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

Monday, January 27, 2014

Proposed Elimination of Verbatim Minutes Diminishes Citizens’ Oversight of the Actions of Public Officials

Prepared Comments Made to
January 27, 2014 

            Accurate and complete records are vital building blocks of our history. They should not be filtered, interpreted, or summarized by any individual.  

            As an example, I would like to quote from a General Affidavit submitted to the U.S. Pension Office in support of a request for a pension for my great-grandmother, Nancy Lindenberg, a widow of a veteran of the Civil War. It is dated June 26, 1910. The statement was submitted by Starling Marshall, a family friend who served several terms as a Kentucky legislator in the early part of the twentieth century. Mr. Marshall states: 

            “We were well acquainted with Christian Lindenberg, alias Christian Linburg, and Nancy Lindenberg living on adjoining farms, residences within hailing distance of each other, and know that Claimant and the soldier lived together until his death, and that they were never divorced, but lived and cohabited as man and wife, up to date of his death, May 10, 1910. We also know that Soldier left no other child or children claimed for by this or any other marriage, but Harry Lindenberg who was under 16 years of age at time of Soldier’s death. On the filing of her claim May 20, 1910, we know this from an intimate acquaintance, seeing Claimant or Soldier almost daily for several years up to his death. We also know that Claimant has not remarried since Soldiers [sic] death.” 

What would we be left with today if those words on this affidavit had been summarized or paraphrased? I am certainly glad that the National Archives in Washington, D.C., has not summarized or paraphrased records entrusted to its care. 

A speaker’s words, spoken or written, are his/her own and not for someone to interpret. Would anyone want his/her words filtered or re-interpreted and then preserved in said manner for posterity? I think not. 

In actuality, the demands of summarizing or paraphrasing someone’s words would require more time and effort than simply transcribing those words verbatim, not to mention the risk of inaccuracies introduced by restatement.  

As public officials conducting the public’s business, why would you even consider letting someone summarize or paraphrase your words on public issues? Verbatim transcripts protect you. Why would you want to open the door and let someone put words in your mouth?  

Like the words of Starling Marshall that I read to you, your words will be preserved for generations to read. I am sure each of you would prefer that an accurate complete record of your words be kept. 

The proposal to eliminate transcribed verbatim minutes of Council meetings, Planning Commission meetings, Zoning and Building Board of Appeal meetings, and Appeals and Variances meetings is a mistake and will diminish citizens’ oversight of the actions of public officials. 

Ending the tried and true practice of verbatim minutes does not bring about any cost savings for taxpayers as acknowledged by Council President Jon Snyder in answer to a question asked by Councilmember Peters.  

How can cutting corners and diminishing the historical account of the actions of North Canton City government benefit citizens and taxpayers? 

Last Tuesday, Law Director Fox repeatedly said that audio recordings, which would be maintained in the “Cloud” under the proposed elimination of verbatim transcripts, could be taken to a transcriptionist and transcribed at a rate of $200 per hour. 

Anyone who has observed a transcriptionist transcribe a meeting would observe the transcriptionist using a transcription machine, one that is pre-programmed with the names of expected speakers at the meeting. The transcription machine works in tandem with the transcriptionist’s own recording of a meeting. 

 I called Premier Court Reporting and talked to a transcriptionist and was told in no uncertain terms that transcribing a meeting which she had not attended and recorded would be extremely difficult. Further, she could not certify such a transcript. In short, a citizen could not obtain an accurate transcript as stated in this scenario, at any cost. 

It is very disheartening to hear North Canton’s Law Director claim that a citizen could simply take an audio recording and have it transcribed verbatim when that is not really feasible. 

North Canton City Council has kept verbatim minutes of Council meetings for decades. It is a permanent, accurate record of the action of public officials. 

Yesterday I spoke to Daryl Revoldt, former Mayor, past President of City Council and longtime member of North Canton City Council regarding the proposal to discontinue the practice of transcribing verbatim minutes of City officials at public meetings. 

Mr. Revoldt was unequivocally opposed to the proposal to end verbatim transcripts and told me that I had permission to present his position against this proposal. He also gave me his cell phone number to give to many of you on this Council body so each of you could hear his position on why verbatim minutes have served North Canton and its citizens well.  

I ask that Ordinances No. 13-14, 14-14, 15-14, and 16-14 to end verbatim transcription of Council meetings, Planning Commission meetings, Zoning and Building Board of Appeal meetings, and Appeals and Variances meetings be tabled or voted down.  

Without summarizing or paraphrasing on my part, Mr. Revoldt’s last words to me on this proposal were:  “Ending verbatim transcripts would be an unwise decision.” 

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne, Resident
City of North Canton