UPDATE: the BOE has tied in voting on the Green Space initiative. This will require the Ohio Secretary of State to cast the deciding vote at some time in the future. Keep up with the latest news on the initiative at the group’s website. (also read how BOE member Sinnott refused to to recuse himself, even though his law firm represented the property owner in question.)
UPDATE 2: Secretary Husted broke the Board of Elections’ tie vote in favor of putting the Proposed Ordinance on the November 2018 ballot, read the post on the Join Grandview website.
Mayor Ray DeGraw posted a letter on the city blog last week in which he announced the city would be opposing a voter initiative to change the Green Space rules on Goodale Ave, west of Grandview Ave. He says the petition to change the city ordinance was not following the rules allowing the planning commission to give their opinion, so the city will oppose the initiative in a Board of Election hearing on August 24th.
I contacted Jody Oster, a Grandview resident who is part of the group which created the petition to change the Green Space rules on Goodale. She provided me with a long list of reasons the group had come together to make this initiative, as well as the petition that was signed by almost 400 Grandview residents.
The following is a very brief TL:DR of the positions held by the city and the group behind the voter initiative change to Goodale Green space (not sure if they have a formal name). For the purposes of this post I will call them the Green Space Group, (GSG). I can’t say all of the following is accurate, because the facts are in dispute (and I might make some mistakes too – it is complex). After the short version, I will post the full reply by Jody Oster.
The short version of the Goodale Green Space dispute
In 1989, the city created a 100-foot Green Space Overlay District along Goodale Boulevard, stretching from Broadview Avenue to Wyandotte Road. One resident was opposed and sued, to settle the lawsuit the city bought his property.
According to the GSG, the city and the board of zoning have created a feeling of unwanted change to the city by approving too many large buildings that don’t fit the character of the surrounding buildings. This has caused an opinion among many that a voter initiative is needed to preserve the character on Goodale.
A property owner on Elmwood made two previous attempts to do a lot split and build a new house adjacent to the Green Space, but was denied after residents objected. A third attempt in April 2017 was approved after the owner threatened to sue the city. The GSG didn’t feel the Zoning Board allowed enough notice of this approval. The board also approved a building for the site that the GSG doesn’t think fits into the character of the neighborhood.
As a result of feeling that the city and the board are not willing to listen to resident complaints, the GSG was formed, which has created a citizen initiative to increase the size of the Green Space on Goodale. The required number of signatures were obtained, and the petition was sent to the city, which forwarded it to the BOE. However, the city feels that the actions to change the Green Space are not in line with the city charter or the proper procedures for going through the planning commission. The city will be opposing the initiative in a BOE hearing Friday, August 24, 2018 at 11AM at the Morse Road location.
If approved by the BOE, the Green Space change issue will appear on the November ballot. The GSG is confident this will happen.
The full reply from Jody Oster
This is the GSG position on the Goodale Green Space. I linked to a Pdf of the petition that was signed by enough residents to get on the ballot, the link is at the bottom. Following this, a short opinion from me.
(edit) The TVN has a story on the Green Space issue now.
Thank you for your interest and questions. A copy of the Initiative Petition, which includes the proposed Ordinance, is attached. So you know, about 10 residents collected nearly 400 signatures and satisfied every condition for certification to the November ballot. At this point, the Board of Elections and perhaps the Supreme Court of Ohio will ultimately decide whether the proposed Ordinance goes beyond the Constitution and the City Charter, as claimed by the City. We don’t believe it does and wouldn’t have undertaken the effort if we did. I encourage residents to come to the Board of Elections hearing which is currently scheduled for this coming Friday, August 24, 2018 at 11AM at the Morse Road location. We are confident the City’s position will ultimately be defeated and the proposed Ordinance will be on the November ballot for the voters to decide the future of the Green Space.
Under the law, the Mayor’s public opposition and comments to the proposed Ordinance, including the letter he posted, are improper. The City is prohibited by law from using public funds to support or oppose the proposed Ordinance and is required to remain neutral as the residents decide the issue. This too is something we plan to address.
Some events that motivated the proposed Ordinance are the following:
1) Our elected and unelected City officials are casting aside City Code, precedent, and the priorities set by our community for the future of Grandview Heights. Protection of our green spaces was one of the top 10 items identified in the recent City Planning study commissioned by the City, but every action taken by the City with respect to this Green Space issue is contrary to that stated priority. The corridor along Goodale deserves to remain the green space that it is, to be enjoyed for future generations and wildlife that lives in the area.
2) In recent years, the City has approved variances that have resulted in overbuilding on smaller lots. These towering homes erode the character of our neighborhoods and lead to neighbors on top of neighbors, lack of privacy, buildings that don’t fit in with the look and feel of other homes nearby, etc., all problems that aren’t being addressed appropriately by our City officials. The City’s Board of Zoning has approved variances in some instances while denying variances when similar requests are made. There should be consistency in the Board’s decisions, and the Board should follow Code.
