about what they are doing with this study, they are trying to make their property worth more money,'' Brady said. ...
Kilroy was less favorable about the presentation and talked in detail about several of the questions he has pertaining to the traffic study ...
``I don't think they accurately depicted council reaction to their Vista project. There is a problem with the engineering firm they used too. A year ago they (URS) did a review that said the traffic was going to be fine. There are a lot of questions as to whether we were misled by the Avon Commons traffic study, or if this study is self serving and why is the same firm saying two different things.'' ..."
NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAl, 8-19-00, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer
"Avon Commons project on track
AVON -- With seven months to go before a store opens, Avon's first major shopping center is beginning to take shape, and developers report construction is on schedule.
Avon Commons, 85 acres of superstores, smaller shops, restaurants and walking trails, won't be finished for more than a year, said Mitchell Schneider, president of First Interstate Development.
The significant changes on the site are visible to motorists traveling on I-90. The building that will eventually be a new Target store is almost completely finished. The brick structure located at the east end of the development.
''Three walls are up,'' Schneider said. ''The roof is going on. Now we're starting work on the inside.''
To the west, walls are going up for two other large buildings, Michael's Crafts and a Kohl's department store. working west past those is a building that will house Caribou Coffee and a few other small shops.
From Detroit Road, the view has changed even more dramatically. Past the lanes being added to the road and road crews flagging traffic, a long brick wall separates the $65 million shopping center from homes across the street.
Masonry work on the wall is done, Schneider said. Landscaping should begin within the month.
''Paving, landscaping and improvements for the entire site will be done before winter sets in,'' Schneider said. ''During the winter, we'll be able to get the buildings completed on the inside.''
Parking lot work begins Sept. 1 and is expected to last 60 days, Schneider said.
Schneider is confident the shopping center is on schedule. Target will open in March, with other stores opening as spring begins.
''In April, May and June, a very healthy percentage of the place will come alive,'' Schneider said. ''In the summer, we'll start work on Heinen's and Home Depot and the whole western side of the shopping center.''
The big question remaining for Avon Commons is the identity of its restaurants.
Schneider said he is finalizing arrangements with four eateries, all with sit-down areas. At least three of the four will not be fast food, he said.
The developer is also beginning plans for the Avon Art and Antique Walk, an annual event First Interstate hopes to host along the shopping center's winding walking path.
First Interstate is in negotiations with the local non-profit agency that could use the event as a fund-raiser, Schneider said ..."
9-17-00: Avon Commons Rises
9-11-00: Chronoloy of Avon Commons Approvals
NEWS ARTICLE from THE PLAIN DEALER, 8-24-00, By SARAH TREFFINGER, PLAIN DEALER REPORTER
WESTLAKE - Voters will have not one, but two, chances to vote on downtown development proposals when two similar issues appear on the ballot in November.
Both issues relate to plans for a 75-acre, mixed-use development known as Crocker Park, just south of the Promenade of Westlake, to include residences, shopping restaurants and offices. City Council voted 4-3 last month to place the necessary zoning changes on the ballot.
The second ballot question stems from an initiative petition filed by Robert L. Stark Enterprises, the Beachwood development group that has proposed the project. It differs from the first issue in minor ways, but council was required by law to put it on the ballot once Stark obtained sufficient signatures ...
See Full Story
NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAl, 8-30-00, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer
"AVON -- Taylor J. "Jack" Smith knows that his quest for a lower property tax bill might seem gratuitous ... 'It's a matter of principle,' he said. 'I'm sick of government by favoritism. This whole country is falling deeper and deeper into that kind of corruption ...
[A] tax bill Smith received in January 1999 showed a whopping 1,500 percent increase, from $638 in July of 1998 to $10,800 in 1999. Smith thought that was ridiculous ...
Steve Birch, chief appraiser for the county auditor's office, said Smith's property was one of several that were reevaluated in 1998.
[Birch's statement about "several" properties is contradicted by numbers provided by Lorain County Treasurer Dan Talarek.
On opening real estate tax bills in January, 1999, it is discovered that THE VALUATIONS OF BENNETT AND SMITH PARCELS (site of the then proposed Avon Commons) WERE ENORMOUSLY INCREASED in 1998.
The numbers indicate that NO PARCEL OPTIONED BY A JACOBS ENTITY for the "Vista" project (1,000,000 square feet of retail floor space) HAD A VALUATION INCREASE FROM 1997 TO 1998.]
... The proximity of the Smiths' land to I-90, not politics, was the reason for its jump, Birch said.
[Birch's statement is in direct conflict with the testimony of Joyce Hockenberger, the Auditor's spokesperson at the BOR hearing on 9-15-99: Smith property supposedly was re-evaluated in 1998 as part of a general re-evalutation of commercial property (zoned or just used commercially) in Avon based on sales of commercial property west of SR-83.
Proximity to I-90 means nothing by itself. Smith land sat 30 years next to the SR-83 interchange before anything happened. NO DEVELOPMENT WAS POSSIBLE WITHOUT SEWERS.]
... Smith sees the situation differently. His land had no sewers while property [optioned] by the Jacobs Group did.
