Neighborhood Concerns

Hudson should consider whether it wants to be in the medical marijuana business

mjbiz“We don’t want to  issue any building permits, change of use permits, that we may regret.”

–Avon Lake Council member, before their vote on six month marijuana moratorium. 

Last year Hudson residents were shocked to learn that a proposed state law would allow a marijuana grow facility in Hudson, and if passed, Hudson could not restrict it.  One year later, the state has passed a  medical marijuana law and again Hudson faces a decision – do we decide now or do we let the decision be made for us?

This spring the Ohio Legislature approved the use medical marijuana  to be effective Sept. 8, 2016. A state board is to be establish to define standards. Distribution would be restricted to “dispensaries,” and manufacturing to commercial operations. Local communities would be allowed to prohibit or limit the dispensaries or commercial operations, but not private use. Details on the bill and community reactions are on my site at Other takes on Hudson issues.

Even though the effective date is Sept. 8th, the standards as determined by a state Marijuana Board are months away from coming; a board has not even been appointed yet.

Many communities have passed a 6-month moratorium on any medical marijuana operations in the interim. Among them is Avon Lake, Fairview Park, Lakewood, Brecksville, Kent, Broadview Heights and Fairlawn. I am concerned that if Hudson doesn’t join them, we will  get operations here by default before we are able even consider restrictions.  A moratorium doesn’t say “yes” or “no” to medical marijuana in Hudson -it just gives us a chance to consider all the options before making final zoning considerations.

Not having a moratorium will allow outside forces to decide for us, like was proposed last fall with the growing site in Hudson. Better for us to decide than for let it be decided for us. Hopefully a moratorium may come back for a vote by Council on Sept. 6th, two days before the state law takes effect.

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SHOULD A “CONNECTOR” BRIDGE TO ROUTE TRAFFIC AWAY FROM DOWNTOWN BE BUILT AT OGILBY DR. AND S. HAYDEN PARKWAY?

SHOULD IT BE IN THE NEW COMPREHENSIVE PLAN? 

If you don’t think this is a priority, if you are concerned about increased traffic on Ogilby, Stoney Hill, and Hayden Parkway as a result of this proposed “bypass,” you still have a chance to speak out.

There will be a hOgilby Connector Full graphicearing of this element and all the parts of the 2015 Comprehensive Plan at the Sept. 14 meeting of the Planning Commission, 7:30 PM, Town Hall.

The graphic above may be difficult to read, but has both text and a proposed route (the purple dots), following roughly the same path as the existing pedestrian overpass.  You can see it in the plan on pages 51 and 52. Link here:  http://hudson.oh.us/index.aspx?NID=694

The Comprehensive Plan is the official guide for land use and development for the next 10-20 years, detailing a long-term vision and policy agenda for important issues like land use, housing, parks, infrastructure, transportation, and more. It is in draft form now, it will get the public hearing before the Planning Commission Sept. 14 and then they will deliberate.

It gets passed on to City Council, where another Public Hearing will be held, more discussion and then adoption.  Dates for this have not been set pending the progress of the Planning Commission.

While including an item in the Comprehensive Plan is not enough to get it built, it does serve as a kind of summary of the public aspirations and goals that Council and staff should follow. Including a bridge connector like this one certainly sends a message as to which neighborhoods have more value.

I’ll keep you informed of any progress.

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ThAkron Hydrant captione fire hydrant in Hudson has been broken for months, waiting for repair by Akron Water. The neighborhood is needlessly put in danger in a political struggle between the Cities of Akron and Hudson.

Akron supplies water to about 25% of Hudson residents and businesses. It seeks a long term agreement to capture a portion of Hudson income tax revenue.  Hudson is unique among Akron customers in that we have our own municipal system in addition to service from Cleveland.  Akron wants a slice of all new tax revenue, even in portions it would not serve.

Hudson is reluctant to sign an agreement under Akron’s terms.  In retaliation, Akron puts a punitive 42% rate increase to its Hudson customers in order to fund repairs to a line required by an industrial customer in Twinsburg.  Akron blames this increase on the lack of agreement, failing to note that Hudson customers already pay a premium over those in cities with agreements.

