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Editorials from years 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015

HandsOn Northeast Ohio
Published December 15, 2016

On Saturday, January 14, 2017, HandsOn Northeast Ohio will be conducting a homeless stand down at Public Auditorium in the City of Cleveland. I have been involved with the stand down for several years and from my own personal experience, it is emotionally devastating to witness first-hand the level of poverty and struggle of the participants.

I am extending an impassioned request to my neighbors in Geauga and Lake County to support this critical care event for those who are in such great need.

Also, I’m hoping to put together a small group of donors who will join me in sponsoring lunch for the volunteers. It’s an all-day program and requires a tremendous amount of volunteer time, effort and participation. It takes an army of volunteers to support this event, and they need to be cared for as well.

If you are looking for a way to make the Christmas and holiday season special this year, please consider volunteering or donating by contacting the HandsOn of Northeast Ohio organization at: www.handsonneo.org.

Judy K. Zamlen-Spotts
Chesterland, Ohio

Published November 27, 2016

For 22+ years I have been an avid reader of the Chagrin Valley Times and have enjoyed both your County Line and Commentary. I have always thought your commentary to be based on fact.

Imagine my disappointment when I read the November 24th commentary regarding the Geauga Planning Commission. It may make a good story and sell papers, but it is short on fact. While it is true we who sit on the Planning Commission are “toothless tigers,” as Jim Flaiz put it, we are charged with reading zoning amendments and commenting when they stray from ORC. Regardless of what we say, or fail to say, however, the recommendations of the Planning Commission have always been non-binding on the townships. They are free to do whatever they want.

The biggest rub in the Chagrin Valley Times’ interest is that legal advice from the prosecutor’s office is non-existent. We have requested staff from his office attend some of the meetings, not a burden since we meet only once a month for a couple of hours, so we could address questions of law. The prosecutor is our attorney, but he is withholding his services. That means we must wing it on our own to the best of our combined knowledge.

In many ways we function like a jury taking a vote on our actions. If you would care to check the Planning Commission minutes, you will see the actions of the Planning Commission have been unanimous in almost every case. You can’t blame any decision on just one person, for example, Skip Claypool, as the commentary seems to suggest. We are all equally culpable. The people on the commission are from diverse backgrounds and include a township zoning inspector and a sitting member of a township zoning commission.

I personally have found it necessary to litigate my own township because elected officials flagrantly disregard ORC. I know you remember, since my farm was the center piece of many of your County Line commentaries. I only want what is fair for victims who would find themselves on the receiving end of badly-written zoning.

Thomas Jones

Published September 30, 2016

We all need to know what is happening in our sleepy little township lest we wake up one day and find we no longer live in the same community where we put down our roots.

While reviewing the July 14, 2016, Auburn Township Zoning Commission meeting minutes, I found this: “Next meeting topics to discuss will be: noise amendment initiation, rework business zones; reducing business district property to residential; increase residential 2 to 3 acres, 3 to 5 acres, square footage increase to 2,000 square feet.” The next meeting (August 11) was canceled and the meeting following (September 8) had a zoning amendment about changing the noise requirements.

How will these changes affect you, your family, and the valuation of your property? How will the changes affect the tax base for the township?

Hearing date for noise zoning proposed amendment ZC2016-01 is scheduled for October 13, 2016 at 7:30 PM at the Auburn Administration Building. There are too few times when one has a chance to voice his/her opinion and affect the future of the township. This will be your chance to voice your approval or disapproval of the changes to our zoning.

Published May 27, 2016

May 2, 2016 trustee meeting
Auburn trustees voted on May 16 to extend the 208 sewer to the 180 acre former Auburn Springs Golf Course, now owned by BIP AUBURN (Bowlus Investment Group). The vote was approved two to one. This is the beginning of a process that may take years to clear the courts but will ultimately change the zoning landscape of the county, if not the state, forever.

Our large lot zoning in Geauga County for decades has relied on a judicial decision titled Ketchel v. Bainbridge.This court case relied on well and septic, in which water was a limiting resource. In the intervening time the United States Geological Survey has been doing a long term well study. If anything, it has proved that development has not impacted water levels.

May 16, 2016 trustee meeting
Fast forward to a time before the housing bubble burst in 2008 and check what has been happening across the country. Case by case, the legal system has been chipping away at large lot zoning. A developer is interested in the “highest and best use” for the land he is developing. “Highest and best use” has to pass the tests of legally permissible, physically possible, financially feasible, maximally productive. Translated, that means as many building lots as possible on the land available.

Moving forward to the present, this 180 acres of former golf course appears to be the missing link between Auburn Lakes to the south and Lorien Woods to the north. If/when this land is developed, it is for certain that the current three acre lot zoning will be broken. It may take years for the courts to decide, but with many millions of dollars at stake, we can be sure Dale Markowitz of Thrasher, Dinsmore & Dolan will win the day. OR maybe the owner just “wants to build a MAN CAVE,” as Auburn zoning inspector Kitko reported to the trustees on May 2.

Make area look friendlier
Published May 12, 2016

The Republican National Convention is fast approaching. I am proud to have the RNC held in Cleveland, Ohio. It means a lot to a lot of people, especially since our beloved Geauga County is predominantly Republican. We are a very caring and proud community.