3) The owners of one property which abuts the current Green Space are, in our view, attempting to overdevelop the area for nothing but financial gain. The current owners of 1000 Elmwood applied for a lot split 3 times. Their requests were denied twice, after significant public opposition. But, in April 2017, their third application for a lot split was approved, on little to no notice to adjacent property owners who previously objected to the split and after the property owners’ attorney threatened litigation against the City. To add to the issue, the City failed to post the approved minutes from the April 2017 meeting until September 2017, well after the deadline for the filing of an appeal had passed. The City’s failure deprived residents of the right to appeal from what we believe was an improper decision. The Board of Zoning’s recent aesthetic review approval of the house the owners plan to build on the new lot is also contrary to City Code and past actions of the Board. The approved plans show a garage on the “front” of the house, when City Code requires garages to be in the rear or side yards. The Board enforced this Code section with respect to at least one other property owner to prevent the construction of a home with a garage in the front. Additionally, Code requires the size and massing of a structure to be similar to or not so dissimilar to other structures in the area. The newly created lot is less than 1/4 acre in size and the proposed home is appx. 6,000 square feet. The proposed home is more than twice the size of other homes in the area that sit on similarly sized lots. Again, in a recent case, the Board denied aesthetic review approval when the massing of the house was out of step with other homes in the immediate area. Finally, the proposed location of the driveway for the new home puts it in a position that is not safe for foot or vehicle traffic, something the City engineer stated to the City in the fall of 2017 – a fact disregarded by the Board of Zoning.
4) Another couple (the daughter and son-in-law of people who own property in the Green Space) have stated that they intend to develop that property with multiple homes, similar to the Stonegate development.
There are many misstatements and inaccuracies being made by the City about the proposed Ordinance which we will address in the coming weeks. We believe these are scare tactics, created to try to convince the public that the proposed Ordinance is not good for Grandview Heights, when we believe it is and residents have a right to decide that for themselves. Some points to think about:
1) The proposed Ordinance is similar to the current Ordinance except that the current setback or prohibition on building is 100 feet from Goodale and the proposed Ordinance increases the setbacks so that new construction doesn’t occur any closer to Goodale than the existing homes.
2) The Ordinance was enacted by City Council in 1989 and readopted in 1998. The then-President of City Council and then-Mayor have both told me unequivocally that the property owners along Goodale (in the current Green Space) did not consent to creation of the Green Space and, in fact, were not asked to consent. The Mayor knows this, but continues to publicly state otherwise to support his position that no new Ordinance should be passed without the consent of all current property owners, something that is inconsistent with past actions taken by the City.
3) The City claims the new Ordinance eliminates City Parkland from the Green Space, as if passage of the new Ordinance will leave the City Parkland unprotected. In fact, the City Parkland is not in the current Green Space and never has been. The City Parkland is just that, Parkland that won’t be developed, so there is no reason to try to protect it from overdevelopment.
4) The existing Ordinance includes several lots to the South of Goodale and to the North of Goodale between Broadview and Urlin. These lots are not included in the new definition of Green Space because these lots already have existing building/homes on them within the 100 foot setback. It seems illogical to include property and protect it from development if it is already built on.
3) We didn’t include the site of Summit Chase because this property is zoned as an apartment building and there are City Code provisions which, if properly applied, would prevent unwanted development on the site. Also, the approved lot plan for Summit Chase filed with the County Recorder does not depict buildings any closer to Goodale than what already exists.
We are in the process of putting information and documents on a web site so that residents can decide for themselves how to vote in November. I will let you know when its ready. If you would like more information in the meantime, please let me know. Thanks again,
This is what happens when you don’t listen to the citizens
A citizen initiative is what happens when residents of a city don’t feel that the politicians of the city are listening. If you have a large group that follows the standard procedures, goes to the Zoning board meetings, sends emails to the council members, and then fails to stop developments that are not what many feel are in character with the neighborhood, you get angry people. You get people who make initiatives, and people who sign the petitions to put those initiatives on the ballot.
I don’t have enough experience to know whether the ballot issue will pass the BOE review, but I’m guessing it will. Citizen initiatives are by nature “not following the rules”, they upset the standard procedures and don’t follow charter rules. If “following all standard procedures” were required for ballot initiatives, I don’t think they would ever exist.
I think the GSG is a little overboard in accusing Mayor DeGraw of improperly opposing the initiative. Yes, his statements about the loss of green space south of Goodale (where the present law also doesn’t apply) is wrong, but this is a small detail that I don’t think matters much. As for the whole thing about taking the GSG to task in the BOE appeal – that is just bureaucracy trying to push back. I think the city will lose.
As far as the initiative on the ballot – they tend to have a hard time passing. People who are low information voters are easy to grab with claims that citizen initiatives are “cheating” by not following standard practice for changing the laws.
Heads up for the school board – angry citizens can also do recall petitions for board members who are not listening.