In the meantime, Akron has stopped all new service connections to Hudson, forcing new homes and businesses to go to the extra expense of drilling wells, and refusing to install extra meters for outside use.

Among the “extras” Akron has chosen to skip is the maintenance of hydrants.  This omission should be a concern to all Hudson residents, regardless of their water supplier. As we work, go to school, church or meetings around town, we depend on working fire hydrants to keep us safe. Imagine a fire truck arriving at scene with a hydrant like the one pictured here.

The condition of the Akron hydrants has not escaped the attention of the insurance industry, who periodically rates each community by a number of safety factors that determines an overall community ISO rating. The ISO rating goes into the calculation some insurance companies use to set property rates city-wide. The poor condition of Akron hydrants costs us all in insurance while it puts us in danger.

I was asked to comment on what I think Akron’s motivation is in insisting on a water agreement.  While I don’t know for certain, it would seem by the attitude towards our safety that the money comes first.  When there is a fire or a storm in one city, we send our trucks and crews in to help. We don’t ask their politics, safety comes first.  I would expect that Akron would as well as part of mutual aid.

But yet when it comes to the safety we would come to expect from a working fire hydrant or the delivery of a basic service like water to a resident, that courtesy is suspended.  It sad; neighbors should not treat other neighbors this way.

We are more than just neighbors –many Hudson residents are active members of the Akron community. Many Hudson residents work in Akron, their income taxes contribute to Akron’s prosperity. Many Hudsonites are leaders in Akron institutions and contribute to Akron philanthropic causes.  To be treated this way by Akron is shameful.  Agreement or no, residents should not be put in the middle.

Barlow Road residents opposing a proposed Hotel/Inn don’t have the whole story on future area plans

I recently attended a meeting where many residents expressed their concerns on plans for a hotel or inn on the former Flood Co. property on Barlow Road.  The land is currently zoned in District 8 Industrial/Business Park. The location was formerly used for manufacturing and warehouse by the Flood Company, a maker of stains. Many plan to attend the Planning Commission meeting on Nov. 10 to make their feelings known.

Is an inn better for the neighborhood than industry?  The answer to that is a personal opinion. But those who oppose the development,  hoping that the land stays in a current undeveloped state should note the proximity of the railroad tracks.  North of Barlow Road, the line is still owned by Norfolk Southern, and they have been maintaining it for storage.  South of Barlow Road the line is owned by Akron Metro.  That portion has been abandoned since the early 90’s, but there are plans to use them again to serve some industries in Hudson and Stow as early as next year.  The City of Hudson has been involved in the planning for this rail line, minutes from the July 2014 Metro Board meeting are below and at p. 87 of this link: http://www.akronmetro.org/Data/Sites/2/pdf/boardpackagejuly2014wbonusreso.pdf

An industrially-zoned property by an active rail line is valuable real estate. A firm could reopen in existing buildings and not require the same level of planning oversight this inn is currently receiving.

I’m not arguing here for or against an inn. I think it is important residents have all the facts before they come down for or against this proposed inn, given other plans for the area.

(click to enlarge image)

Akron Metro Minutes July 2014_Page_1Akron Metro Minutes July 2014_Page_2

Why should you be concerned about City Sewer System I&I even if you don’t live in the old Village and are not part of that system?

Short answer: You are paying for it one way or another.  The taxpaying base contributes $1.5 milion each year to the sewer operating fund under conditions of the village-township merger.  Many hours are spent by City departments such as Engineering and Service that are not billed back to consumers as they would in a private system.  All of Hudson could be paying up to $700,000 to needlessly clean storm water, and even more if long term solutions costing millions of dollars are implemented.  So, we are paying for it. It should be our concern it runs effectively and efficiently.

The City has a sewer system whose service area is roughly the boundaries of the old Village. All other parts are served by Summit County.  Hudson came under orders by the Ohio EPA many years ago to shut down its own treatment plant and eliminate sewer outflows in area watersheds. We are still operating under the terms of this consent order.  Hudson sends its waste water to NEORSD for treatment and is billed a bulk rate.

