Residents still want answers regarding developments

COLUMBIANA – Some city residents are still looking for answers from council and encouraging more “protection” when it comes to new developments like the one targeted for the former Lake Front Golf Course.

Homestead Drive resident Don Thomas wanted to know why council opted to table supporting the creation of an architectural review board.

He said he appreciated Municipal Attorney Daniel Blasdell’s explanation at the special meeting on March 25, but was disappointed council did not offer one.

“We are going to continue to be here until we get some answers,” he said.

Blasdell had said, and reiterated again this week, a review board isn’t necessary since the city’s zoning and other related ordinances already in place have done the job the last four decades. He also said the planning commission has authority to restrict development and businesses through site plans to ensure they do not detract from property values and appearance.

“There is a method by which a hotel, motel, a gas station or any other business that wants to come into this community has to go through before coming in, that is the site plan issue that is discussed there are regulations that can be placed on hotels, motels,” he said.

He also said, in support of council’s tabling, there isn’t a need to act on creating a review board immediately because of the existing laws.

“In my view, this council can take its time and deliberate this question of whether it wants to get involved with architectural board of review,” he said.

Councilman Dick Simpson, who moved for the tabling, said they needed more time to go over information before making a decision, but residents argued they supported the concept of a TIF without any additional time.

Council was presented with the TIF information the Friday before the regular March 18 council meeting. Council members routinely receive their council packets on Fridays.

Brookdale Avenue resident Cindy Gefert also questioned why council members waited until this week to examine the city’s existing lift stations.

Council and City Manager Lance Willard have said five of the stations are outdated and that eliminating them, which is part of the planned development, would be beneficial for the city because it would cut down on maintenance costs.

Gefert asked Willard if the city has been saving up money knowing the stations are outdated.

He replied that he has been overseeing the infrastructure since 2001, when the city received a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency.

“They had a punch-list of all of our lift stations. We just started attacking the worst problems first, we started getting spare pumps and redoing things, and doing the best we could do the last 15 years,” he said.

He added documents exist dating back to the 1990s that showed a plan for combining lift stations in the city, and that has already been done in the area of Windjammer Drive.

The lift station in that area eliminated three other stations in 2005 or 2006, and also included a contingency plan, he said.

“With this long-term plan we have always tried to get a large lift station with emergency back-up. Today if you build a new lift station you are going to have back-up. If the Windjammer station goes down tonight, if lightning hits that generator, we will have a back-up plan. We will get that lift station going because it had a contingency plan,” he said.

As for the proposed Lake Front lift station, there is no long-term funding plan in place that, but the city is applying for grant money, he added.

Gefert then turned her attention to the proposed single-story hotel that would be constructed on the former golf course property.

“I have traveled a lot and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stayed in hotels. I would never recommend for any single female to stay on a first floor. Every single corporation will tell females do not stay on the first floor it is not safe,” she said. “I would ask you all, if this goes through, please do not make this single story.”

Bob Struharik, who operates Master Plan Builders with his son Rob said the single-story hotel plan doesn’t make sense and is confused as to why so much land is dedicated for the parking lot.

“When you build a ranch home and spread it out over the property you are paying $3,500 an acre for 500-and-some acres. To put in a parking lot that is as big as a football stadium on $45,000 per acre property doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Spreading out a one-story motel I put elevators in homes nowadays, and putting elevators in is not that expensive compared to wasting an acre of property. New York City doesn’t build out they build up because it is cheaper,” he said.

Councilman Ted Souder said he spoke with the developer and was told the hotel is single-story because it is simpler to design and construct.

The developer is Architectural Design Solutions of Pittsburgh and Jeff Stoy presented the plans to council on March 18. He said the hotel is geared toward workers in the oil and gas industry.

Struharik indicated that purpose alone will result in the development being less attractive and suggested changing the zoning from C-4 to C-3, which is central business commercial district.

“If you are marketing it to a motorist or something the Chamber is going to bring in you’re going bring them to the Dutch Haus. If you’re targeting the oil and gas industry you’re going to make it something that is not as pretty,” he said.

His son Rob Struharik said there are conditionally permitted uses in each of the zoning areas in the city and said an architectural review would help establish better criteria for those meeting the 1,000-foot setback requirements.

“Thousand-foot buffers from schools are there for a reason. If you have an architectural review that says you have to have criteria for a C-4 district, it would make it more difficult to have establishments that are not wanted without going into detail and discriminating against those establishments,” he said.

Simpson said he is upset oil and gas workers are getting a bad rap.

“Everybody for some reason or other seems to be putting down the oil and gas workers. These people are workers, they have a job. Don’t profile these people, they are hard-working people. Don’t profile these people as bad people they are working 12 hours a day,” he said.