Newspaper Record of STARK/JACOBS in Avon,
Ohio, December 3, 1997, through March 4, 1998

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Perhaps the best place to start the newspaper record of Stark/Jacobs involvement in Avon is with a

NEWS ARTICLE from the MORNING JOURNAL (12-5-97) by Colleen Mytnick:

"On Wednesday [12-3-97], the men behind the project -- Cleveland Indians owner Richard Jacobs [Richard E. Jacobs Group], Promenade developer Robert L. Stark [Robert L. Stark Enterprises], and David DiBenedetto, journeyed to Avon to enlist the help of Mayor Jim Smith and Council President Ed Krystowski to overcome their greatest obstacle: The land on which they want to build is zoned residential ...

Smith said that he and Krystowski 'turned the welcome mat over' at Wednesday night's meeting and remain opposed to the rezoning of the land. ... Avon Law Director Dan Stringer said the developers will need to submit a petition signed by at least 10 percent of the electors to put the rezoning question on the ballot. ...."

Two days later, 12-5-97, the following event occurred as described in a

LETTER TO THE EDITOR of THE PRESS (12-10-97) by Gerald W. Phillips 35955 Detroit Rd, Avon, OH 44011-1652:

"On December 5, 1997, a coalition of concerned Avon residents, Avon Citizens for Responsible Commercial Development, filed notice of its proposed filing of a charter amendment in the City of Avon. ... This proposed charter amendment will neutralize any commercial development war brewing because they will all have to convince the voters of Avon. ...."

Despite the fact that it was well-known in Avon since August, 1997, that First Interstate Development Company intended to develop a shopping center near the north-east corner of SR-83 and SR-254, Phillips did not file (12-5-97) notice that he intended to circulate charter amendment petitions until after Stark/Jacobs knew (12-3-97) that they would have to go to the ballot for their rezoning. One possible explanation is that Phillips was motivated by "Not In My Backyard". But, what about the advantage to Stark/Jacobs of possibly stalling First Interstate until an election in November, 1998?

NEWS ARTICLE from the MORNING JOURNAL (12-9-97) by Colleen Mytnick:

"Avon -- Developer David DiBenedetto has relinquished his role in the 1000-acre commercial development planned for land near Lear-Nagle road. ... Yesterday [12-8-97], DiBenedetto said that he has sold 67 acres of land to Stark and signed over the right to about 32 acres of optioned land. ...."

Does DiBenedtto still own the 67 acres, having given an option to Stark?

NEWS ARTICLE from the MORNING JOURNAL (1-7-98) by Colleen Mytnick:

"Promenade developer Robert L. Stark, last night [1-6-98] said he and Cleveland Indians owner Richard Jacobs could develop a shopping center amid an 800-acre site ... Stark also took a swipe at a rival shopping mall and stated, 'There will not be two shopping centers here.' ... Avon residents expressed doubts before and after Stark's presentation at the French Creek Development Association meeting. ...

Stark said Avon Commons -- an 80-acre strip mall proposed along Detroit Road by developer Mitchell Schneider will 'wreak havoc' on the community.

'We don't need to sit and watch this happen," Stark said, pointing to the land near SR-83 where Schneider plans to build. 'It doesn't belong here. There's not enough room here.' Although Schneider's project is proposed on land already zoned commercial and has already begun the city approval process, Stark said it is far from a done deal. 'We are dedicated to not having two shopping centers,' Stark said. 'There will not be two shopping centers here.'"

NEWS ARTICLE from the CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM (1-7-98) by Chrissy Kadleck and Julia Fitzgerald:

"... Karen Brady, president of the French Creek Development Association ... said ... unanswered questions remain. ...

Another resident, Dave Horwedel, said ... 'My father sold 60 acres between Detroit Road and I-90 to developer David DiBenedetto in October [1997] with the understanding that it would remain residential property," Horwedel said. 'DiBenedetto is a front man for these guys. He purchased the property, said he was going to sell it for building homes on and then sold it to Stark.'"

NEWS ARTICLE from THE PRESS (1-14-98) by JoAnne Easterday:

"Avon -- 'We are determined not to have two shopping centers,' developer Robert Stark said at last week's meeting of the French Creek [Development] Association [1-6-98]. ... Stark spoke initially of 800 acres. Then he spoke of the possibility of 2000 acres being developed."

