April 23, 2014

Mostly cloudy

Lame duck settlement slammed

Two Westfield Township trustees voted out of office in November are backing a proposed out-of-court settlement that would allow full commercial development of property near the Westfield Township interchange of Interstates 71 and 76 now zoned primarily for rural homes.

The proposal also provides for a payment of $15,000 to the property owners.

Trustees voted 2-1 to present the settlement to Timothy and Linda Kratzer following a special meeting Wednesday with legal counsel at the Medina County Prosecutor’s Office.

Voting for the settlement were trustees Gary Harris and Ronald Oiler, who were defeated in the November election.

The two incoming trustees protested the settlement, charging Harris and Oiler were trying to rush the agreement through before they leave office Dec. 31.

“I feel that it’s really good-ol’-boy politics at its best, and it appears that there are personal agendas that are being satisfied,” said Michael Schmidt, who will be sworn in as trustee next month.

Schmidt won in November, along with William Thombs, who campaigned for a 2011 referendum that overturned the trustees’ rezoning of the property for commercial use.

“Seventy percent of the township said they don’t want that type of thing and now two township trustees are trying to give that to Mr. Kratzer anyway,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt chaired the township’s Board of Zoning Appeals when it voted 3-2 in July to reject the Kratzers’ request for a zoning variance.

The Kratzers filed a lawsuit Aug. 12 in Medina County Common Pleas Court alleging the township violated their right to develop their property.

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

The land is zoned rural-residential with limited commercial frontage along Greenwich Road.

In court documents, the Kratzers say the property’s location makes it unfit for any use other than commercial development, and a zoning variance is needed.

The settlement concedes the Kratzers’ allegation that the property is “uniquely suitable for such development and virtually no other development under the existing township zoning code.”

The suit claims denial of the variance prevents the Kratzers from using their property, something they say is unconstitutional and beyond the township’s authority. The suit calls the zoning rules “arbitrary and unreasonable.” The Kratzers also allege that the refusal of the variance is the same as taking their land and they seek monetary damages for the value of the property.

The proposed settlement would give the Kratzers the right to develop all manner of commercial retail and service businesses, including medical, food, gas stations, business offices, medical offices, drug stores, banks, and educational and religious facilities.

The settlement also would pay the Krazters $15,000 for reasons not specified in the proposal.

Asked about the money and the settlement, Oiler said he had no comment.

Harris told The Gazette on Wednesday that the settlement was offered on the advice of attorneys. Harris could not be reached for comment Friday.

Trustee Jim Likley, who has voted against the rezoning of the Kratzers’ property all along, said the settlement is exactly what he voted against originally and what voters overturned in the 2011 referendum.

‘This is new language to our zoning code, specific to that property,” he said. “It is essentially verbatim the same proposal that was made in 2011 and then again in the variance requested earlier this year.”

Likley won re-election that year with 72 percent of the vote. The referendum was passed in the same election with 68 percent of the vote, according to records from the Medina County Board of Elections.

Likley also said he believes the case was winnable, based on the brief township attorneys filed in response to the Krazters’ claims.

“With every claim, there was a defense response, and the responses to the plaintiff’s claims were well written and they provided sound direction,” he said. “But any attorney will always tell you the decision is up to the board, and the majority rules.”

Township trustees denied The Gazette’s request for a copy of the settlement Wednesday, arguing it wasn’t a public record until the Kratzers approve it.

However a legal notice published by the township in The Gazette on Thursday stated a copy of the proposed settlement would be available for public review in the township fiscal officer’s office during normal business hours but did not specify a day.

The Gazette obtained a copy from another source.

If the Kratzers accept the offer, there will be a public hearing Dec. 27 for residents to comment on the settlement, which also must be approved by county Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler.

Timothy Kratzer has declined to comment and directed all inquiries to his attorney, Todd Hunt of Walter and Haverfield in Cleveland. Hunt has not returned calls for comment.

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

  • cauley

    total ridiculousness on the part of the outgoing trustees, how much of that 15k are they getting in return? The people of the township voted and did not want this. He can’t take no for an answer and wants us to pay for him making his land unfit. this is something that affects everyone of the citizens in the township. bet me not, that if I wanted to open a strip club on my property or a bar with bikini dancers the voters would vote and it would be upheld.

  • Realistic

    Harris and Oiler are an embarrassment. These two thugs have no right to do this. They have a hidden, unethical agenda.

  • Karen Fisher

    Thank God we had Gary Harris and Ron Oiler for four years! The only agenda they had was to provide an alternate way for the township to survive. They made no secret of this like other Trustees have done – present and past. Now we will have 2 new trustees and we in the audience will watch the three bobble heads support each other with little or no discussion or opposing beliefs. How boring this will be. At least when Sims was a trustee, we witnessed some real action … like watching her throw her documents against the back wall because she didn’t get her way or the times she berated the Fiscal Officer who was an elected to her office just as Sims was. How sad those four years were. Apparently ‘Realistic’ didn’t get to see that hidden, unethical agenda behavior. Then there’s Likley who has Sims’ husband to thank for his job. Likley’s wife is BFFs with Sims. Any collaboration there????? So when you throw stones, make sure you don’t live in a glass house! Then maybe you won’t be afraid to use your name instead of a fake one!

  • Karen Fisher

    You may want to check the zoning codes for your strip club. If you live in the Greenwich Rd. area, I don’t believe you could have a business like that so close to the soccer fields and children. You may want to research why the soccer fields were able to build where they are. It’s an interesting story.

  • Carolyn Sims

    In my opinion your choosing to write and publish the above statements are with a knowing and reckless disregard of the truth and I find them to be offensive. I feel your statements are in an attempt to defame and cast a false light on me and my husbandu2019s character, as well others. I feel your statements are an attempt to harass and intimidate me as a private citizen from continuing to participate in my local government. Furthermore, I feel you are continuing and attempting an invasion of our privacy by casting aspersion on myself, my husband and others, and reflecting their relationships in a false light. In the past I have filed complaint statements with Medina County Sherriffu2019s Office. Please understand, should I continue to feel that you are knowingly and willingly continuing in this reckless manner, it is my intention to pursue a legal remedy. nnFurthermore I ask the Gazette and itu2019s readers to “FLAG” this comment inappropriate as I feel it is defamatory to myself, my husband and others you mentioned because it inaccurately reflects statements regarding PRIVATE citizens.

  • Terri Likley

    Thank God we live in a country where we have free speech. But if you feel the need to write things about people and the Township, I would urge you to get your facts straight first. Your opinion is based on untruths.Nothing you have posted about myself or my husband or others is true. Please do your research and report facts not made up nonsense.

  • Karen Fisher

    Thank you Mrs. Likley for supporting the rights of citizens to u2018free speechu2019. I would expect a declaration from you that what I write is not true. That is your opinion. I do my research. The facts speak for themselves. Public documentation and eye witness accounts are not nonsense!

  • Karen Fisher

    Mrs. Sims, I do not respond to implied intimidation or unsubstantiated threats. Yournactions while a former public figure are documented by public record and eye witnessnaccounts. Your actions at townhall meetings become public record whether an official or resident. I express my first amendment rights to free speech and will continue to do so. nThank you for reading my posted comment.