BAINBRIDGE — Kelly’s Working Well Farm appealed numerous health and safety citations to the Ohio Board of Building Appeals from the Bainbridge Fire Department, but was met with a denial during the Jan. 16 public hearing in Ashland. The farm will have six months to resolve the citations before fines are applied, officials said.

The fire department cited Kelly’s farm and its Chagrin Valley School for 25 Ohio Fire Code violations in November of 2019. In the original citation, each violation included up to $250-$500 in penalties pursuant to the Ohio Revised Code. In addition to the violation penalties, the school could also be penalized $1,000 per violation per day they are not resolved or corrected after a set deadline.

Kelly Clark, owner of Kelly’s Working Well Farm at 16519 S. Franklin St. in Bainbridge, confirmed that no fines have been applied at this time.

“We haven’t had to pay any fines at this point, and if we make the corrections within six months, then our understanding is that we won’t have to pay the fines,” she said.

In November, the fire department removed 35 children and staff members from the Chagrin Valley School at the farm after Assistant Fire Chief Bill Lovell issued a serious hazard order.

“The citations that we wrote had to do with occupying structures without certificates of occupancy with numerous fire code violations that were distinct fire hazards,” Assistant Fire Chief Lovell explained. “Prior to that, we had a hazardous order that kept [the school] from occupying the structures until that was resolved, and we wrote a citation with various different violations that we found.”

According to the notice of penalties, signed by Assistant Fire Chief Lovell, fire code violations included improper storage of “combustible rubbish” like loose straw or firewood, unabated electrical hazards, insufficient wiring and lack of occupancy load postage for rooms and spaces, among other health and safety hazards.

“The board of building appeals chose to support our violation (citations),” Assistant Fire Chief Lovell said. “So their (Kelly’s Working Well) appeal was denied.”

“They held up the citation and gave us six months to make the corrections,” Ms. Clark said of the state board. “We’re willing to work with Bainbridge. We want to make these corrections. The problem is it’s being held up by the zoning issue.”

She explained that the farm tried to get an electrician to resolve the electrical issues in the first week they were notified of the citations, but they were unable to do so because the township Board of Zoning Appeals required the farm to apply for a conditional-use permit for school operations.

“Our position is that as a farm, we’re participating in agricultural education, and we need to be treated as a farm,” Ms. Clark said. “They (the board of zoning appeals) want to treat us as a school; a conventional school.”

Zoning Inspector Karen Endres explained during a Dec. 17, 2019 board of zoning appeals public hearing that she revoked the organization’s conditional-use permit for agriculture in September on the basis that the farm was operating as a school after inspections.

Ms. Endres had said during the December meeting that because the organization is tuition-based and appeared to operate as a school, it would need to be categorized as a private school.

Currently, the farm is still in the process of appealing this requirement at the township level. The board of zoning appeals is expected to hold a public hearing for this appeal during its Feb. 20 meeting.

“Currently, the farm is closed to visitors, and we certainly hope to get that resolved as quickly as possible,” Ms. Clark said. “We feel like we have a lot of support in the community for what we’re doing in terms of agricultural education, and we hope that the board of zoning appeals and the zoning inspector can see their way to supporting our project.”

Sam Cottrill started reporting for the Times in February 2019 and covers Auburn, Bainbridge, Bentleyville and Chagrin, Kenston, Solon and West Geauga schools. She graduated from Kent State University in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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