Russell trustees to ask prosecutor about zoning permit for park entrance

The following article originally appeared on Chagrin Valley Today, the website of the Chagrin Valley Times and Geauga Times Courier. Our thanks to the Times for permission to republish the article here.

Chagrin Valley Times

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Russell Township Trustees plan to consult with the county prosecutor’s office on whether the Geauga Park District would need zoning permits for a proposed entrance and parking lot for horse trailers at the West Woods park off Music Street.

Residents affected by the park district’s plan met with trustees July 19 to voice their objections to the new entrance.

Trustees said they would be seeking an opinion from Geauga County Assistant Prosecutor Kate Jacob on whether the county park district must comply with township zoning and whether conditional-use permits would be needed for a parking lot and driveway under the passive-park zoning.

Russell Trustee Gary Gabram noted that Geauga Park District representatives should meet with the township trustees about the matter. Park district officials never notified the township about the plan nor did they offer to meet with trustees. “A meeting with the park district, the township trustees and residents would be a good thing,” Mr. Gabram said.

The park district’s plans call for a driveway, pavilion, restroom and fishing dock on a pond at the site. Residents said at the meeting there is no demand for such a facility. There is an existing parking lot for horse trailers off Kinsman Road (Route 87) at the park’s main entrance.

“I think it is horrific, unnecessary and a waste of taxpayers’ money,” Cindy Foster of Music Street said. “We use the other entrance frequently and there is plenty of room. We’re there by ourselves most of the time.” The Kinsman Road entrance is safer and easier for parking.

The park district could reach out to the township, Ms. Foster said. “It would be nice if they would ask taxpayers what to do with the money rather than them telling us what they are going to do.” She added that the park district would be better off spending the money for something like a child’s playground at the West Woods picnic area or for a volleyball court.

Music Street resident Carol Donaldson owns a boarding stable across from the proposed entrance. Speaking after the meeting, she noted that the parking lot, restrooms, lighting and pavilion are not necessary. “I would like to see the park district more responsible in the way it is spending money.”

There is an existing parking lot for horse trailers at the park’s entrance off Kinsman Road, she noted. “Why do they need a second lot?

“The park district does what it wants to and never gets feedback from others,” Ms. Donaldson said. “I’d like to see them concentrate on connecting horse trails to other parks. They have talked about that for years. I wish they would use a little common sense,” she said of the park district leaders’ plans.

Frank Kanzinger also of Music Street told trustees he was the only one on Music Street who received a letter from Geauga Park District Executive Director John Oros about the plans. The residents did not have input and the park district never contacted them, he said. The driveway would be next to the property owned by Mr. Kanzinger and his wife Kim.

He bought the property with the belief his family would have peace and quiet and the parking lot is going to ruin that. He said he asked Mr. Oros how it could be stopped, but received no answer.

After the meeting, Mr. Kanzinger said residents will pursue every avenue they can to attempt to stop the project, including contacting the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for input.

Russell Trustee Jim Mueller said the trustees can ask the Geauga County Prosecutor’s office if the township has the right to review the plans to determine if they conform to the passive park zoning that covers the West Woods parkland in Russell.

Resident Howard Shanker said it is his experience that the Ohio EPA could require an environmental study and that could take some time, even several years.

Mr. Mueller noted that trustees might not be able to stop the park, but perhaps they could have changes made to the plan to make it more acceptable.

Mr. Gabram said trustees want to know more about whether the park district is exempt from township zoning. Passive park zoning in the township does not allow parking lots and roads, he said.

“We want to get a legal opinion from Kate Jacob and see whether or not we have teeth or if the park district is exempt,” he said. Only walking paths are allowed in passive parks, said Gabram noting that there are sight limitations for drivers on Music Street due to its hilly terrain.

“The park district hasn’t come to us. There is a lot of work to be done on our part and the part of residents,” he said. He noted that Silver Creek is a pristine tributary of the Chagrin River, and water run-off washing over the proposed gravel parking could impact the creek.

Russell resident and veterinarian Sharmyn Clark co-owns 8 acres adjacent to the park property, and she said there are large amounts of water run-off. She is having a study done on her property for the impact on the environment and whether there are endangered species there.

In his presentation to the Trustees, Mr. Kanzinger said many horse owners have said it is not worth hauling in horses for the trails available in the park. The Music Street lot would duplicate the parking area for horse trailers of Kinsman Road (Route 87) at the park’s main entrance, he added.

“I’m very much against this,” Mr. Kanzinger said, noting he has met with Russell police and the township zoning inspector.

As to the parking lot on Kinsman Road, Mr. Mueller said they need to ask the park district how often it is used. His information is that it is virtually not used, which was confirmed by Dr. Clark.

Mr. Mueller said it if the prosecutor’s office that determines the township has a right to be part of the decision-making in the project, “then we are part way there.”

 “My big concern is we feel it is infringing on our property, and what can we do to put a stop to it,” Mr. Kanzinger said.

He is also concerned about the safety at the Music Street and Chillicothe Road (Route 306) intersection and the one at Music Street and Ravenna Road (Route 44) with its blind spots.

It was also suggested that the Russell Trustees might talk with Newbury Trustees about the issue. More could be done with the two townships.

Russell Fiscal Officer Chuck Walder said State Rep. Sarah LaTourette of Chester has been an advocate for residents with these types of issues as well as U.S. Rep. David Joyce, of Bainbridge.

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