Village looks forward to anniversary

As Woodmere Village celebrates its 75th anniversary, we reflect on our humble beginnings in 1944. Historically, Woodmere’s date of incorporation was sandwiched between the Great Depression and the end of World War II. Based on the records maintained by the Ohio Secretary of State, the village was established Nov. 18, 1944.

Should you take a visit to the Western Reserve Historical Society, there are artifacts reminiscent of the storied past. But not nearly enough to adequately chronicle the personality of the village. Once known as a shabby section of the old Orange Township, Woodmere is now classified as the “downtown” of the Chagrin Valley.

The most recent newsletter published by the administration presents a timeline of the early days. The narrative includes donated photographs, quotes from residents and even commentary from former elected officials. Unfortunately, those individuals who could truly wax poetic about the trials and tribulations of Woodmere have taken those precious memories to their final resting spot.

Regrettably, little has been reported about the first few years of Woodmere and those who overcame adversity to build this gem of a community. My administration desires to give this historic period of 75 years its well-deserved acknowledgement while also capturing stories from our resident historians. We encourage skilled researchers to view our area as a canvas where they can paint a vivid picture of the contributions of the municipality and its pioneers.

As we fast-forward, the people who will inhabit Woodmere in the years to come should have a reliable collection giving voice to the past and offering context for the centennial in 2044. The request for resources to engage in a study was denied; clearly this stifled the ability of the administration to document the true splendor of our community. Now, it is left to the scribes of the future to authenticate the memoires of Woodmere. It would be a shame to lose priceless accounts from those who remember first-hand our community’s evolution and who can recall with crystal clarity the glory days of yesteryear.

Benjamin I. Holbert, III

Mayor

Village of Woodmere

City needs to be honest

Pepper Pike has a serious groundwater contamination issue due to old and malfunctioning septic systems. Many of us want to help our environment. The city has forced a few dozen Gates Mills Boulevard. residents to pay upwards of $25,000 after tax ($12,500 assessment, lateral/landscaping after rebate, tap-in fee and interest) to fund a sewer conversion project.

The city has been dishonest and inaccurate about the upfront costs to the residents. The City neglected to inform homeowners of an additional $3,300 per home tap-in fee until pressed. No plan exists to replant the dozens of trees that will be destroyed. After exhausting a grant and a 2 percent city contribution, the residents pay the entire balance, whatever it is, with absolutely no limit. The city hasn’t laid out exactly which costs will be incorporated into the final assessment calculation.

The city could cap the cost (like in Avon), contribute more (like in Avon) or eliminate the tap-in fee (like in Mayfield Village), but the city has scoffed at these options. Residents are preparing to write a blank check.

Is sewer and a $25,000 or higher bill coming to you? Ask Mayor Richard Bain. When we asked him at a recent town meeting he said there was no master plan, yet a Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District grant application approved by him reveals a plan to force about 500 homes to sewer.

This initiative will still leave 750 Pepper Pike homes on septic, including the homes of Mayor Bain and all four of the city council members. Public records indicate each of their septic systems is about 30 years old (pitifully, one is 64 years old), ages that Mayor Bain chided us would certainly fail current EPA testing.

When we asked Mayor Bain if the targeted streets were sacrificial lambs to allow those with old septic systems to continue polluting he said no. At another meeting he said deciding to take grant money was a ‘Hobson’s choice’ – to either take it or refuse it. Surely, he and the council members have a choice as well: to personally join in the effort to clean our environment or to continue spilling more of their germs into our community.

Our citywide groundwater problem is due to old and malfunctioning septic systems, which those of the mayor and city council members emblematize. We want a clean environment for our children to play in, and we will pay to improve our community. However, converting 500 of 1250 Pepper Pike homes to sewer will not purify our waters if owners of old septic systems cling to their leaky tanks. By doing so, the mayor and city council members exhibit stale leadership, as their inaction encourages other city homeowners to do the same.

Our leaders have obscured their plan, they have been dishonest about the costs, and they continue to use decrepit septic systems. Something stinks in Pepper Pike – and it’s not us. Our house is already on sewer.

JD and Cathy Hwang

Pepper Pike

Orange BOE race rebuttal

The following is a rebuttal to the letter to the editor written by Jewel Siegel, published on Oct. 24.  

While I acknowledge Meredith Bond is an accomplished educator and administrator, she has done shockingly little work to understand the issue and challenges facing the Orange schools. At the Pepper Pike issues and candidates forum on Oct. 17, I learned that Dr. Bond has never stepped foot in any of the school buildings, has had little interaction with key constituents, including students, teachers and administrators, and has never attended an Orange school board meeting. Maybe this explains why Dr. Bond was unwilling to give a single concrete example of how she would improve the schools other than generic references to performance reviews, an activity that is already happening regularly. 

