Monday, March 23, 2015

North Canton City Council Denies Citizens Appeal Hearing and Removes Zoning Code Protections for Citizens

Prepared Comments Made to
March 23, 2015
            Twelve years ago, City Council ratified a total rewrite of the City’s Zoning Code. The vote was unanimous for passage. Two current members of Council were among the seven who voted for passage, Doug Foltz and Marcia Kiesling.
            Codified in the zoning code for the last twelve years is Chapter 1177.11, which is titled APPEAL TO COUNCIL. Written in plain English, Chapter 1177.11 states: 

Any person who is adversely affected by a decision made by the Planning Commission according to the procedures set forth in this Chapter may appeal such decision to Council within 30 days of the Planning Commission's decision.  Council shall establish appropriate rules and procedures to hear and decide such appeals. 

            On October 10, 2014, City residents impacted by the expansion of the Hoover District South Parking Lot appealed a Planning Commission approval of a “Conditional Use” permit that allowed the developers to greatly expand the parking lot. The appeal was made prior to commencement of construction. Typically, an appeal would be heard in a timely manner to be fair to all parties. This has not been the case.  

            Midway through the thirty-days allowed for submission of an appeal, the City asked that the appeal be resubmitted. The second appeal was resubmitted within the required 30 days. 

            On December 1, 2014, and without a hearing date yet set, City Council passed an emergency resolution transferring the appeal to the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals. This was followed by another emergency resolution on January 12, 2015, rescinding the earlier emergency resolution. 

            Despite the long delay, it was thought that Council would at some point follow the law and allow citizens a hearing on the appeal that is clearly guaranteed in the City’s Zoning Code.   

            Sadly, North Canton City Council is refusing to allow an appeal hearing. Not now, not ever!  

On February 23, 2015, Resolution No.  2-2015 received the first of three readings dismissing the appeal. 

Tonight Resolution No. 2-2015 is on the agenda for its third and final reading.  

City Council’s action denying an appeal hearing is one of the most flagrant actions of a group of elected representatives I have ever seen in my lifetime. Clearly, there is no sense of duty or obligation to the public they have sworn to represent. 

Sadly, for North Canton citizens, their elected representatives are going to outdo themselves in their anti-citizen actions.  

Also on the agenda tonight is the 2nd reading of Ordinance No. 17-2015. This ordinance seeks to remove entirely from the City’s Zoning Code, any chance of Appeal to Council that is delineated in Chapter 1177.11. If successful, City Council will never again have to deal with the citizen protections that have been in the Code for over thirteen years.  

Chapter 1177.11 of the zoning code is a safety net for citizens who believe that they have been adversely affected by decisions made by the Planning Commission. It allows for appeals directly to their elected representatives. 

Mr. Griffith, at the Council meeting of February 23, 2015, stated, “…The decision about whether to do something when it comes to zoning or whether or not to do something shouldn’t be a political issue.” 

I beg to differ. Our entire process of government is political. How do you think you have come to sit on this council body? You are elected by the people through a political process. And on taking office you have taken an oath to represent the people. Council action refusing an appeal hearing and removing the right by citizens to appeal to Council is not representing your constituency. 

In regards to the removal of the appeal process you stated, “…one of the reasons that we are taking that appeal away [is] because those decision shouldn’t be political decisions.” 

How do you think the zoning code came to be in the first place? The Planning Commission did not craft the code. It was Council through a political process.  

North Canton’s City Charter states, “The Planning Commission shall have the powers as may be conferred on it by ordinance of Council….” 

The citizens of North Canton should be able to trust that their elected representatives are making decisions for them.  

Your statements at that February 23, 2015, meeting turn democracy upside down and put citizens at the mercy of unelected officials of the Planning Commission. 

This council should act like representatives of the people and quit acting like pawns of the City Law Director. Comply with the City’s Zoning Code as it is presently written.  

Give your constituents a hearing and discontinue removal of citizen protections that have been put in the City’s Zoning Code. They were put there for good reasons.