And at the time, Smith's land deal seemed doomed. A judge had struck down the property's zoning in June 1998. Voters rejected a zoning change in November 1998 after a pricey campaign by a rival developer ...
[As of Janas' decision of 6-8-98, there was NO land east of SR-83 in Avon zoned for shopping centers. Without sewers, no development could occur on Smith property. At least the Norfolk and Southern property which Jacobs had under option in 1998 has sewers.
The lack of shopping center zoning after 6-8-98 made the First Interstate project just as speculative as Jacobs' Vista project. Smith tax valuations were enormously increased from 1997 to 1998. The land under option by Jacobs entities was not touched.]
'It looked like just another play by the opposition,' Smith said ...
So the Smiths filed a complaint. After a hearing in September 1999, the county's Board of Revision , consisting of one representative each of the auditor's office, treasurer's office and county commissioners , denied the appeal.
The Smiths have appealed the denial to the state Board of Tax Appeals in Columbus. The matter is pending ... 'We knew the board of revision would rule against us,' he said. 'They're hoping we'll be so battered that we quit. ` But we're not finished with this matter.'...
Avon Commons is under construction next door, but trees block any view or sound from the site. 'I thought the best thing I could do for Avon would be to have a very nice commercial development,' Smith said. 'After all, I'm going to live next door to it. ` I've been walking around on this land for 60 years. God willing, I'll keep doing it a little longer.' ...
[Smith] knows he has little sympathy in Avon. 'I think that's a logical reaction: ``What`s his problem? They did well for themselves. Why complain about anything?'' Smith said. 'But I'm not in a popularity contest. I'm campaigning for justice.'
The auditor's office continues to contest the Smiths' claim. Birch points to the high price First Interstate paid for the land ...
[The Smiths have no objection to the value of the property sold on 10-29-99 being increased to the sales prices AFTER that date. But the Auditor's re-evaluation of Smith property in 1998 was PREMATURE.
Based on the Talarek data, only parcels under option at the site of the then proposed Avon Commons had their valuations increased (1 Bennett parcel and 5 Smith parcels). The fact that property under option to Jacobs in 1998 was not increased makes the action of the Auditor's Office DISCRIMINATORY and an example of governmnet by favoritism.
If the Avon School Board is really interested in fairness, then it should request that land now owned or under option by Jacobs entities be increased in valuation to at least $9,400/acre (35% of market value) based on Jacobs proposed development, just as Smith valuations were increased based on a proposed development when they had neither sewers nor zoning.
Smith parcel 04-00-015-103-002 43.62 acres
1998 Mkt Land Value x 0.35 = $413,110 ***** ($9,470.66/ACRE)
1997 Mkt Land Value x 0.35 = $28,350 ****** ($ 649.93/acre)]
NEWS ARTICLE from THE PRESS, 9-6-00, By Mike Ferrari
"Avon ... The county board [of revision] ... dismissed the school boards claims for property increase on a piece of land owned by First Interstate. They decided to wait for a decision on the state level pending an appeal on the Smiths' case because the land is adjacent to their property ...
Smith's appeal against higher property taxes has reached the state level. In 1999 Smith filed a complaint with the county ...
``I am against government by favoritism,'' Smith said. ``The county auditor saw fit to increase taxes on [land optioned for] Avon Commons but not on the Vista (Jacob's Group) project.''
[In January, 1999, Smith received notice of the enormous increases by opening the tax bills.
Smith parcel -015-103-002 second half 1997 tax was $639.19 (due in July 1998).
Smith parcel -015-103-002 first half 1998 tax was $10,852.77 (due in JANUARY, 1999).]
``Maybe they thought I would drop dead from the shock and maybe that is what they wanted,'' Smith said. ``This is just another example of Youngstown politics ...'' "
This question will not go away: Why was land under option to Jacobs in 1998 favored with no increase in real estate tax valuation?
NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAl, 9-2-00, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer
``AVON -- ... [Jacobs Group hits Avon with $1,000,000 suit.] The lawsuit ... is an attempt to avoid roughly $1 million in assessments for a sewer through the company's property [next to Manco, site of the proposed Vista shopping center].
... Council members said they were not aware the developer was pursuing the lawsuit until this week ... Lorain County Auditor Mark Stewart and Treasurer Daniel Talarek are also named in the suit ...
Ward 4 Councilman Jack Kilroy, an attorney, said the lawsuit should halt any discussion about the [I-90 interchange Jacobs wants at Nagel Rd.] ... Kilroy said, citing Ohio's legal ethics code, "Any discussion that happens should be through lawyers ..." ''
NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAl, 9-12-00, By CRIS GLASER, Morning Journal Writer
``AVON -- ... "(Law Director Dan Stringer) has advised members of Council to avoid discussing the subject matter of any lawsuit in public," Council President Shaun Brady said yesterday [9-11-00].
"Accordingly, the planned public discussion of the Jacobs Group presentation for a new I-90 exit at Nagel ... will be put on hold ...," Brady said ...'' [If Jacobs' sewer assessment is reduced, what about the people on Kinzel Road?]
More Documents Relating to the June 8, 1998, Decision Against Avon
Newspaper Record of XXXXX/Jacobs in Avon