Coun­cil mem­bers join op­po­si­tion

Mercy zon­ing change at is­sue for west side

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - FRONT PAGE - By Richard Pay­erchin rpay­erchin@morn­ingjour­nal.com @MJ_Jour­nalRick on Twit­ter

At least five mem­bers of Lo­rain City Coun­cil say they op­pose a zon­ing change that would al­low Mercy Health to build a new med­i­cal fa­cil­ity on Oak Point Road.

On Nov. 13, Lo­rain City Coun­cil held its pub­lic hear­ing for Mercy Health’s re­quested zon­ing change. The hos­pi­tal has asked to change zon­ing from R-1A Res­i­den­tial to B-1 Busi­ness to build a new 30,000-square­foot med­i­cal of­fice cen­ter on 8.19 acres of land just west of the in­ter­sec­tion of Oak Point Road and South Mayflower Drive.

At least 71 peo­ple packed the Coun­cil cham­bers for the dis­cus­sion, which lasted al­most two hours. About 30 peo­ple com­mented pub­licly and Coun­cil­woman-at-Large Mary Springowski, who con­ducted the hear­ing, banged her gavel more than once when the crowd jeered.

There were some sup­port­ers but most res­i­dents of­fered their con­cerns about spot zon­ing, in­creased traf­fic and the pos­si­bil­ity of Mercy Health se­lect­ing a bet­ter lo­ca­tion that would serve more of Lo­rain.

“There’s no rea­son to sac­ri­fice sta­ble neigh­bor­hoods,” said Jac­que­line Graff, who has lived on Oak Point Road since 1957.

“There’s no rea­son to sac­ri­fice sta­ble neigh­bor­hoods” — Jac­que­line Graff

“Please un­der­stand that we are not against ex­pan­sion, we are not against the hos­pi­tal, we are not against jobs, we are for all those things,” said Graff, one of sev­eral res­i­dents whose com­ments prompted ap­plause from the au­di­ence. “We’re all on the same team, but we have to re­spect each other’s in­vest­ments.”

The Lo­rain City Planning Com­mis­sion has rec­om­mended ap­proval of the zon­ing change.

On Nov. 13, there was no for­mal Coun­cil vote on that rec­om­men­da­tion; Coun­cil’s for­mal vote could come at its next reg­u­lar meet­ing.

But that didn’t stop five mem­bers from voic­ing their op­po­si­tion to the project lo­ca­tion.

Coun­cil­men Joe Koz­iura, Mitch Fal­lis, Greg Ar­genti, Den­nis Flores and An­gel Ar­royo Jr. said they would sup­port res­i­dents who ar­gue their neigh­bor­hood around the two-lane Oak Point is not the right place for the med­i­cal of­fice build­ing.

“The folks who re­side there all around this prop­erty bought and live there be­cause they were un­der the as­sump­tion that this was go­ing to be con­tin­ued res­i­den­tial zon­ing,” Fal­lis said. “And I’m ve­he­mently op­posed to this be­ing changed to busi­ness zon­ing. We have other ar­eas in our city that would be a more ap­pro­pri­ate lo­ca­tion for this par­tic­u­lar fa­cil­ity. I think it’s a great idea but it’s just in the wrong lo­ca­tion.”

Later in the meet­ing, Coun­cil­woman Pamela Carter and Coun­cil­man Joshua Thorns­berry, whose Ward 8 would have the new build­ing, voiced sup­port for the zon­ing change.

Carter cited Lo­rain’s need for jobs and Mercy’s work in Lo­rain as the city’s largest em­ployer. Thorns­berry said a vo­cal mi­nor­ity were try­ing to hi­jack progress in the part of Lo­rain that is a “beam­ing light” for growth in the city.

Thorns­berry cited the last 20 years of his­tory of neigh­bors fear­ing de­vel­op­ments that have cre­ated a pleas­ant place to live.

“And it’s al­ways been a vo­cal mi­nor­ity that lives next to the project with ex­actly the same com­plaints: traf­fic, prop­erty val­ues, it’s go­ing to ruin ev­ery­thing,” he said. “And we have 20 years of his­tory to prove none of that’s hap­pened.”

Coun­cil­woman Mary Springowski, who served as pres­i­dent pro tem, Coun­cil­woman JoAnne Moon and Coun­cil­men Brian Gates and Joe Faga did not say how they would vote on the is­sue.

In the com­ments, speak­ing against the project were: My­ron Naymik, Mar­i­lyn Finch, Ja­nine Maw­son, Pete Bates of Oak Point Es­tates; and Den­nis McGee, Ja­cob Wal­ter and Kristyne McDougle, Tom Priebe, Jean Shot­ter, Richard John­son, Don­ald Wolt­man, of Oak Point Road.

“The only thing this is go­ing to do is make the world worse,” John­son said.

Also op­pos­ing were Den­ver Casto and John Franko of Jaeger Road; Karen Ed­wards of North Mayflower Drive; Gary Gross of South Mayflower Drive; Mark Lom­bardi of Colony Court; Steve Nem­mer of Doe Cross­ing; city res­i­dents Martha Pye, Jerry Dono­van and John Wargo, a fre­quent at­tendee at Coun­cil meet­ings.

At­tor­ney Ger­ald Phillips of Avon Lake cited the court cases that have ruled against spot zon­ing.

Kim Mul­der, pres­i­dent of STAR De­sign-Build Con­trac­tors, served as spokesman for Mercy Health and the Bi­tar fam­ily, which would do­nate the land to the hos­pi­tal.

The site is not by ac­ci­dent, Mul­der said. Mercy Health wants to be ad­ja­cent to the State Route 2 cor­ri­dor like the Cleve­land Clinic does, he said.

Cather­ine Woskob­nick, a neigh­bor­ing res­i­dent who also is a Mercy vice pres­i­dent, said the hos­pi­tal pro­vides $24 mil­lion in char­i­ta­ble care to help peo­ple who are poor or un­der­served.

Dave Richards of York­town Road said he would sup­port the project.

“This is nat­u­ral progress on an in­ter­change that is grow­ing,” he said.

On Nov. 13, there was no for­mal Coun­cil vote on that rec­om­men­da­tion; Coun­cil’s for­mal vote could come at its next reg­u­lar meet­ing.

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