Monday, August 29, 2016






In the body of this blog, the SCPR shares a point made by former council president (representing—at the time—Ward 4) Jon Snyder, to wit:
  • Acknowledged that he knew about the North Ridge matter but that his understanding is that Lemmon did not seek the abatement at his initiative but was approached by Bowles first and that he would not be so stupid as to advocate that Snyder friend Bill Lemmon benefit from a CRA abatement,
However, the minutes of the Housing Council of March 16th indicates a different account of whom asked whom about an abatement, to wit: (an extract)

Mr. Flechtner asked Mr. Bowles to  review the one multi-family residential project located at 1303/1305 North Main Street. 

 Mr.  Bowles introduced the North Ridge Place LTD. Project to  the Housing Council explaining that it  now  inhabits  the fonner mobile home park.  He explained that the mobile home park owner were selling some of their holdings and decided to  put the mobile home park up for auction.  The property initially sold to  someone at auction that planned on keeping the mobile home park.  However, the financing  for  the purchase  was  not  approved by  the  purchaser's  bank  and it was  put back up for auction.  The property was then sold to  North Ridge Place LTD with the  intention of building forty ( 40) apartment units.  Further, after the  purchase, the owners paid relocation expenses for  the  residents  that were living in the Mobile Home Park.  

The ownership of the property (Mr. Bill Lemmon) approached the Housing Officer after approval of the site plan at the March 27, 2012 Planning Commission Meeting and inquired about making application for a CRA Real Property Tax Incentive for the property.  

North Ridge Place,  LTD.,  after reviewing the program, made application for CRA Residential Tax Exemption.  After checking and  verifying the location of the  property and  qualifications,  the Housing Officer Determined that the project met the requirements in the City's CRA Ordinance and State of Ohio Statutes and  certified the project to the County Auditor after November 26, 2012 for twelve years at 100% exemption.


One of the primary points that North Canton law director Tim Fox made in last Monday's North Canton City Council (NCCC, Council) meeting was that the decision to grant a company (North Ridge Place, LTD, January 24, 2012), owned at least in part by developer William Lemmon, an upwards of $1 million tax abatement was the solitary, sole and singular act of North Canton economic development director and, more particularly, housing director Eric Bowles.  (color and type size emphasis added)

Just take a listen of Fox.

And watch/listen to North Canton mayor David Held express both:
  • outrage at Bowles' ministerial-esque act (if you believe the Held, Fox and Council president Daniel "Jeff" Peters interpretation of the act) and in the very next breath tell one and all
  • in the next breath tell one and all what a great economic development director/housing director Bowles had been during his tenue with North Canton government.

To the SCPR, Held's rhetoric was tantamount to a virtual "driving the North Canton government bus" over Bowles in response to receiving a petition signed by 178 North Cantonians in opposition to the effect of Bowles' act of depriving North Canton schools (NCCS) of several hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenues without the North Canton City Schools Board of Education having a say in the matter and without NCCC weighing in on the abatement.

The official version: Bowles retired from North Canton government on Friday, August 19, 2016 after having come into office about the same time David Held became mayor of North Canton.

But there are those North Cantonians who do not think that Bowles act of resignation was voluntary at all.

In fact, one of them called outright for Bowles firing.

Despite what Held, Fox and Peters say, the SCPR believes that while in the technical legal sense in terms of being assigned the function of making the official decision by Ohio law Bowles did make the North Ridge Place abatement decision, it is too much to believe that others did not weigh-in in the context of "advice, council and being sounding boards" on Bowles ultimate decision.

The SCPR talked yesterday with former North Canton Council president (having been elected from Ward 4) Jon Snyder (resigned in June, 2014) about the North Ridge Place abatement process.

And these are the SCPR take-aways from that conversation.
  • now a resident of Ward 3 who misses being in North Canton government,
  • believes that some of his former fellow council members blame him for the political fallout on the health insurance premium paid for by North Canton government for uninsured council members in the face of the will of the voters of North Canton ("Insurancegate—Citizen Melanie Roll),
  • Council members Peters and Cerreta's meeting with him seeking his resignation as council president was not the reason he resigned but that he did realize as a spin off from the Peteres Cerreta approach that he had lost the confidence of Council and therefore decided to resign,
  • He had no input on Eric Bowles decision to grant North Ridge Place's application for a Community Reinvestment Area abatement,
  • Admitted he has a long term social and professional relationship with Bill Lemmon,
  • Reiterated that he did not have anything to do with Bowles as North Canton housing director granting the North Ridge Place LTD application for abatement of the $3.1 million apartment development project,
  • Agrees with the SCPR position that it is not reasonable to believe that Bowles made the decision to grant the abatement without discussing the matter in an "advice and counsel" setting before Bowles did the official act of granting it but he again pointedly said "I had nothing to do with Bowles' decision," 
  • He has a great deal of respect for Bowles—who Snyder thinks is totally on top of Ohio's real estate/tax abatement law—in his performance as a North Canton government official and that he did have and continued to have a close relationship with Bowles after he (Snyder) left office in June, 2014,
  • Cited instances (e.g.  discussions about The Sanctuary CRA abatement proposal, Valley View [Reed Funeral Home] and others) in which he did have discussions with Bowles,
  • Acknowledged that he knew about the North Ridge matter but that his understanding is that Lemmon did not seek the abatement at his initiative but was approached by Bowles first and that he would not be so stupid as to advocate that Snyder friend Bill Lemmon benefit from a CRA abatement,
  • Thinks it is likely that he had conversation(s) with Bowles about CRA status for the property sited where North Ridge Place currently sits in the context of needing to get some development going on a site that had been, in Snyder's opinion, blighted property in that it had been a site on which a mobile home park was located but not specific to granting North Ridge Place, LTD an abatement,
  • Has an understanding that North Canton government cannot refuse to grant qualifying residential CRA applications citing that longstanding critic of the North Ridge Place abatement himself received a CRA abatement for his residential property,
  • Doesn't think Bowles would do anything illegal but it was "funny that the transaction "did not have any light shining on it," that how the abatement was handled by North Canton government is not in the spirit of openness and the whole debacle has become and public relations problem,
  • Consequently, the powers that be in North Canton government are now running for cover,
  • A solution might be for government officials to contact Lemmon and see if something cannot be worked out on mitigating the loss of tax revenues for North Canton schools,
  • Is surprised that Bowles resigned even though he (Bowles) had shared with Snyder that he was experiencing some health problems,
  • The abatement North Ridge Place process likely is legally solid as he thought the health care premium payment for council members by North Canton was but not politically smart,
    • SCPR Note:  All participating council members (including Snyder) disenrolled from North Canton's health care coverage and reimbursed the city for premiums paid by the city during the enrollment period
For now the debate rages on as to who did what in terms of influencing or not influencing the Bowles' decision to grant North Ridge Place LTD a nearly $1 million tax abatement that over the term of the abatement takes revenue away from North Canton schools, from North Canton emergency services and from North Canton street improvement/repairs.

Citizen activist Chuck Osborne thinks the abatement was probably illegal and is likely on a timing of his choosing file a lawsuit to have the courts weigh-in on the matter.

And Osborne if does file litigation, it likely such will be the vehicle through which we learn who did what, if anything, in terms of leaning on Bowles to make the decision that he did.

For any testimony in the context of litigation will be under oath.

Under oath leave very little, if any, room for political spin.

Which—political spin, this is— it appears to the SCPR is what we are getting a whole lot of presently.

A casualty of the politics of the situation may have been one Eric Bowles getting thrown under the North Canton government bus, no?

No comments: