Thursday, February 18, 2010


Politics makes for strange bedfellows?

North Cantonians will fall off their kitchen table chairs when they hear this one.

The SCPR has learned that community activist and former North Canton councilman Chuck Osborne and North Canton City Council president Daryl Revoldt are united in a common quest to block the construction of a Sonic Drive-In restaurant (as presently proposed) on the north side of East Maple immediately west of Walgreens, in what is known as the Washington Square shopping complex, located at East Maple and Market Avenue North.

Osborne and Revoldt have a storied history of going after one another in the give and take of democracy in action at North Canton City Hall.  A little over a month ago, Revoldt muzzled Osborne as North Canton's political gadfly attempted to speak at a regular North Canton City Council meeting about allegations that North Canton was illegally dumping street sweepings.

Apparently, Revoldt's muzzling of Osborne is catching on in North Canton.

On January 26th of this year, Osborne appeared at a meeting of the North Canton Zoning and Building Standards Board of Appeals (BOA).

To hear Osborne tell it, a request for a lot size variance (from the code 150" to 128") got ramrodded through without he or any other North Canton citizen getting a chance to speak to the matter before the 3 to 1 vote approving the variance.

For Osborne, this (the approval) was a stunning reversal of what he expected to happen.

Councilman John Snyder was telling Council (two weeks before the BOA January 26th meeting) that the BOA was going to turn down the the variance request (how would Snyder have pre-known?) and that the Council needed to amend the North Canton's zoning to accommodate McKinley Development, Ltd (run by developer-partners Bill Lemmon and Bob DeHoff) which had asked for the Sonic variance.

Snyder says that his pre-information was not based on direct contact with any member of the BOA, but rather passed on to him by Bill Lemmon (who lives in Snyder's ward) as being  the assessment of board member William Cline, who, it turns out, did not end up attending the January 26 meeting.

Revoldt tells the SCPR that he was on board with Snyder's plea to change set back rules from 150 feet to 125 feet because 125 feet is what the neighboring townships of Plain and Jackson have in their zoning codes.  But he has never approved of the gradual change, over time, of the architectural design of Washington Square.

Lo and behold, changing North Canton's zoning on the lot size matter became moot when the BOA surprised everybody in granting the requested variance at its January 26 meeting.

Snyder says he did object to a re-vote (after the 3 to 1 vote) as not being in accord with Roberts Rules of Order (a re-vote having been suggested by one of the board members).

Why the consideration of a re-vote.

Osborne had protested that he and other citizens had not been allowed to weigh-in on the variance issue prior to the BOA's vote.

Snyder offered to The Report that he had no objection to the BOA taking Osborne's statement, but not on the condition to doing a re-vote.

Next step, the North Canton Planning Commission.

More political theatrics were the order of the day at the Planning Commission's meeting of February 10th to consider the site plan for the Sonic (through McKinley Development) proposal.  Site plans require Commission approval as a followup to the granting of the variance.

Chuck Osborne  appeared at the Planning Commission meeting and, this time, was allowed to speak to the issue "prior" to a vote.  Osborne had complained about his denial of the right to speak at the BOA session at City Council's February 8th meeting.

The real drama came with Council president Daryl Revoldt getting up and speaking to the Planning Commission on the issue.  He said he was opposed because of a lack of developer promised consistency in implementing a higher order of architecture at Washington Square on the last several projects. Revoldt cited city records and conversations between the parties (the developers and North Canton) going back to the first days of the Washington Square project.

Revoldt's critique did not set well with developer Bill Lemmon. And for good reason.

The SCPR believes that the Osborne/Revoldt combo was being effective in getting in the way of the fruition of the Sonic project.

How effective?  The Planning Commission tabled its consideration of the Sonic Drive-in site plan.

Though he likes to say that he has only one vote, Revoldt wields enormous control in North Canton City Council and Lemmon and DeHoff know this, and they have reacted swiftly to Revoldt's opposition.

Revoldt had written a pre-Planning Commission meeting letter to Bob DeHoff (February 9th).detailing his opposition.

In the letter he made the following points:
  • Developers Lemmon and DeHoff had made a commitment to a higher architectural standard in the planning for Washington Square complex.
  • They had "wandered" from their commitment.
  • The Sonic Drive-in plan is a violation of the commitment.
  • The plan flies in the face of efforts by Walsh University to make its' East Maple Street presence aesthetic.
  • "Sonic['s] architecture diminishes the investments made by others in the area."
  • Sonic's present plan "raises questions about the city's and developer's credibility."
  • Sonic's plan undermines North Canton's effort to rebuild its economy.
Pretty strong stuff, no?  But this is the public arena, this is America where citizens and public officials are allowed to discuss their concerns, their opinions.

Well, DeHoff hotfooted it off to McKinley Development's attorney Thomas W. Winkhart to have a rejoinder fashioned.

Here are some points of Winkhart's missive to Revoldt:
  • Washington Square is not owned by DeHoff and/or Lemmon but by McKinley Development Co., Ltd.
  • Questioned whether Revoldt is acting in an official capacity or in an individual capacity.
  • Makes a public records demand for documents that are relevant to Revoldt's accusations on McKinley, Lemmon and DeHoff.
 Moreover, Winkhart has the following to say (excerpts from the actual Winkhart letter):

"I intend to determine if they rise to the level of libel and perhaps slander ... determine if a cause of action exists on behalf of my clients as a result there of"


Undoubtedly, Revoldt is shaking in his boots.

One other thing about Winkhart's letter.  Why the big distinction between McKinley Development Co., Ltd and the DeHoff/Lemmon duo.  It appears that Winkhart makes a distinction  without a difference.  What is that all about?

The Report did ask the question directly to Attorney Winkhart via email.  Answer:  "no comment."

Whatever the outcome of this fuss turns out to be (Revoldt believes a compromise will be worked out), the political drama has been and continues to be fascinating:
  • Osborne and Revoldt allies?
  • Osborne being denied his right to speak, once again.
  • Councilman Jon Snyder thinking he knew and yet not knowing in advance (unreliable hearsay) what the Zoning and Building Standards Board of Appeals was going to do on the McKinley Development request for a Sonic Drive-in variance?
  • Revoldt being at odds with long time  friend Bob DeHoff (e.g."Dear Bob") to the point of speaking out in a public meeting (a la Osborne) and then writing a nasty-gram to "Dear Bob."
  • "Dear Bob" sicking his attorney on Revoldt; threatening a defamation suit.

1 comment:

JL Watson said...

why not just write a contract stating that sonic has to build a higher end styled building then their traditional flashy drive in style building and that the city must sign off on the design before the variance will be granted...
I will never understand why politicians feel the need to play hardball and drag things out.. when things can be solved with just a little common sense and negotiation.. they should be more than happy to work with anyone trying to bring business and jobs back in to north canton....
:: Palm Smacks Forehead ::