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne, Resident
City of North Canton

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Expansion of Former Hoover South Parking Violates City’s Zoning Code, Overburdens City Streets & Storm Sewers, Intrudes On Neighborhood Serenity, and Devalues Residential Properties

Prepared Comments Intended for Presentation to
October 8, 2014 

            Remarks made by a member of this body at its May 7, 2014, meeting characterized the plan to expand the Hoover District South Parking Lot by stating, “A third-grader could have come up with a better plan… this is amateur hour as far as I am concerned.” This Committee was unanimous in its unhappiness with the proposed plan and voted 5-0 to table the plan as proposed. 

With minor changes, this committee reversed itself and voted 5-0 at its September 3, 2014, meeting to approve the site plan with nary any follow-up to concerns raised by citizens or commission members themselves.  

At both of the two previous meetings of this Planning Commission, I quoted former Judge Lee Sinclair, a former member of this Commission said nearly 34 years ago at an October 27, 1980, Planning Commission meeting who said: “We live here because we enjoy the residential nature of our particular home sites.”  

            Any expansion of the South parking lot of the former Hoover Company will not allow residents to enjoy the residential nature of their homes. 

Common sense and decency tell us that this proposed expansion overburdens the City’s  streets and storm sewers; intrudes on the enjoyment of nearby homes and the serenity of our neighborhoods; and devalues residential properties already hard hit from the downturn in the economy. 

The heavily wooded area separating nearby homes has served as a buffer from the activities of the 87 acre Hoover property from the time this city was called New Berlin. Loss of hundreds of trees as well as the loss of the walking trail put in by Stark Parks just two years ago with the expenditure of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars is not acceptable. 

            Not noted in previous remarks before this body are the requirements of North Canton’s Zoning Code. Chapter 1153.08 (b) requires parking spaces to be within 400 feet walking distance of a public entrance of a principal building housing the use for which the parking spaces are intended to serve.
            The southernmost edge of the current parking is already in excess of 400 feet, measuring 407 feet.

            Any plan to expand the south parking lot at this point is in direct violation of the City’s zoning code. Period! 

            This planned expansion should never have been seriously entertained.  

            The entire grove of trees must be maintained as a buffer so City residents can “enjoy the residential nature” of their homes, to the extent that is possible in a neighborhood that already is in decline. 

Please do not accelerate and add to the decay of our neighborhood with increased traffic, noise, obtrusive lighting, flooding and everything else that comes with this development that will change the character of our community. 

            Lastly, I have a petition containing more than 130 names of North Canton residents who are opposed to any expansion of the South parking lot. 

            I ask that you not approve a “conditional use permit” for the expansion of the Hoover District South Parking lot. 

Chuck Osborne

Monday, August 25, 2014


Prepared Comments Made to
August 25, 2014 

            “The North Canton Community Building was founded in 1923 by W. ‘Boss’ Hoover who gave the original ‘Community Building’ to North Canton for the enjoyment of its citizens. The current building was completed in 1970, with a major addition in 1983 and a new Wellness Center addition in 2002.”
            This information is from the Website of the North Canton YMCA.

            Unfortunately, “Boss” Hoover is no longer with us today nor is the company that he founded. The charity and paternalism championed by W. “Boss” Hoover and the Hoover Company for our community are gone. That benevolence is not something Maple Street Commerce, now the owners of the former Hoover property, feel compelled to show our community.

            What has Maple Street Commerce done for our community since becoming owners of what is now called the Hoover District? 

The roles have been reversed as it is the community that is now the benefactor. Corporate millionaires now expect to be served by the community upon which they have descended to suck from them as much as City leaders will hand out.

How much has North Canton provided to the millionaire owners of the Hoover District since their arrival in 2008?

First was $440,000 to purchase cranes for their first tenant, Meyers Controlled Power. Then it was $3,000,000 to renovate factory space for The Shroer Group. Then another $1.0 million for further office space on the second floor for additional tenants. Most recently and most noticed by the public is the expenditure of $2,253,000 for what has been described as a widening of East Maple Street. The so-called widening of East Maple in actuality simply creates on-street parking in front of the office building. 