While Dr. Bond has stated that she opposes Hunting Valley’s shameless attempt to avoid paying their share of property tax, a detailed analysis of her fundraising activities suggests many of her large donors disagree. Dr. Bond has been quite prolific at fundraising, having raised $28,900 as of late October, more than eight times her competitors. Approximately two-thirds of the funds Dr. Bond has raised have been from Hunting Valley residents, including a total of $8,000 from four members of the Hunting Valley Village Council and the Hunting Valley mayor. A comprehensive analysis of Dr. Bond’s donors highlights several individuals who continue to work on plans to substantially reduce Hunting Valley’s contractual obligation to fund the Orange schools. If successful, these plans would have a catastrophic impact on the schools, resulting in fewer teachers and the elimination of several academic, arts and athletic programs. Long-term, the result would likely be a significantly higher tax burden for residents of Orange Village, Woodmere, Moreland Hills and Pepper Pike.  

Finally, on the issue of school performance, Orange currently ranks in the top 4 percent of all schools in Ohio and has shown impressive improvement from the prior year. On occasion, the school has made curriculum decisions knowing full well they will have negative consequences on the Ohio Department of Education report card. I commend Orange for making these tough decisions and doing what they believe is in the best interest of the students. I concur that we should hold our schools to high standards and expect continual improvement. However, I have yet to hear of a specific example of how Dr. Bond intends to improve outcomes. In fact, Dr. Bond’s “do less with more” strategy seems more likely to have negative implications.  

In contrast, I firmly believe that under the ongoing stewardship of the incumbents Beth Wilson-Fish and Melanie Weltman, we will continue to be among the elite school systems in Ohio. Both incumbents have worked tirelessly for the school and the community and have been critically important in Orange schools’ many accomplishments. Candidates Mrs. Weltman and Mrs. Wilson-Fish have unequivocally earned the right to continue leading the school into the future.  

David Markowitz 

Pepper Pike   

Remembering business partner

For those who frequented Rick’s Café during our 42 years of business, it was likely that mine was the first face you saw upon arrival. What most of you don’t know is that there was a force behind the scene.

If not for Billy Greene, Rick’s would never have been there for 42 years. First, he was my teammate, then my friend and later my business partner. He was my mentor. Any decision, other than a minor one, I discussed with him. He asked only two things of me in all that time: he wanted me to carry strawberry Häagen-Dazs ice cream, and he asked me to close on a Friday night so he could celebrate his birthday at Rick’s. He was the best business partner a person could ever have and was also a wonderful husband and father to his family.

Any memories you have of Rick’s Café, you have Bill Greene to thank for. There is no doubt in my mind it would not have survived for so long without him. Bill Greene passed away a couple of weeks ago. He will be missed.

Alec Singer

Chagrin Falls

Mr. Singer is the former owner of Rick’s Café in Chagrin Falls.

Call to action on rezoning

Pepper Pike’s process of getting rezoning approved requires three voting steps. First, the Planning and Zoning Commission must review and approve the application. In this case, the request is to create a zoning category that has never been done in Pepper Pike, so the commission also had to draft a new chapter to define the type of zoning that the developer wants to create. Second, the commission sends the legislation they generated to city council for its review and approval. Third, the legislation goes on a ballot for the voters.

This rezoning places no limits on the total amount of square footage of office and retail space to be built on the Beech Brook property, but it does prohibit the property from being only residential.

Residents of Pepper Pike should be aware that the first vote regarding rezoning the Beech Brook property occurred on Oct. 22. Unfortunately, the planning commission voted to approve and send the legislation on to city council for their review and vote.

Council members now have the crucial task of vetting the developer and fact-checking the data presented in the developer’s proposal. The developer’s traffic study is questionable and Lander Circle has five locations, each with separate failing traffic ratings that have not been resolved. Residents of Bryce Road and Summit Lane only have access to their properties from Lander Road. Let’s not forget our neighbors adjacent to the Beech Brook property; the residents of Landerwood Glen do not have a vote on this issue, but they still pay taxes to the same school district as Pepper Pike residents. Shouldn’t their problems and opinions count as well?

Based on the commission’s vote to proceed, we are now at the stage when council vets and votes. So, now is the crucial time to contact your council members (www.pepperpike.org/2164/City-Council) and inform them of your opinion on this issue (cannot tolerate any more traffic at Lander Circle, do not want to change the character of the community and this is unnecessary over-development). Tell them you want council to vote not to rezone and not have this appear on any future ballots.

Attend the council meetings and be heard. Attend the city council meeting on Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. and check www.pepperpike.org for dates of other meetings, either prior to or after Nov. 20. Email SayNoToRezone@roadrunner.com to be placed on our email list for future updates.

