Editor’s Note: Protect Geauga Parks has been advocating greater transparency and receptiveness to public input by the Geauga Park District since 2014. Our efforts were rewarded with a prohibition on public comments at the Park District Board meetings. The public outcry against the development at Frohring Meadows might easily have been avoided if the Park District had bothered to inform citizens of the plan while it was being formulated. The questions and concerns that have been raised could have been addressed through a conversation during the planning process rather than through the threat of legal action after the bulldozers had already begun leveling the landscape.
Chagrin Valley Times
by Samantha Cottrill
June 27, 2019
BAINBRIDGE — Township trustees are suggesting better direct communication from the Geauga Park District to residents, as well as a possible screening compromise, as they fleshed out a resolution draft regarding the construction of pavilions at Frohring Meadows on Savage Road.
“In our last meeting, we authorized the prosecutor’s office to take necessary legal steps including but not limited to legal action against the [Geauga] Park District to seek compliance with applicable township zoning provisions for the construction of two small pavilions, a restroom facility and a 10-car parking area,” Trustee Lorrie Benza recapped during Monday evening’s regular trustees meeting. “At the time, the structures were planned to be closer together than what [the Bainbridge Zoning Department] requires.”
Mrs. Benza recounted that she and Bainbridge Zoning Inspector Karen Endres met with park Executive Director John Oros and Geauga County Juvenile and Probate Judge Timothy Grendell on June 14 to discuss a compromise on the Frohring Meadows structures and more direct communication to avoid further legal action. Though in Bainbridge, Frohring Meadows is part of the Geauga Park District.
“They (park district) gave us the reasoning and the justification of the need for the structures and the location for the structures, and we did talk about the communication issues. They said they will try to get better communication with the township and with the residents,” Mrs. Benza said on the discussions with Mr. Oros and Judge Grendell.
Mrs. Benza said that the park district was “pretty good” at notifying township officials of capital projects, however, citing a full report from the park district in a letter from November 2018 with details of plans for the Frohring Meadows pavilions.
Trustee Jeff Markley said he would like to see the park district participate in public meetings, such as the township trustee meetings, when they look at potential capital projects that could affect a municipality’s residents.
“It’s really no different than any county entity that comes to us and asks us to have some time on the floor as a guest presentation so they can talk about whatever their upcoming levy might be or their programs that they’re putting out, whether it’s the [Geauga County] Health Department, Water Resources, whoever” Mr. Markley explained on why he would encourage the park district officials to attend municipal public meetings. “I think we’d like to see the park district participate in these kinds of meetings.”
Mrs. Benza said trustees cannot compel park officials to attend township meetings making their participation unlikely. She added, however, that she would “definitely encourage” the participation in the resolution.
“The township’s (officials) only concern was the zoning [requirements], the distance between the two structures,” Mrs. Benza said, which the park district agreed to correct. “Any other zoning issues would have to be in the form of a conditional use hearing.”
Park officials contend that the county district does not need to get zoning approval from the township.
The park district plans to rework and relocate the two pavilions, she said, complying with Bainbridge Township’s zoning calling for 20 feet or more between the two shelters. This was documented in the revised plans the park district sent to trustees, she said.
“They also indicated and carried some of the concerns from the residents about screening, she added, and explained that she encouraged the residents to put together a letter after a resident addressed his concerns that additional trees along Savage Road would hinder his view of the meadows.
Some landowners voiced objection to the revised plan of planting trees by the pavilion and along the roadside of Savage Road to obscure residents’ view of the new shelters.
“Looking at that plan, my suggestion, and maybe to compromise, would be if the residents really have an issue where they want to see the field, but they don’t want to see the pavilion, enhance the plantings at the pavilion to screen the pavilion as best they can and leave the [trees] off the road out,” Trustee Jeff Markley said. He explained that this compromise could still provide a “full panoramic view” of the meadows except for the trees screening the pavilion.
Mrs. Benza said the trustees will present the suggestions to Linda Applebaum of the Civil Division of the Geauga County Prosecutor’s office as the trustees continue to make any modifications or suggestions on the compromise with the GPD. The next regular scheduled trustee meeting will be July 8 at 7 p.m., and the next Geauga Park District meeting will be July 16 at 8:30 a.m. at Holbrook Hollows’ Lodge.