It is through this recent construction that the majestic Pin Oaks which lined East Maple Street were destroyed in spite of the fact that the majestic Oaks were located far enough away from the finished widening of East Maple Street to have remained.

In total, our small community has provided close to $6,753, 000 and this does not include the many tax abatements that the City and the North Canton City School District have had to accept to help make lease terms with Maple Street Commerce acceptable to new tenants.

I suspect “Boss” Hoover is rolling over in his grave at this point, but that is not all that Maple Street Commerce has inflicted on our little community.

Plans to expand the south parking lot could lead to the destruction of hundreds more trees that serve as a buffer to the surrounding neighborhoods. If that happens, home values and neighborhood harmony will be impacted very negatively. 

Community institutions are also feeling the greed of Maple Street Commerce. 

Stark Parks will be forced to relocate a trail if the south parking lot is expanded. The forced relocation of the trail will result in the squandering of thousands of dollars of public money that were expended to build the trail. 

Lastly, I am concerned about the future viability of the North Canton YMCA. That concern is for two reasons. 

First, the new entrance to the YMCA parking lot, presently under construction, is wholly inadequate. At 22 feet in width, it is much too narrow and will not serve the needs of the motoring public. Many of you on this Council have looked at this poor design and concur.

The new entrance to the Hoover District parking lot is 33 feet wide. Why wasn’t the entrance to the YMCA parking lot afforded an equally inviting navigable entrance?  Further, bus traffic and emergency vehicles will have great difficulty maneuvering in the poorly designed network of curbs.

Second, the vacation of McKinley Street will soon be decided before the Planning Commission. The vacation of McKinley Street should go entirely to the YMCA. The YMCA has parking and growth needs of its own that need to be filled. And that need is now. 

Maple Street Commerce, through its plans that may or may not be realistic and that may or may not come to fruition, is making a demand for parking that is unfair to the North Canton YMCA. 

McKinley Street is located in the very shadows of the YMCA building. To not vacate the entire length of McKinley Street to the YMCA will simply put a chokehold on their future. 

Please do not undermine the seeds that W. “Boss” Hoover planted over ninety-one years ago. 

Economic development should not come at any and all costs to the community.

I ask this council to protect our community and the institutions that serve us. Save the Stark Parks trail. Support the North Canton YMCA in every way possible. And protect the City and its residents from the rampant “Corporate Greed” that we see consuming our community. 

W. “Boss” Hoover is watching!

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne, Resident
City of North Canton

Monday, June 23, 2014

City Council Shamelessly Snubs Applicant For Vacant Ward Council Seat

Prepared Comments Made to
June 23, 2014 

Last Monday, Council President Peters announced Council’s pick for the vacant Ward Four Council seat. The vacancy came about when a long-time member of Council and for many years President of City Council abruptly resigned his seat under a cloud of controversy.  

Compounding problems exponentially in the Council office is the loss of a highly valued, high-skilled, and extremely professional Council Clerk who had served North Canton City Council for nearly seventeen years. 

One would think that with the chaos that has been broiling within North Canton City Council for the last year that this Council body might have wanted to restore some stability and confidence in its government.  

Sadly, that apparently is not the case. 

The request for interested applicants for the vacant Ward Four Council seat resulted in the timely application of one individual. I say “timely” as only one resident of Ward Four expressed an interest in the vacant Council seat by the deadline set by Council. 

The applicant in my estimation was “manna from heaven” for the City of North Canton at this moment in time. City Council has been reeling in turmoil with its Law Director Tim Fox in the driver’s seat, and the City desperately needs to restore stability and sensibility to City Hall. 

The applicant who filed in a timely fashion for the vacant seat was Roy Batista, a former 27-year Law Director for the City of North Canton. One could not find a better qualified more knowledgeable individual to return order and stability to City Hall at this time. 