NEWS ARTICLE from the CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM (1-16-98) by Peter Geiger:

"... Stark is making the rounds of area daily newspapers, pleading his case. ... Stark said the chances of approval for his development would be diminished if Schneider's gets the OK. 'It's not even the right kind of commercial zoning (for Schneider's center),' Stark said. 'It's C2 -- light retail -- not C3, but he's proposing a power center development and no one is saying anything about it. It's very frustrating.' ..."

NEWS ARTICLE from the CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM (1-15-98) by Julia Tudor Fitzgerald:

"... Engineer Eric Smith of Akron [traffic engineer with USR Greiner] who analyzed the project along with [Avon] planning and development consultant David Hartt, said ... 'The study shows that you currently have traffic problems in the area of the proposed shopping center,' Smith told a joint session of Council and Planning Commission [1-14-98]. 'The additional traffic lights and lanes will bring that problem down significantly.'"

NEWS ARTICLE from the MORNING JOURNAL (1-15-98) by Colleen Mytnick:

"[David Hartt], ... a city-hired planning expert said Mitchell Schneider's proposed 84-acre strip mall concurs with the City's zoning and urged officials to stop using that issue to hold up the development. ...."

NEWS ARTICLE from the MORNING JOURNAL (1-17-98) by Colleen Mytnick:

"... Mitchell Schneider ... said ... Stark asked him to abandon his project and to become a partner in the 800-acre development ... Schneider said he spent 50 minutes with Stark at a coffeehouse on Dec. 16 [1997] listening to the rival developer boast about the monopoly he could create in western Cuyahoga and Eastern Lorain counties if Schneider gave up on his Avon Commons strip mall and joined the Stark-Jacobs team.

'He felt that when one has a monopoly in a certain market area that there is a better likelihood of charging higher rents,' Schneider said. ... Stark and Council President Ed Krystowski seem to have a similar view on Avon Commons. Stark claims that Schneider's project is not zoned properly -- a view seconded by Krystowski at Wednesday's City Council meeting [1-14-98] ... Krystowski ... said he would meet with an attorney to get a second opinion on whether or not Schneider's land is properly zoned.

Meanwhile, Stark continues to insist that his project, not Schneider's, is consistent with the spirit of the city's master plan. 'It's an issue of good planning on a large scale versus self-interested incidental development,' Stark said. ...."

Stark has hired Jay Gardner of Metro One which did Avon's last master plan.

NEWS ARTICLE from the SUN (1-22-98) by Michael Kazimore:

"... Last week [1-14-98], David Hartt, a city hired planning consultant, told council that Mitchell Schneider's proposed project is 'an acceptable layout and consistent with your zoning as it is written.'

That opinion came despite the concerns of Gerry Phillips, a local attorney, who said Schneider's property, which is currently zoned C-2, did not qualify as the kind that allows large strip malls, which is classified as C-3. But, earlier this week, Stringer said the city's codified ordinances state that when a development exceeds 10 acres in a C-2 area, it automatically assumes the characteristics of C-3 zoning.

'There would be no need to rezone it because all the rules and regulations of C-3 zoning would apply to it,' Stringer said about the land. ...."

Now, let us turn to the "second opinion" thread.

NEWS ARTICLE from the MORNING JOURNAL (1-27-98) by Colleen Mytnick:

"An effort to pay an Oberlin attorney as much as $2000 to provide the city with a second legal opinion on the zoning of Mitchell Schneider's Avon Commons strip mall was delayed following a nearly split vote by City Council last night [1-26-98]. ... Councilmen Shaun Brady, David Kaiser and Jack Kilroy voted against the resolution to hire attorney Eric Sievers to review the zoning of Avon Commons. ...

Last week, local attorney Gerald Phillips filed an appeal with the Zoning Board of Appeals challenging the zoning. Stringer said yesterday that Phillips has not yet paid the $100 application fee, but that once he pays the fee the Zoning Board of Appeals will be called to resolve the zoning issue once and for all. 'The zoning board really has the final say on this,' Kaiser said. 'It was a waste of time to discuss it.'"

NEWS ARTICLE from the MORNING JOURNAL (2-11-98) by Colleen Mytnick:

"... Finance Director Bob Hamilton said he issued a purchase order for $2000 on Jan. 15 [1998] at Krystowski's request. The order was for the attorney Oberlin Law Director Eric Sievers to begin a review of zoning for a proposed 84-acre strip mall in Avon. ... Hamilton said, 'After I issued it, I had some concerns that an ordinance should have been passed.' Hamilton said his concerns stemmed from the fact that council had not voted to hire Sievers at the time the purchase order was issued on Jan. 15. It was not until the Jan. 20 council meeting that Krystowski first suggested seeking a second opinion to the rest of council. ... As soon as he realized the mistake, Krystowski said he instructed Sievers to discontinue work. The purchase order was then canceled by Hamilton. ...."

