April 23, 2014

Medina
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Westfield Twp. may settle zoning suit

Westfield Township trustees and their legal counsel drafted a proposal at a meeting Wednesday morning that may settle a lawsuit filed by former township trustee Tim Kratzer and his wife, Linda, against the township over zoning.

“It’s in the best interest of the township. I feel the township did everything within its limits and laws, and we’re going by the advice of our attorneys,” Trustee Gary Harris said.

The lawsuit, filed Aug. 12 in Medina County Common Pleas Court, alleges that parts of a township zoning referendum voters approved in 2011 violate the Kratzers’ rights to develop their property.

The Kratzers’ 105-acre property at 5669 Greenwich Road sits between Interstate 71 and Interstate 76/U.S. Route 224, just west of Chippewa Creek and north of Greenwich Road.

In July, the township Board of Zoning Appeals denied a use variance for the property, less than two years after voters in November 2011 overwhelmingly defeated a general business district amendment to township zoning laws that would have allowed the Kratzers to develop the land commercially.

According to court documents, the Kratzers say the location of the property makes it unfit for any use other than commercial development, and a zoning variance is needed. The land is zoned rural-residential.

The suit says denial of the variance prevents them from lawful development of their land and is unconstitutional and beyond the township’s authority. It also says the rules applied to the Kratzer property are “arbitrary and unreasonable” and are invalid; and alleges that the refusal of the variance is as good as taking the land from the Krazters and they seek monetary damages for the value of the property.

The decision to offer a settlement was presented to residents at a special meeting Wednesday at the Medina County Prosecutor’s Office in Medina at 8 a.m. Trustees went into executive session immediately to discuss the pending litigation and emerged to announce their
2-1 decision to offer a settlement at around 9:30 a.m.

The details of the settlement will be made public after the Kratzers and their attorney, Todd Hunt of Walter and Haverfield in Cleveland, have accepted it.

A public meeting notice says a special meeting will be 7 p.m. Dec. 27 to hear residents’ concerns, but only if the Kratzers approve the settlement. If the parties come to terms, the settlement will be sent to Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler for his approval.

Several residents and township officials say they are outraged and that trustees are trying to bypass the will of the public.

“They’re legal, don’t get me wrong. They get residential input,” trustee-elect William Thombs said. “But when are they going to take time to evaluate what the residents say? They’re not. They’re going to vote where they are.”

Thombs organized the November 2011 referendum and was elected this year along with Michael Schmidt, ousting Harris and Ronald Oiler.

Harris and Oiler, who have supported the Krazters’ plans, received only 17 percent and 19 percent of the vote, respectively. Thombs won the most votes, with 33 percent, and Schmidt, who chaired the zoning board of appeals that denied the Krazters’ request for a use variance in July by a 3-2 vote, won 29 percent of the vote.

Tim Kratzer declined to comment and referred all questions to Hunt, who did not return a call for comment.

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com.

  • Karen Fisher

    Thank you, Medina Gazette, for bringing this important news to the forefront of your paper. This issue has been brewing for over 6 years and needs to be resolved. Granted the referendum organized and paid for by trustee-elect Bill Thombs and his followers have been extremely critical of of this petitioner, his family and his rights. Thombs has made it very clear that he will represent only those who voted for the referendum u2013 in essence disenfranchising those who see the issue differently.nn Controlled commercial development will bring in tax dollars for the township and school district. That has been established. The townshipu2019s responsibility is to uphold the zoning codes. If the codes have not been drafted tonwithstand legal scrutiny, then the landowner has a right to seek justice in a court of law. That is a right we allnhave.nn Apparently, the judge and prosecutoru2019s office see the holes in the township zoning codes and have encouraged the township trustees to settle. That tells me that Thombsu2019s referendum was flawed and the information he and his supporters spread around the township to garner signatures was flawed. nn I still believe the denial of this particular residentu2019s rights has been personal. It started with a former trustee who did not win reelection for a second term and now the banner has been taken up by one of her staunch supporters. The personal attack continued even up to October of this year when this supporter wrote a note on his legal pad at a public hearing that u2018Tim Kratzer will be broke after all of thisu2019. The note was shown to others seated around the writer and garnered chuckles. The writer is now a trustee-elect.