But leave it to North Canton City Council to inject a double dose of politics and self-interest into the selection process.  

I should interject here that it was Roy Batista who, nearly two years ago as temporary Law Director before current Law Director Tim Fox was appointed, sanctioned the placement of the Health Care Initiative on the ballot. The proposed Health Care Ordinance, known as Issue 5, was passed overwhelmingly by the voters 3 to 1 in the 2012 General Election.  

Four members of this City Council violated the legally enacted Health Care Ordinance and three still remain on this Council. The fourth member of Council recently resigned creating the present opening on Council. And now City Council is contesting the Health Care Ordinance in Common Pleas Court at the urging of Law Director Fox and in spite of the fact that members of Council have surrendered their enrollment in the City’s Health Care Plan per the legally enacted Ordinance initiated by the citizens of North Canton. 

Could Roy Batista have brought some valuable insight to the Health Care issue now before the Courts? You betcha!  

Do members of City Council want to hear anything other than what their current Law Director has to say about that pending case? 
 Obviously not. 

As a result, a second applicant was sought out for the vacant council seat who then submitted a letter of interest after the deadline posted by Council. It is my understanding that Councilmember Cerreta sought out this second applicant.  

No one is better qualified to sit as a member of North Canton City Council than an individual who has been an attorney for over forty years and further, who has served this City so well as its Law Director for twenty-seven years. 

What were you thinking, Mr. Cerreta?  

The next time you board a flight to Florida tell the  Captain sitting in the left seat in the cockpit with 20,000 flight hours that you would rather have a friend of yours who recently got his private pilot’s license fly you and your family. How many of your fellow passengers would agree with that logic?  

The decision to select a novice to serve on City Council over an individual with the credentials of a Roy Batista reflects on this Council’s ability to make sound decisions, and quite frankly is an utter embarrassment for North Canton citizens. 

Mr. Peters, Council’s choice to fill the vacant Council seat clearly is a choice of self-interest over what is best for the community. 

This Council did the very same thing nearly two years ago when it advertised for candidates to fill the position of Law Director, then abandoned the selection process after advertising and interviewing applicants and abruptly chose a sitting council member to be the City’s first full-time Law Director.  

This City has been paying a grave price ever since for that failed decision. The current Law Director is a wrecking ball at City Hall, so much so that a highly qualified and respected Clerk of Council has left the City rather than continue to work in the Council office.  

Council’s choice for the vacant Council seat was a shameless snub of Mr. Batista.  

Shame, shame on every single one of you for the politics you play at the expense of the citizens you are sworn to represent. 

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne, Resident
City of North Canton

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Expansion of Former Hoover South Parking Lot Overburdens City Roads & Storm Sewers, Intrudes On Neighborhood Serenity, and Devalues Residential Properties

            On October 27, 1980, former Common Pleas Court Judge Lee Sinclair spoke before North Canton City Council regarding a proposed change to the City’s zoning code regarding home businesses in residential neighborhoods.
            At the time, Judge Sinclair was a member of North Canton’s Planning Commission and had voted against the proposed zone change. Judge Sinclair explains in the minutes of the Public Hearing that he was present not as a member of the Planning Commission but as a concerned citizen.

            Judge Sinclair explained nearly 34 years ago that, “We must remember that zoning is designed to make for an orderly transition, an orderly development of our community. Most of the people here in North Canton come here because of its residential nature. We have very defined lines of residential use and commercial use. I think it’s important that we maintain those lines….We live here because we enjoy the residential nature of our particular home sites” (end quote).

            Any expansion of the South parking lot of the former Hoover Company will not allow residents to enjoy the residential nature of their homes.

            It would be nice to document at this time what agreements were put in place decades ago when the Hoover Company first built the South parking lot but those agreements have not been discovered. But common sense and decency tell us all that this proposed expansion overburdens the City’s infrastructure, roads, and storm sewers; intrudes on the enjoyment of nearby homes and the serenity of nearby neighborhoods; and devalues residential properties already hard hit from the downturn in the economy.