NEWS ARTICLE from the MORNING JOURNAL (2-24-98) by Colleen Mytnick:

"City Council voted last night [2-23-98] to pay an Oberlin attorney for a second legal opinion ... Law Director Dan Stringer had already ruled that Mitchell Schneider's 84-acre strip mall is zoned correctly ..., but Krystowski said he thought the second opinion might be useful to the Zoning Board of Appeals. The board meets Thursday night [2-26-98] and is expected to rule on an appeal filed by attorney Gerald Phillips ...."

There is nothing more to date, 3-4-98, on the second opinion thread.

NEWS ARTICLE from the PLAIN DEALER (1-24-98) by Rich Exner:

"... 'You're not going to have retail development at 83 (by First Interstate) and one at Lear-Nagle,' Stark said. 'You're going to have one or the other.' ... First Interstate won initial preliminary site plan approval from the Avon Planning Commission on Wednesday [1-21-98]. ...."

NEWS ARTICLE from the MORNING JOURNAL (1-23-98) by Colleen Mytnick:

"... two attorneys at the meeting [1-21-98] -- Gerald W. Phillips and Timothy J. Grendell -- voiced their objections to Schneider's project and demanded that Planning Commission delay taking action on the proposal.

Grendell, who is well known in development circles for defending Kmart in a lawsuit against Westlake, claimed that while he has worked for Stark in the past he was at Wednesday's meeting only to support Phillips. Phillips also denied any involvement with Stark or Jacobs. ...."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE PRESS (1-28-98) by Amy Ginn and JoAnne Easterday:

"... Howard Beder, Chief Operating Officer for Stark, said Wednesday [1-21-98] ... that the location of the Stark proposal is more conducive to commercial development than the area Schneider is looking to develop. 'It was never designed for big box retail,' he said of the Route 83 - Detroit Rd. property. ...."

NEWS ARTICLE from the PLAIN DEALER (2-14-98) by Rich Exner:

"A lawsuit filed yesterday [2-13-98] by 19 Avon residents ... The residents, all of whom live near the proposed center, claim Avon did not follow its own laws in allowing the Planning Commission to begin the approval process for Avon Commons. ... Grendell said that although he has worked for Stark on other issues and expects to work for him on the Avon project, his only interest in the suit is representing Avon resident Linda M. Eadelis [1963 Center Rd., Avon, OH 44011]. ... Lorain County Common Pleas Court Judge Edward M. Zaleski has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday [2-17-98] to consider the residents' request for a preliminary injunction to stop the Planning Commission process for First Interstate. ...."

NEWS ARTICLE from the CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM (2-17-98) by Mike Sakal

"A hearing set for today to stop a developer from building a proposed shopping center in Avon has been rescheduled to March 3. ... The city's Planning Commission meets at 7:30 pm Wednesday [2-18-98]. After that meeting, commission members plan to have a special work session for Schneider's proposal. ...."

NEWS ARTICLE from THE PRESS (3-4-98) by JoAnne Easterday:

"The Board of Zoning Appeals [2-26-98] sided with the opinion of city officials ... After the meeting Council President Ed Krystowski sat stunned. He said he didn't know how the board could have come to the conclusion they did. ...."

NEWS ARTICLE from the MORNING JOURNAL (2-27-98) by Colleen Mytnick:

"... Developer Robert L. Stark will be at Monday night's council meeting [3-2-98] ... Mayor Jim Smith ... said ... 'I'm against any parcel that large being rezoned' ... Instead of trying to create more commercially zoned land in the city, Smith suggested that Jacobs and Stark buy some of the land near the Sr 611 interchange that is already zoned to allow for shopping centers. ...."

NEWS ARTICLE from the MORNING JOURNAL (3-3-98) by Colleen Mytnick:

"AVON -- Robert L. Stark and his 'dream team of experts' made their Avon debut at last night's Avon City Council meeting where they pitched their 800-acre development in front of more than 100 residents. ... Stark described the 150-acre shopping center and new highway interchange he is proposing as a growth plan for Avon which residents and council members should support over a proposal for a competing shopping center. ... Stark, however, said he's not concerned about the competition. ...