Manny and Judi Naft

Pepper Pike

Candidate welcomes feedback  

As a Munson Township trustee, I embrace feedback and conversation with all Munson citizens. I was disappointed to see that a resident recently submitted a bizarre, misinformed letter. Sadly, this resident never spoke to me or Town Hall about his fears. I encourage any and every citizen to come visit a public meeting at Town Hall, discuss their hopes and concerns and join us in serving the Munson community. If that doesn’t work for your schedule and you still want to chat about local government, feel free to call me any time at 440-286-9255.   

I invite every citizen of Munson to visit a trustees meeting, and learn about the projects that are making our community a safe, welcoming place for all. We’d love to talk to you about some of our recent achievements, including: 

 - a new trail at Scenic River Retreat, funded by Natureworks and the Foundation for Geauga Parks

- a rain garden at Munson Township Park, funded by Master Gardeners and William Bingham Foundation

- a new road department truck, to be delivered just in time for plowing!

- a new storage cabinetry in the road department, paid for with funds from scrap metal collected on Dumpster Days

- budgets approved by Geauga County Budget Commission

- Munson Fire Department’s recent award from University Hospital for consistent, quick application of life-saving techniques

- the installation of new LED street lighting, with an anticipated payback of seven years. 

Trustees meetings happen every second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. All residents are welcome, and sometimes we even have cookies!  

I look forward to welcoming each of you to a seat at the Munson Town Hall table – especially those of you who want to be more involved in making our government great. Ever onward.

Irene McMullen 

Munson Township

Clearing up distortions

One has to be astonished at Macke Bentley’s crocodile-teared letter about negative campaigning, since we know that he and his team have sent one to me, all members of Solon City Council as well as some members of Ward 1. 

His aversion to the truth also prevented him honestly explaining why the City of Solon and State of Ohio had to file lawsuits to make him pay his municipal and state income taxes. Another sizeable active lien from a debt he incurred more than a dozen years ago also does not qualify him to make any comments about character. Coupled with his conflict of interest and ethical lapses along with absolutely no vision for what he would do differently leaves one perplexed as to what he brings other than aspirational sycophancy. He and his team are recycling the same lies used by Mayor Edward Kraus and his cabal during the 2017 mayoral election, and are repeated in the letter by Kimberly Lesko. 

Alternaterm Pregnancy Center is a refuge, a place of respite and compassion for women under duress.  They receive free ultrasounds, counseling and an opportunity to be empowered by making their own decisions. Anyone who comes there receives the same care and help, regardless of whatever decision they ultimately make. One would think that those who volunteer their time and energy to comforting, counseling and empowering women would be lauded, not slandered for partisan political purposes. The director, Pam Gibson, is one of the most caring people you could imagine for such a difficult mission, and Mr. Bentley and Mrs. Lesko would never have the courage to go there and attempt to make such accusations in person. Or, to my wife and daughter who are also slandered by what are patently political distortions.

I have no idea what – or who – The Affluent Christian Investor is. I have never had any communication with them, submitted anything to them for publication or even read anything by them. I have no idea what was excerpted or the context in which it was published.

Chick-fil-A had a significant number of variances that we reviewed. Most were unanimously approved, but a few were objectionable – mainly related to their initial site plan. As a result of council’s split decision, they delayed the opening and modified the project. That’s a win for Solon as the process worked, resulting in better traffic flow. That is good city planning – not anti-business.

All GRIP and job creation grants were approved unanimously, as are 98 percent of the issues that come before us. Regardless, a councilman must represent the best interests of the ward as well as of the city and be willing to stand apart when an issue clearly is not in their best interests. Independence of thought coupled with experience are to be sought, not derided. Mr. Bentley and Ms. Lesko need to understand that character assassination as a political strategy is not elevating the discourse in Solon, which deserves better.

Douglas Magill

Solon

Attendance addressed

In response to Tim and Sandy Smith’s letter last week pertaining to my attendance at township meetings and the other candidates’ integrity: Mrs. Smith, who works on the audit committee, should be well aware that I am kept informed of township business through my wife Beverly Borawski, the retiring township fiscal officer.

Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, I have attended trustee and zoning meetings when necessary.

I recently attended the Oct. 12 special meeting pertaining to the shortage of general fund money to pay bills and payroll through year end. Since you were not in attendance, I wanted you to know that due to a lack of sufficient funds, according to the information submitted by the fiscal officer, the township could be declared to be under fiscal caution according to the State of Ohio Auditors. I am concerned the township is about to go into fiscal distress with the State auditor. (See https://www.ohioauditor.gov/fiscaldistress.html)

It’s my opinion that it is not fiscally responsible to have a year-end deficit in the general fund with little carry-over to pay bills the first part of 2020. I have the time, experience and dedication to make tough decisions to keep our taxes low and zoning rural. In my opinion, I don’t believe anyone should be exempt from township zoning, not even a trustee.

Steven J. Borawski

Chardon Township

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