            The heavily wooded area separating nearby homes has served as a buffer from the activities of the 78 acre Hoover property from the time this city was called New Berlin.

            Who would ever dream there would be the remotest possibility that there would be an attempt to develop property that is laden with underground coal mines? Not my in-laws who, in 1946, bought the home my wife and I now share. Not Stark Parks who, just two years ago, spent thousands of taxpayers’ dollars putting in a walking trail that will now have to be abandoned.

            The concerns I have as a nearby homeowner regarding this proposed expansion are the same concerns you would have if you resided near such a development.  

            The requested expansion of the South parking lot when totaled with the current number of parking spots at the YMCA will result in total parking in this immediate area of over 1,100 parking spots.

I would urge this body to review the development plans of the Hoover District in its entirety instead of in the piecemeal fashion that is taking place.

I would say to the developers, Maple Street Commerce, that their plans to repurpose the former Hoover District would be greatly enhanced and better serve their tenants and the City if the thousands of parking spots on the North side of the property were utilized.

            An entrance on the North side to a common corridor would be a shorter walking distance for employees of the various tenants, would allow them to get in out of the weather more quickly, and would not require them to cross a busy street.

            The entire grove of trees must be maintained as a buffer. To paraphrase Judge Sinclair, my wife and I would like to “enjoy the residential nature” of our home, to the extent that is possible.

            Lastly, I have a petition containing nearly ninety names of North Canton residents who are opposed to any expansion of the South parking lot.

            Developments such as this require more than a token tree or a few bushes for a buffer. I ask that you turn aside this proposed parking lot expansion lest you accelerate the decline of an already dying neighborhood.

Chuck Osborne

Monday, March 24, 2014

North Canton Should Respect Rule of Law and Recognize Citizen Initiated Healthcare Ordinance

Prepared Comments Made to
March 24, 2014
On February 27, 2014, North Canton Mayor David Held released a confidential legal opinion given by Law Director Tim Fox regarding the 2012 Initiative to Limit Health Care Benefits for Part-time Elected Officials. This action by Mayor Held was carried out despite the Law Director's written admonition to council members not to make the opinion public.
The release of the opinion contained a cover letter from North Canton's highest ranking elected official that stated the following:
The people of North Canton spoke clearly on the matter and I believe that the people of North Canton have a right to know the implications of the November 15, 2013, Legal Opinion on their vote in order to preserve the integrity of the election system.
I personally followed that decision and I encourage all elected officials to follow that decision. Furthermore, I am releasing the November 15, 2013 Legal Opinion on the matter because I believe that a transparent discussion will follow and allow the city to resolve the matter and move forward.
I do not believe that the ordinance approved by the voters of North Canton on November 6, 2012, should be challenged [emphasis added]. I believe that we should adopt the ordinance by personal practice in this term and ratify it for future effective terms.
The recent discovery that four councilmembers deceptively continued to use the City's health plan after the December 1, 2013, deadline was termed unconscionable in a March 2, 2014, Repository editorial titled, "Citizen's request for public records led to disclosures."
A previous Repository editorial on February 21, 2014, titled, "Residents should be mad as hell," the Editorial Board asks, "In what universe can officials simply bury legislation approved
by voters and pretend it doesn
't exist? 

