2/14/2019 – West Side Leader
By Patrick Shade
In a rare move, the Richfield Township Board of Trustees needed to use the gavel to silence an outspoken resident at the Feb. 7 meeting.
Resident Ed Pepera, a former member of the township Zoning Commission, spoke during the meeting’s citizens forum regarding the trustees’ actions toward the Light Industrial/Office District (LI-O) zoning code.
The LI-O District is located in the northeast quadrant of the township off Brecksville Road and includes about 170 acres, according to Zoning Inspector Laurie Pinney. The JEDD, which was formed in 2005 with Richfield Village, is located in the LI-O District.
The trustees approved changes to the zoning in that district last summer that ultimately were challenged by a referendum petition, Issue 44, from township residents on this past November’s ballot. The issue, which would have upheld the trustees’ changes if passed in the election, was defeated with 69 percent of the vote.
Before the election, Trustee Janet Jankura said the trustees believed the changes were needed for the LI-O because the JEDD has almost no businesses generating income tax revenue for the township. She said a number of developers and companies are interested in building in the JEDD, but the zoning is too restrictive.
Pepera, a petition circulator for the referendum, read from a prepared speech suggesting the trustees are continuing to push through changes despite opposition from other people and groups in the township.
“When asked to elaborate [on companies showing interest in the JEDD], you say you have no first-hand knowledge,” said Pepera.
At the January trustees’ meeting, trustees agreed to look into the possibility of renegotiating the JEDD agreement with Richfield Village.
After saying he was almost done with his statement twice, Trustees Robert Luther and Jeff Shupe loudly told Pepera to take his seat and his time was over.
“The township meeting is for township business, not to listen to you complain,” said Luther.
“You have made it into a personal thing,” added Shupe.
Shupe then responded to Pepera’s comments. He said Pepera constantly repeated the same message about the trustees’ actions being nullified.
“You tried to make it sound in the December meeting that we were talking about ourselves, trying to come up with some plan,” said Shupe, referring to rumors at that time the trustees were considering dissolving the JEDD. “So that to me is deceitful on your part.”
“I never made that statement,” claimed Pepera.
After Trustee Janet Jankura banged the gavel a second time, Pepera told Shupe, “She doesn’t run things. You run things.”
Pepera said after the meeting an advertisement in support of Issue 44 by trustees this past November said the trustees worked with the Zoning Commission on the zoning changes. Shupe had said trustees had not worked with the Zoning Commission with the most recent changes to the LI-O District.
In other news, Fire Chief Phil McLean announced a strategic planning committee for residents to participate in to help shape the future of the Richfield Fire Department.
McLean said an increase in business offices and nursing homes in Richfield is a reason to plan for the future.
The first session will take place March 6 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Richfield Village Town Hall, 4410 W. Streetsboro Road. McLean said an overview of the fire department will be given before participants are split into groups. The Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association (OFCA) will facilitate each group as they analyze strengths and weaknesses, as well as opportunities and threats.
OFCA will create a document focusing on potential opportunities for growth. McLean said participants will be asked to rank the opportunities.
The second session will take place May 17 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Town Hall. The groups will assemble once more to develop measurable strategies and action steps, according to McLean. The steps will be included in an implementation plan and schedule.
Those interested in being on the committee should contact Debbie Bluso-Rogers, executive assistant to the Richfield Village mayor and human resources, policies and records coordinator at the village, at 330-659-9201, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org by March 1. Lunch will be provided at both sessions.
McLean also reported the fire department gave mutual aid to two recent incidents in Peninsula. One was a residential fire on state Route 303 near Interstate 271, and the other was a fire in the Peninsula Service Garage on North Locust Street. He said no injuries or lost equipment occurred despite bad weather conditions at the time of the fires.
Also at the meeting, Shupe said he talked with an attorney responsible for a development in Sunbury Township, located near Columbus, at the Ohio Township Association’s Winter Conference. Shupe said the attorney would be interested in coming to Richfield Township to look at the township’s lack of development in the JEDD.
Shupe also announced registration is underway for the Revere Baseball Softball Association.
In addition, trustees approved the annual highway system mileage certification, which remains unchanged at 15.705 miles. The certification is used to calculate the township’s share of motor vehicle fuel taxes.
The next Richfield trustees’ meeting is set for March 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Richfield Township Administration and Service Building, located at 3038 Boston Mills Road.