'There isn't a retailer in the world who wouldn't come to our project,' he said. 'As soon as we told them about our project, they put all their discussions with (Schneider) on hold.' ...."

NEWS ARTICLE from the MORNING JOURNAL (3-5-98) by Colleen Mytnick:

"Stark's plans 'too big' ... Surrounded by his team of planners, Stark also displayed a map showing what he considers to be the best zoning for a large hunk of Avon. In it, rival retail developer Mitchell Schneider's land on Detroit Road was labeled as residential. ...

'It wasn't as ugly as I thought it was going to be,' [Councilman] Graczyk said. 'But the problem I have with the whole proposal is that Lear-Nagel Road will become Crocker-Bassett Road. It will become a four-lane highway.' ...

Meanwhile, the next step for Schneider's Avon Commons is to ask the city's planning commission for preliminary plat approval at the March 11 meeting."

NEWS ARTICLE from the CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM (3-3-95) by Mike Sakal

"Robert L. Stark made his first presentation Monday [3-2-98] to City Council ... Stark was joined at the meeting by a lineup of consultants. They included Jay Gardner from Metro One Design who helped draft the city's master plan. Also attending the meeting on behalf of the [Stark/Jacobs] project was Charles Ellison, a professor of planning from the University of Cincinnati, Tom Elmer of Deloitte & Touche, an accounting, auditing and real estate consulting firm, Bill Burges of Burges and Burges Strategists of Cleveland and Patrick Bowman of NBBJ, a national architectural firm. ...."

NEWS ARTICLE from the MORNING JOURNAL (3-3-98) by Colleen Mytnick:

"Attorney Gerald Phillips said he has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit he filed ... because a Zoning Board of Appeals decision made the suit irrelevant. ... 'My clients are outraged.' Phillips said. ...."

NEWS ARTICLE from the CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM (3-4-98) by Mike Sakal

"... Gerald Phillips has thrown another wrench into the controversy over new developments in Avon. On Tuesday [3-3-98], Phillips submitted a petition with 866 signatures on it to the Avon Clerk of Council requesting an amendment be made to the city's charter."

Despite the fact that it was well-known in Avon since August, 1997, that First Interstate Development Company intended to develop a shopping center near the north-east corner of SR-83 and SR-254, Phillips did not file (12-5-97) notice that he intended to circulate charter amendment petitions until AFTER Stark/Jacobs knew (12-3-97) that they would have to go to the ballot for their rezoning.

The facts behind the way Phillips went about filing his charter amendment petitions may never be known. One possibility is that Phillips did not have enough signatures by February 19, 1998 to file. On the other hand, Phillips' delay in filing until March 3, 1998, might be explained by the reluctance of Stark/Jacobs to create a weapon which could be turned on themselves. Even if they could get their acreage rezoned, either by a vote of the people or by a court decision, Phillips' amendment might have forced them to go for another vote of the people after Planning Commission and Council had approved their project.

From the historian's point of view, the key question is why did Phillips not file by the prescribed filing date of 2-19-98? The Board of Zoning Appeals was not meeting until 2-26-98. Stark/Jacobs might have hoped that a decision at this meeting would be sufficient to stop First Interstate.

What is known is that when the Board ruled that C2 included all provisions of C3 when a project was more than 10 acres, Grendell and Phillips asked for dismissal of the case scheduled for Court hearing on 3-3-98; and Phillips filed the charter amendment petitions on 3-3-98. The dismissal was requested some time during the day om 3-2-98. Were these two actions on almost the same date merely a coincidence?

These known facts are not sufficient to answer the key question. Like so many historical questions, it may remain a mystery forever.

The most bizarre theory is that Phillips might have calculated that the City of Avon would not have enough time to complete the legal steps to put the charter amendment on the May 5, 1998, ballot, and that he (Phillips) could hit the taxpayers of Avon for over $20,000 by appealing to the State Supreme Court to establish the May 5 date.

Such a calculation would have been an unbelievable display of ability as a gamesman on the part of Phillips. The thinking of the State Supreme Court remains inscrutable in this matter, but Phillips' financial good fortune at the expense of the taxpayers of Avon (about $22,000 into his own pocket plus other expense for the City) was more likely just an odd twist of fate. However, the truth in this matter, which will probably never be known, could be stranger than any theory.

Newspaper Record of Stark/Jacobs in Avon

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

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