Four members of North Canton City Council have attempted to fix the problem they created when they ignored the outcome of a citywide vote in 2012. Most taxpayer monies have been returned to City coffers. And I thank you.
Admitting a wrong is hard for anyone, even harder for public officials who know the admission of wrong is going to undercut the trust the public has in them and in the institution they are a part of.
In recent weeks, City Council has agreed to abide by the 2012 Initiative, which we all know is a duly enacted North Canton Ordinance that became effective December 2, 2012.
Although taxpayers have recovered most of the public funds that were taken to provide insurance in violation of the ordinance, the next question that presents itself to this body is this: Should North Canton City Council expend taxpayer funds fighting the taxpayers in a lawsuit?
The return of thousands of dollars to the city coffers by four Councilmembers and public apologies is recognition of the Healthcare Ordinance passed by the voters of North Canton. What will be gained in fighting the taxpayers at this point? You and members of Council must show voters that you respect the election process by ending the subversion that has gone on.
The residents you are sworn to represent will gain nothing from any litigation on this issue. Council will be abdicating their duty to safeguard and spend public monies wisely if City Council chooses to challenge the Healthcare Ordinance.
I ask at this time that City Council follow the expressed position taken by North Canton Mayor David Held and not challenge the ordinance approved by voters on November 6, 2012, and codify the ordinance passed by the voters.
It is not worth the financial expense to taxpayers nor is it worth the further erosion of trust of City Council or the loss of political capital that you yourself will suffer 

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne, Resident
City of North Canton

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Distinguished Ohio Law Firm Recommends City NOT Enter Into Economic Development Agreement

Prepared Comments Made to
February 18, 2014

        There is an issue that has been hanging over the heads of North Canton City Hall for many months and that is whether or not North Canton should ratify the proposed Mutual Economic Development Agreement with the City of Canton and the townships of Jackson and Plain. 

        One could speculate why there has been such a long delay on this decision, but one thing is certain. There can be no do-overs on this. Get it wrong and the beneficiaries in this agreement will get the last laugh and your children, when they are the age you are now, will still be bound by the terms of this agreement and asking long after you have departed this world why anyone would have accepted such an agreement. 
         Mayor Held retained the services of an expert in the field of economic development from the distinguished Ohio Law Firm of Bricker & Eckler. This firm has practiced in the field of economic development for several decades. 
        Christiane Schmenk, the attorney from Bricker & Eckler who analyzed the Mutual Economic Development Agreement, is herself a former Mayor of Marysville, Ohio. 
        Marysville, a community of approximately 22,000 residents in the greater metropolitan area of Columbus has a very interesting philosophy that I think is applicable while we all discuss the merits of this agreement. 
        The philosophical statement on Marysville’s Website is found under the tab titled Government and the tab titled, Residents. The dropdown box for each of those tabs reveals a link labeled, Transparency in Government. The opening statement of this page reads, “Elected officials and city executives have a responsibility to the taxpayers and members of the community to make sound decisions that benefit present and future generations.” 
        This is a philosophy that is especially applicable today as the fifty-year term of the proposed agreement in question will impact future generations, and then some. 
        I ask that all council members put aside loyalties and politics as they consider their vote on the economic development agreement. I ask that you consider the analysis and the recommendations of the expert who has been asked to advise you and the administration on the best course of action. 
        The six-page analysis is an informative and enlightening report. In summary, the report states that “the Agreement is incomplete…. [and asks the City] to give up future rights… without the ability to understand what it might gain in return…. [The agreement] lacks critical information that would allow it to make an informed decision whether the Agreement is in its citizens’ best interests.” 
        The report continues with “…this Agreement is more aptly characterized as an ‘anti-annexation’ agreement, not an economic development agreement.” 
        In conclusion, Christiane Schmenk, the legal expert states unequivocally “…I recommend against entering into this Agreement.” 
        I do not believe there is a single individual on this council body who has the necessary credentials to evaluate the proposed Economic Development Agreement to the extent of Mrs. Schmenk. 
        Experts in a wide range of specialized fields of endeavor are consulted for their expertise. We seek them for assistance in making decisions in which our knowledge is limited or nonexistent. We seek out medical doctors, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, CPAs, and hundreds of other specialists when we need sound advice and information. 
        One does not seek out experts for advice and then disregard the advice that is provided. 
        The citizens of North Canton would expect this council to abide by the expert advice you have received. 
        Moving forward on the recommendation you have received from the Law Firm of Brickler & Eckler is your duty.  Vote NO on the Mutual Economic Development Agreement with the City of Canton and the townships of Jackson and Plain. 

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne, Resident
City of North Canton