Traveling our state and county highways, I look around and notice that several of our communities are not marked with the name of the community. Example: "Welcome to Bainbridge Twp."
It would be nice if our visitors knew what community they are driving through. Perhaps another friendly sign stating: "Leaving Bainbridge Twp. Thank you for visiting with us. Have a safe trip and come back again soon."

Also, one state highway in particular, Route 44, has several farms, particularly in Auburn Township, that are desperately in need of repair -- barns, outbuildings, silos, etc. Even farmhouses are desperately in need of a major face-lift and are in need of repair and painting. As I look at them, my pride diminishes, and I feel ashamed.

Beautiful farms becoming dilapidated. How sad. Farm equipment rusted and abandoned outside of the barns and in the fields. If they could be covered or pulled into the barns that are halfway safe to store farm equipment, that would make a big difference in the appearance making the area look less cluttered.
I am sure, without naming names, the owners of these farms know by the description what farms are being referred to. Please try to spruce up your area of Geauga County, Auburn Township. Let's make our rural communities a pleasure to be seen.
Linda J. Zmek, Auburn

Hospice of the Western Reserve
Published March 16, 2016

I want to take a moment to thank the Hospice of the Western Reserve.

In 2014, my younger sister Barbie was losing her five-year battle with cancer and came to my home for hospice care. Nothing, absolutely nothing can prepare you for something like this but with the love and support of family, friends and neighbors, together you find a way.

My sister was fortunate to have wonderful healthcare and we could afford the best of clinical and nursing support.  I asked what happens when someone does not have the means to pay for care and the Hospice of the Western Reserve said regardless, they provide hospice care without reservation.

I would ask, please, if anyone is looking for a worthy organization to support, please consider making a donation to the Hospice of the Western Reserve.

This was such a heartbreaking experience, my family really struggled. And just when I didn’t think I could make it one more day…, the Hospice of the Western Reserve was there to make sure that I did.

Judy K. Zamlen-Spotts

An Open Letter to the Republican Voters in Auburn Twp. Precinct B:
Published March 11, 2016

You have my gratitude for electing and allowing me to serve you as your Republican Central Committee member for a number of years. My intention to run for re-election was interrupted by an offer on my house and the decision to transition and move forward.

As a Conservative, it has been my honor to be elected to this position and in withdrawing please know that my support is 100% for Diane Jones to succeed me in serving all of you and your best interests in Auburn Township Precinct B.

Diane is, wholeheartedly, your best opportunity for conservative values, affording protection with assurance of the greatest good in your representation and as a watchdog of critical areas surrounding same within the County as a whole.

Diane, and her husband, have been vigilant about matters not only in Auburn Township, but throughout Geauga County and the well-being of each and every one of us. You may not agree, and that's fine. BUT, in the big picture of cronyism in Auburn Twp, and Geauga County, she is not going to pony up and play! She is going to look at what affords you the best dynamic for your representation ethically and legally.

I sincerely ask you for your support of Diane Jones for Auburn Township Precinct B Central Committee on Tuesday, 3/15/16.

Trust me, she does care, she does dig into the things that need the soiled turned a bit to get below the crap and into the substance of reason.

Thank you, all, for your past support.

Claudine Steinfurth

Published Feburary 25, 2016

The Russell Township Board of Trustees hosted a special event, a USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) Water Well Monitoring Meeting, at 6:30 pm, on Tuesday, February 16, in the Russell Town Hall.

The purpose of the event was to discuss funding and organization for the long-term groundwater-level network in Geauga County. Attendance was to be township trustees, county officials, staff members from Geauga County, and representatives from the USGS and Ohio EPA. This was a lofty-stated goal except only four townships of the sixteen townships (Auburn, Bainbridge, Burton, and Russell) were at the table. Also absent were the USGS and EPA.

After much rankling the meeting was finally opened to public comment. Public comment proved to be the most informative part of the meeting. From questions asked, we learned that in the thirty-eight years of well monitoring there have been no problems with water levels. In a pointed question to David Sage representing the Health Department, I learned there is an arsenic problem across the northern townships and in the Chardon City water supply, which is treated to reduce the problem. The EPA standard of ten parts per billion (ppb) is the current allowed level in drinking water. In addition, the Geauga Health Department does not report on arsenic levels in water when they test and approve a well for residential use.

In another question regarding what can be done if the water levels are low and getting lower, David Sage indicated this to be a zoning issue. If you live in an area zoned for three acre lots and the water levels are usually low, the zoning would need to be changed to larger lot size. Perhaps every second or third home would have to be abandoned to raise the water level for remaining residents. These answers are not satisfying for me.

Geauga County Commissioner Claypool stated he is exploring options and doing due diligence. Mr. Claypool questions whether the USGS report is meeting our overall objectives of protecting our water supply. It should be noted that none of the County Commissioners was invited to the meeting.

Thomas Jones

February 4, 2016

The Russell Township Board of Trustees and Fiscal Officer will host a
seminar at 9 am, on Saturday, February 20, 2016, in the Gallery at Kent
State University in Burton.

This seminar, the first in a series of Geauga County Township Association
seminars, is entitled “5-Year Budgets”. In attendance will be Geauga
County Township Trustees, Fiscal Officers, County Budget Commission
members, and invited guests.

The purpose of this seminar is to help overcome obstacles, develop
methodologies, and improve processes among Geauga County township
trustees and fiscal officers.

Russell Township Board of Trustees