My notes from last night’s meeting

Here are my personal notes from the 8/11/17 council meeting:

Car wash on Kent Road

When we first saw the application for a car wash on Route 59, east of Fishcreek, at the old McDonald’s site, it seemed pretty standard — the kind of thing that we vote unanimously to approve.

Residents on Dayton Avenue didn’t see it that way. Over the last few weeks, they have campaigned to stop the project, citing environmental, traffic, and sound concerns.

City council is not comprised of experts. We have to rely on experts, especially when it comes to weighty and technical issues, such as the environment, traffic, and decibel levels. Our traffic engineer unequivocally told us that there are no traffic problems that a car wash would create. In fact, the old McDonald’s had 2,000 cars per day, and the car wash is expected to have 189 per day. We were told that a commercial car wash is actually better for the environment than washing your car in the driveway, because the chemicals at a car wash are cleaned through the sanitary sewer system, whereas your household chemicals go into the storm sewer, and thus, into the ponds, streams, and rivers. Last, we saw the specs for the vacuums that would be installed at the car wash, which showed a lower decibel level than the decibel level from basic traffic on Kent Road.

Moreover, the issue that most swayed me was the legalities involved. The property is zoned commercial. An owner of a commercial property has the right to build a car wash there. To deprive the person of that right is an unconstitutional taking of property rights, for which the city must compensate the owner. We don’t have the money to pay each property owner for its land when residents don’t prefer the use to which he is entitled to put it. Nor do we have the appetite to pay lawyers to fight losing battles.

With all that being said, we try to take people’s concerns seriously. Council voted 4-3 to amend the site plan to prohibit a left turn, via a median. Council also voted 4-3 to require the owner to demolish the car wash within 9 months after it ceases operations in the future. Finally, council voted 7-0 to approve the project.

At the end of the day, it’s a microcosm of how democracy should work. I think Dayton Road residents walked away knowing that we took their concerns seriously. The car wash operator walked away with an amended plan that he could tolerate. I also plan to follow up with our engineers about a couple of additional traffic tweaks to help Dayton Avenue residents turn left onto Route 59.

Traffic cameras

We gave a first reading to my proposal to outlaw traffic cameras. Last month, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down Ohio law regulating red-light and speed cameras, so cities are now free to reinstall them. I believe there is no place for these devices in Stow. I see them as a deprivation of residents’ due-process rights and as a money grab. I expect we will vote on that measure in September.

Ice cream trucks

I’m still working with the law department on a law to bring back ice cream trucks. We will start taking public comment on that matter in September. In the meantime, here are some of the ideas we have:

  • They may only stop to sell on 25 MPH roads, and not within 100 feet of intersection
  • Must have convex mirrors
  • May not play music, except when stopped
  • Must have vehicle backup alerts
  • May only sell on side of the vehicle that is away from traffic
  • Drivers must get background checks and possess ID at all times, issued by city and visible on exterior of vehicle
  • They may only sell during certain hours (i.e., from 11 a.m. until 1/2 hour before sunset)
  • They must hold sufficient liability insurance
  • They must pay a fee to cover the costs that the city incurs in administering the program

Second-hand dealer law

The law department and police department requested council adopt a law that requires retailers who sell second-hand good to take photos of all of their purchased goods and post them to an online database, to help apprehend criminals. The proposed ordinance was amended over the past couple months to exempt certain businesses. Akron and Barberton have such a law.

We aren’t Akron or Barberton. I didn’t see a compelling need to impose such a burden on our small-business owners. I voted “no,” along with Riehl and Adaska. But it passed 4-3.

Route 91/Norton Road construction

The engineering department plans to finish construction at Norton Road and Route 91 by mid-September. Good news for people who traverse this path daily.

New office/warehouse building

Council approved a 9,680-square foot office/warehouse building on Seasons Road, between Allen and Prosper. Just another sign that our northwest quadrant is flying high right now.

Summer Sunset Blast

The city’s big festival over Labor Day weekend, Summer Sunset Blast, is quickly approaching. The city has revamped some things, like adding a petting zoo. There will be fireworks on Sunday evening.

For the first time, City Council will have its own booth at the event. So if you’re at the event, please take the opportunity to stop by and connect with one of your representatives.

Next meeting

Council will meet next on September 14.