CTI slides

All of this background is important to understand why we had a study completed by CTI Enginnering and what the problem is costing us now and in the future.  Whenever it rains or snows, storm water mixes into the waste water stream.  This inflow and infiltration (I&I) could amount to as much as 30% extra water added to the system that is then billed to us by NEORSD. If it were billed at present rates, the amount could by close to $700,000 annually.  In heavy rain storms, overflows (outflows) built into the system discharge the  excess mix of waste and storm water into the storm system and eventually into the watershed.  This “safety valve” was built into the system to prevent basements backups of sewage. The EPA wants these outflows eliminated and could fine the City $25,000 a day to force their removal.

Long terms solutions could run into millions of dollars in a system that only has a $ 4 million annual budget.  The short term solution is to address the problem at its sources. This will include homeowners who could unknowingly be causing problems for their neighbors by running their downspouts and sump pumps into the City sewers, or have broken lines from their homes (laterals) that are leaking. CTI was able to identify most of the problem to an area east of the center of town. City staff will investigate further to pinpoint the sources. If they are City property, the City will repair. On private property, the homeowners will have to make the repairs. Staff will be preparing legislation for Council to consider that would create an inspection process and penalties if repairs are not addressed.

All of us are concerned with the watershed, none of us want sewer backups, or to pay more in taxes to needlessly treat stormwater. We will all need to pull together and solve this problem.

Reasons I voted for Rezoning River Oaks property from Dist. 6 Commercial to District 3 Residential.

The only issue for Council consideration was a request to rezone this parcel (boot-shaped parcel in yellow near the center in illustration).  It was not a vote on the River Oaks development or development in Hudson in general.  The question was, does the property better serve Hudson as a residential development or a commercial/industrial development as it is currently zoned?

Some would argue that we nee20140814Vicinity Map V2d to preserve as much commercial land as possible to increase our tax base.  This is the most effective case for leaving the existing zoning in place.  This parcel was originally zoned residential, changed to commercial in order to accommodate a “western Gateway” plan that would have seen Hudson Crossings  road connecting Boston Mill Road to Route 303 Streetsboro Road, a commercial development with two access points eventually leading  to Route 8.

Since that plan was proposed, Boston Heights opened Chittenden Road making the Hudson Crossing connection redundant.  Costs to bridge the wetlands were deemed  too expensive and permits to make the connection expired.   The parcel in question is a commercially-zoned “orphan” that has not had any interested parties in over 20 years.  An independent assessment by a real estate expert did not see any commercial viability due in large part to the wetlands.

A number of public comments urged us not to allow development on the property in order to protect wetlands, the watershed, and our wellhead area.  Prohibiting development is not the function of zoning. Further, the developer will build a road on this property in order to comply with requirements to provide alternative access to the adjacent Phase 1 already approved and zoned for residential development.  The area will be disturbed in any case to build this road. The vote before us to decide what should be built on that road, homes or commercial structures.

I believe that all the government bodies involved, starting with the Army Corps of Engineers, whose job it is to define and protect wetlands, did their due diligence on the environmental effects of development. I based my environmental considerations in large part on a memo prepared for us by our Community Development Department, found below.  The land has better environmental protections, and is more viable for Hudson, as residential property.

This is not the last word on this portion of the Reserve at River Oaks. A site plan must still be approved by the Planning Commission.  The developer must gain housing allotments through our allocation process. In each step there is an opportunity for public input and comment. For those concerned about too much residential development, the allotment of building permits is set each year, approved by both the Planning Commission and City Council after a Public Hearing.   This year presents an extra opportunity in the review of our Comprehensive Plan. You are invited to go to the City of Hudson portal http://www.hlplanning.com/portals/hudson/  and comment. Help us shape the future of Hudson.

Richardson RRO memo 4-29_Page_1Richardson RRO memo 4-29_Page_2Richardson RRO memo 4-29_Page_3Richardson RRO memo 4-29_Page_4Richardson RRO memo 4-29_Page_5

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