Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Public Dollars Used to Pave Private Road Is Unlawful and Unfair To Taxpayers

Prepared Comments Made to
September 26, 2005

Approximately two weeks ago, I received a phone call from a city resident who asked me why the City of North Canton was expending public dollars to pave a private drive, specifically Pacific Avenue, SE. The city resident proceeded to tell me that he had asked this same question of city officials in 1993 when this private drive was previously paved by the city.

The response this resident was given in 1993 for the paving of a private drive using public funds was that the city had “goofed.”

A few weeks ago as the resident observed the paving of Pacific Avenue, SE for the second time; he asked me if this was another “goof” on the part of the city.

The resident who called me owns a lot on the undeveloped portion of Pacific Avenue, SE. Yes, a significant portion of this street is not built even though city maps show this as a through street.

A visit to Pacific Avenue, SE would prompt anyone to question the validity of Pacific’s designation as a dedicated street.

A conversation with a resident on the north end of Pacific Avenue, on the corner of Knoll revealed that he too knew Pacific Avenue was not a dedicated city street.

My question is this: Why do city residents know more about the status of this private drive than city officials?

My research at the Stark County map office as well as records on file at the North Canton City Council office show that efforts to dedicate Pacific Avenue in 1993 fizzled out.

Efforts to dedicate Pacific Avenue died for a reason and that is quite apparent with a visit to this secluded private drive. It obviously could not be justified. The private drive is not wide enough to meet the city’s subdivision regulations for a residential street.

This was clear to city officials in 1993, as the historical documents clearly spell out. This should ring loud and clear today as well. It is the same secluded private drive.

I would like to know why the Ward 3 Councilman put this private drive on the city’s paving list. As I stated earlier, a quick visit to Pacific Avenue should raise red flags on the validity of Pacific’s designation as a city street.

Where was the North Canton Engineering Department in this? Where was the City Administrator? Where was the mayor? Did anyone really care?

Does the fact that there is an election in a few months figure into this equation for the ward councilman and the administration?

It is admirable that the Ward 3 Councilman can get things done for his constituents, but one must operate within the bounds of the law. And just as important, one must do what is fair for residents throughout the City of North Canton. Not just what you can get away with in your ward when you are in the good graces of the administration

I was appalled last week that anyone on this council or any city official would consider a change in the status of Pacific Avenue from a private drive to a public street or an alley.

Changing the status of Pacific Avenue to a designated city street or alley is a major policy shift and is simply not fair to residents who live on streets that present much less financial liability to the city and are much more deserving of city services and yet receive nothing for the taxes they pay to the City of North Canton.

I have seen several situations throughout the city where residents living on streets that substantially meet requirements for a city street and are much more deserving of city services but were turned down when they requested snow removal services.

One such street, Sherbrook Circle comes to mind. It was built in the early 1990s and serves 36 condos, home to mostly older citizens. Sherbrook Circle has a street width of over 29 feet (inside curb to inside curb).

This is five feet wider than the street I live on. My street, with a width of slightly over 24 feet (inside curb to inside curb) enjoys street maintenance and snow removal.

Sherbrook Circle, at over 29 feet, and built to meet city codes is denied street maintenance and snow removal.

Pacific Avenue only has a right of way of twenty feet. The most recent paving of asphalt is a fifteen foot wide band of asphalt which is about all that this secluded private road can accommodate. Pacific Avenue in no stretch of anyone’s imagination comes close to meeting the requirements of a city street.

Is any of this fair?

The paving of Pacific Avenue was a violation of state law because taxpayers’ monies were used to maintain private property. But more importantly, if was unfair to city residents.

To now change the legal status of Pacific Avenue to a street or an alley to cover up years of unlawful preferential treatment will leave the city with no choice but to provide similar treatment and services for other residents throughout the city who live on undedicated roadways.

Compliance with Ohio State Statutes ensures that taxpayer funds are spent fairly and that taxpayers are treated fairly.

The expenditure of public monies must comply with the laws of Ohio. The distribution of city services must be consistent and fair to all residents of the City of North Canton.

Thank you
Chuck Osborne
City of North Canton