  • Don Cauley

    If his land is that unfit why did he allow it to become unfit??? he sold it to ODOT on his own, now he wants to develop, sell it and leave behind a mess for the rest of us… the voters (residents) spoke. This is America we are a democracy, we vote things out, not settle with 2 people who are in favor of this type of backroom propaganda.

  • guest

    Too funny. I lived in Westfield Township from 1978 until 1989. Truck stops, crappy schools and self important people who tried to impress anyone who would listen as to how Westfield was the center of the universe. Good to see nothing has changed…..still nothing more than truck stops, crappy schools and highly self important people trying to impress.

  • Guest

    He didn’t “allow” it to become “unfit.” Had he not sold to ODOT, they would have taken it! Your right, this is America…and we ALL HAVE RIGHTS..including the right to sell our land. I find it amazing as to how many people automatically perceive commercial development to mean “big box stores.” Maybe all the NIMBY’s should have put their resources together and bought the property themselves in an effort to control it. I didn’t see anyone do that!

  • Concerned Resident

    The Medina Gazette shouldnbe ashamed of this article. Who editsnthe final product? Elementary students have better grammar and spelling skills!nIs this the best they can come up with? Itnshould be an embarrassment to the community. nnMore specifically, this articlenis inaccurate and disjointed. This isnprecisely how the public is highly misinformed. nNews media should be accurate in the depiction of the facts. That is notnthe case here. nnThe political pandering isnso obvious. Township elects who havenu2019t even been sworn in are alreadynforecasting with no basis; commenting on decisions they have clearly beennagainst. How many more times would younlike to hear the same people say the same things Mr. Thombs? Itu2019s been heard repeatedlynfor over 5 years. Thereu2019s been plenty of time to evaluate what theyu2019ve had tonsay. Furthermore, it was evaluated; waynmore than it should have been. nnSpear heading the referendumncampaign and giving everyone the perception that this would be the end to Mr.nKratzeru2019s request for a zoning change was foolish. There are laws that protect the rights of propertynowners and their legal counsel is aware if this, the township would be wise tonsettle. I hope Mr. Kratzer only sees it the same way. If this goes all the waynthrough the legal system, it will cost the township so much money that each andnevery property owner in this township will pay for it dearly. I pay enough taxes; I donu2019t need to pay morenjust so the township can recoup their losses due to a few residents who refusento understand the legal process and put their hostility elsewhere!

  • cauley

    you drive by that piece of land? junk, to be nice more like crap all over the property, why did his daughter not want to live in the big beautiful house that sits right next store? that was vacant for nearly a year. if people want growth look at lodi exit and see how growth looks 15 years later when you can’t keep a car dealer open, and the outlet mall has more open real estate than nearly any other outlet mall in the nation. this is just like people who buy a house by the interstate, then complain years later that the sound from the interstate is too loud then they build wall of cement after years of decay the complain that they walls look to horrible. you can’t tell me kratzer did not make good money when he sold that property if you do your homework he suggestes they move the interstate that direction.

  • CliffOnTheRoad

    Mid December meetings are chosen to avoid getting public participation, nespecially when politically connected people, sometimes with financial nincentives, have their own agenda/motivations.nnHistorically, some well informed people buy land where some DOT or commercial project is slated and make a $ killing. I don’t know the story from the owners viewpoint or history of the propertynnWhat is a shame (or sham) is when owners create a junk yard then champion a way to clean it up via variances, etc.nnMuch of this is at taxpayer expense and/or with remaining residents having to live with the sell-and-run owners.nnIt’s an uphill battle, but taxpayers must be more involved, even with ill educated appointed board members

  • nglunt

    I’m Nick Glunt, one of the reporters and the Gazette’s Web editor. Can you be more specific about mistakes of spelling or grammar and about what’s inaccurate in the story? If there are mistakes, we’d like to correct them.