April 20, 2014

Medina
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Westfield Township trustees OK rezoning settlement

WESTFIELD TOWNSHIP – After hearing opposition from 17 people, Westfield Township trustees voted 2-1 to accept an out-of-court settlement that would allow commercial development on a 105-acre property on Greenwich Road, near the interchange of Interstate 71 and Interstate 76.

Supporting the settlement were trustees Gary Harris and Ron Oiler, whose terms expire in four days. The third trustee, James Likley, voted no.

Throughout a two-hour public hearing, residents voiced their concerns. Many urged trustees to “do the right thing,” and not approve “spot zoning” to only benefit one property.

The settlement would allow commercial development at 5669 Greenwich Road, a plot of land owned by Tim and Linda Kratzer. Kratzer is a former Westfield Township trustee. The settlement also awards them $15,000 in compensation.

Resident Dwayne Kramer told trustees Harris and Oiler, “You’re just blatant with your refusal to follow the will of this community. We voted you out of office solely over this issue.”

The remark was greeted with enthusiastic applause from the crowd. The meeting was standing-room-only with more than 100 people in attendance.
Another resident, Joseph Doty, an attorney, said the timing of the vote, four days before the two outgoing trustees leave office, was “suspect.”

“The sad part is, there may actually be a compromise available, a compromise which everyone, including and especially the residents of the township, could accept and agree” he said. “However, if you approve this settlement agreement, we will never know.”

Doty said residents do not want “full-scale, anything-goes type development.”

Before hearing from residents, attorney Jim Mathews, who is representing the township, said told them there is a risk the township might lose in court — both sides of the case have strengths and weaknesses.

“There is a rational basis for seeking some resolution,” he said.

Trustee Harris said he could not “consciously allow the township to be put in jeopardy.” He said the lawsuit, if not settled, could potentially “bankrupt the township.” Harris said any development would take approximately eight to 10 years, and by that time, the township could benefit from the property tax revenue.

Oiler said their decision was in the township’s best interest.

On Tuesday, Medina County Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier ruled that Friday’s meeting could proceed as planned.

Newly elected trustees William Thombs and Michael Schmidt had asked Collier to delay the meeting until after Jan. 1, when they take office. Thombs and Schmidt oppose the settlement.

The Kratzers sued the township in August, after their request for a variance was rejected by the township Board of Zoning Appeals. The Kratzers have appealed that decision, along with filing the lawsuit. At the time of the request, Schmidt sat on the board.

The lawsuit says the township violated the Kratzers’ right to develop their property. A November 2011 voters’ referendum overturned a decision by trustees to rezone the property for commercial development.

In court on Tuesday, five township residents — Shirley McDougal, Everett Perry, Amy Huttinger, Joseph F. Hastings and Eugene Sulzener — filed a “motion to intervene” with Thombs and Schmidt, saying the settlement is not in the best interest of the township.

They said building commercially on the lot would impede work on nearby farms, reduce property values, increase police and fire taxes and would make flooding more likely.

Collier granted that motion, giving some residents the chance to convey their concerns at a Feb. 13 court hearing. Collier will still decide after hearing from residents whether the settlement is “fair and reasonable.”

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.

  • Realistic

    Harris and Oiler have opened themselves up to be sued over this now… they deserve it!!nIt is astonishing that they would blatantly rule against what their own voters wanted. Right or wrong, they did not obey their constituents. They are sad guys that should be ashamed of what they have done. No respect for these two. GOOD RIDDANCE!!!

  • Joseph Doty

    The whole thing was disgusting. They just sat there and listened to the residents and then voted they way they had planned all along. Shame on them!!! Judge Collier is a good judge and I know he will see through this charade. There is nothing “fair and reasonable” about spot zoning. Secret, last second meetings. Friday night meetings four days before they leave office. The whole thing just reeks.

  • BuickSuper8

    This article does NOT reflect the feelings of the Westfield Township Residents that packed the hall last night. Oiler and Harris were very rude by NOT even looking at the speakers as they addressed them. Was Oiler playing “Angry Birds” on his iPhone? He surely wasn’t paying attention to the speakers. Both Oiler & Harris already had their minds made up with prepared statements that did not reflect anything either of them could have written on their own. This is a travesty and the two of them do NOT represent the voters!!! In my humble opinion, I hope both of them move out of township and lose business over their decisions! What are they getting out of this deal? Makes us ALL wonder!

  • Joseph Doty

    You nailed it Buick.

  • John Miller

    This article is certainly not expressing the mood of the residents that I seen last night. There were well over 100 people attending and I didn’t hear anyone in support of the settlement other than Oiler & Harris who obviously had already had their minds made up prior, since they couldn’t look at any of the speakers and appeared to be playing games or crossword puzzles on their phones. They have been a disgusting pair of trustees since day 1, and have not supported the residents. I have to believe that they are getting something out of this decision. Yes, I agree, their actions were disgusting and smells of impropriety.

  • BuickSuper8

    I only reply to what I saw. Sad. Sad. Sad. This is why the township voted them out. New lawsuits to come in the future is what I see in my opinion.

  • voter_resident_taxpayer

    unfortunately I could not attend due to work, but would have loved to been able. These two I believe are getting something, perhaps the marque corner shop at ‘krazters neighborhood mall’ There needs to be some type of organized review of the settlement and possible litigation brought up.

  • Realistic

    No worries – the money has not changed hands yet, and word is that this will get overturned anyway by Collier.nThe best part is that this now opens up an investigation into the wrongdoing by Harris, Oil AND Kratzer. These three idiots have never gotten the hint to get out of Westfield. These guys will get their day – it will not be anything that they ever wanted!!

  • Karen Fisher

    It was announced at the meeting that only residents ‘opposed’ to the settlement would be heard. There were residents in favor of the settlement in attendance; but, that night was yours not ours.

  • Joseph Doty

    Yeah, there was 5 people in favor of the settlement!