April 19, 2014

Mostly sunny

County weighs NOACA pullout

MEDINA — Last week’s controversial decision to approve an interchange at Interstate 90 off Nagel Road in Avon — and what Avon officials had to give up to get it approved — prompted Medina County commissioners to talk about withdrawing from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency on Monday.

The uproar arose after officials from Cuyahoga County refused to sign off on the interchange unless Avon agreed to a revenue-sharing deal, saying they feared the interchange in the fast-growing community would hasten urban sprawl.

The deal requires Avon to send half of the income tax money collected from any business with an annual payroll of $750,000 or more that relocates to the area around the interchange back to the community the business moved from for five years. Those terms will remain in effect for 30 years after the interchange’s construction.

Medina County Commissioner Stephen D. Hambley, who is one of the county’s voting members on NOACA, said he is afraid the county may be forced to do something similar in order to receive any funding for road construction projects.

“Avon had a gun to its head,” he said Monday. “We don’t want to be in that boat.”

Hambley, along with Brunswick City Manager Bob Zienkowski, another NOACA member, abstained from voting on the resolution, which Hambley said he never saw until a NOACA meeting Friday morning. Lafayette Township Trustee Lynda Bowers is Medina County’s third NOACA member.

Bowers said she reluctantly voted in favor of the resolution because she knew Avon needed the interchange.

“I can’t feel good about the decision,” she said, because Lorain County officials were “held hostage.”

Hambley said he abstained from the vote because he thinks the Avon interchange needs to be built and knew the resolution would pass regardless of how he voted.

NOACA is a five-county metropolitan planning organization that approves transportation projects and distributes government funding. Besides Medina, the counties NOACA covers are Cuyahoga, Lorain, Lake and Geauga.

Because Cuyahoga County has the largest population, it also has the most votes on NOACA. Cuyahoga members also have the option of using a “weighted vote,” which gives their voting block 63 percent of the body’s votes, Hambley said.

“They are using it as a club,” he said. “There is a lack of trust between the outlying counties and Cuyahoga County.”

Cuyahoga County officials delayed the approval of the interchange out of concern businesses would relocate to Avon in Lorain County, but a study by a private consultant said the interchange’s construction would have no net loss for the county, Hambley said.

“They ignored the findings of the study because they didn’t like the result,” he said.

Zienkowski said he is worried about this vote because it will be difficult for any area outside of Cuyahoga County to get any road construction project approved.

“This is the best example of why regionalism will never work here,” he said. “It’s a prelude of what’s coming.”

For example, he said the intersection of Interstate 71 and state Route 303 in Brunswick may soon need widening if sporting-goods superstore Cabela’s decides to locate there. Zienkowski said he doesn’t want NOACA to be seeking a share of Brunswick’s tax revenue in exchange for approving the widening.

Medina County Engineer Mike Salay also expressed concern, saying Cuyahoga County officials could demand the county enter a tax-sharing plan in order to approve the widening of Boston Road, which stretches for most of the county’s border with Cuyahoga County. That project is scheduled to get under way in 2010.

It is unclear who would have to approve Medina County’s withdrawal from NOACA and which metropolitan planning organization the county would join instead, Hambley said.

Some possibilities include joining the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study, which includes Summit and Portage counties, or creating a joint district with Lorain County.

Hambley said he is meeting with Lorain County commissioners Thursday to discuss the issue. Some Lorain County officials also have suggested withdrawing from NOACA.

There may be one pitfall to pulling out of NOACA. The city of Brunswick and Brunswick Hills Township are considered part of the Cleveland metro area and may not be able to leave the organization, even if the rest of the county does, Hambley said.

At Monday’s commissioners meeting, county commissioners Sharon Ray and Pat Geissman supported Hambley’s recommendation to look into withdrawing from NOACA.

“This is a dead end to regionalism,” Ray said Monday.

At the meeting, Geissman asked Hambley if it was possible for NOACA to eliminate the “weighted vote,” but he said Cuyahoga County officials would have to first agree to give up that power.

“Is it the beginning of the end of NOACA?” she asked. “We have to take some action now.”

  • Mike Doyle

    This is the same NOACA that prevented Medina County from opening and using the third lanes on I-71 after they were constructed by the state. These people are no friends of ours and should be kicked to the curb.

  • marvin

    Medina, who paid for you road construction?

    Did you wholly pay for the widening of I71? no!

    you are asking Cuyahoga county to pay to make it easier for people to live in Medina, which is not in the best interest of Cuyahoga county or the entire region.

    how does Cuyahoga county benefit from the growth in Medina? it doesn’t.

  • Larry McHale

    It is really ashame that the suburbs, and I live in them, can’t seem to admit that their residents love being Cleveland Indians or Browns fans, go to the Cleveland Orchestra or Playhouse Square or the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but they don’t want to share in the cost of maintaining the cental core of the Greater Cleveland Area. Every resident is better off for having the Continental Airlines Hub at Cleveland Hopkins Airport and for having the Cleveland Clinic or University Hospitals and yet we want to live in our little suburban world and bash Cleveland for it’s loss of jobs, many to the suburbs, loss of people and reduction in economic viability.

    I don’t think there would be a Medina International Airport or a Internationally known Solon Orchestra or the Avon Indians.

    We need to get over our belief that any suburb can survive and thrive with a weak inner city core and as a region work together.

  • Patrick Sutter

    As a resident of Cuyahoga County, I was appalled at the strong arm tactics used by Dimora & Company in extorting tax base dollars from neighboring Lorain County. I would hope that surrounding counties have enough “metal” to withstand this technique and, as noted in the article, start their own consortium for the advancement of the quality of life for their citizens. I have not seen anything positive from NOACA in a long, long time.

  • Tom

    Cuyahoga county is wasteland. It’s time to move on, urban sprawl cannot be stopped. If you must tax lorain county, so be it, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter as the whole area is dying. The numbers don’t lie. Before 2010, 1 of the 3 major sports teams will be forever gone, businesses will continue to vacate due to taxes, college grads will continue to leave ohio just after graduation due to no jobs, property values will continue to decline. You have to know when to quit. If your kids are young, get out now. If they are older, start figuring out now where you are going to retire so you can be ready.

  • William Lucht

    It seems to me that NOACA and the CLEVELAND + CAMPAIGN leaders need to sit down and discuss what is beneficial to the whole region.

  • Jim

    I’m tired of hearing about Cleveland and how the suburbs and neighboring counties are supposed to pay for its infrastructure. Here’s a suggestion: Set up regional authorities for the Water Division and Hopkins Airport and have them issue bonds to pay Cleveland back for its investment. There will be better management, less corruption with the City of Cleveland out of the picture, and they’ll have the money to start fixing things. They’ll never agree to it though…