Here are my notes on the happenings at council on Thursday evening:
Dollar General – We started the meeting with a solid 90 minutes of discussion on whether a developer may build a retail store and lease it to Dollar General at the corner of Fishcreek and Stow roads. The mayor and administration support it. I have heard from probably 50 people who live in that area who do not. It passed the Planning Commission by a 4-1 vote. Unfortunately, once a proposal like this passes Planning Commission, there is very little that council may legally do to stop it. This proposal will be reviewed in the coming weeks. There is some concern for the traffic that will result and other site plan matters.
Budget Update – I asked the Finance Department to give us an update on where the budget stands at mid-year. If you remember, the mayor budgeted to have a deficit of $1.1 million in 2015. First, the good news: We are beating the projections for income tax receipts by about 2.5% (or about $190K). Next, the so-so news: Our ordinary expenditures are about what we expected them to be at this point–no better and no worse. Now, the unfortunate news: The city spent $350K to settle lawsuits with former employees this year. Also, the storm water expenditures will exceed the planned amounts by about $500K. So it now appears as if the mayor’s $1.1 million deficit will be a $1.8 million deficit. Keep in mind, at the end of this year, we will only have about $3.8 million in our savings. It doesn’t take long to chew through those reserves at the breakneck pace that the mayor is on.
Fox Den – The mayor promised to veto any legislation seeking bids to lease Fox Den. During her diatribe, she claimed that the government could run the golf course better than the private sector could. This, of course, is laughable. I intend to push forward regardless. Leasing the course will ensure that it is not sold for housing during the length of the long-term lease. It will insulate the city from any operating losses. It will give the city some extra funds, in the form of rent, to reduce the debt burden and fund much-needed infrastructure (roads, storm water improvements). However, leasing Fox Den is bad news for the mayor’s special interests–namely, the people who get free golf for life because they were shareholders of the company that sold Fox Den to the city. Let me be completely clear: We should have absolutely no concern for whether these people, who sold the course to Stow at a 200% premium, get to golf for free.
Here are my notes from last night’s council meetings:
Gilbert Road overlay district – Planning Commission has asked council to pass an “overlay district” in the Gilbert Road area. If none of that makes sense to you, I will explain. The creation of an overlay district allows a cluster of parcels to expand permissible zoning uses. The Gilbert Road area, which is currently zoned for single-family housing only, sits west/northwest of Wal-Mart and Lowe’s off Hudson Drive. If Planning Commission’s proposal is approved, Stow will allow offices and multi-family housing in this district, as well. Stow’s comprehensive plan supports changing zoning for this area, but only by allowing office use. I agree with the comprehensive plan, in this regard. There is no need to also allow multi-family. Stow has a lot of it already, and it’s not a benefit to us economically. This issue will be discussed in the next few months.
Capital expenses – Council approved $31K for a new leaf machine, as one of our old machines has a broken frame. We saved about $15K on this purchase by buying a “demo” unit that had some miles on it already. We still get the same powertrain warranty, so this was a wise move. … Council also approved, on an emergency basis, more funding for repairs to our Ford ambulance fleet.
Fox Den – Last month, we accepted bids for the sale of Fox Den. The bids were competitive. However, I do not intend to support any of them at this point. Rather, I am putting my support behind a compromise that will alleviate the concerns of residents near the golf course, and golfers alike.
The compromise is to seek proposals for an outside party to lease or manage the golf course. A lease will ensure that the golf course remains intact. It will ensure there is no housing. It will even ensure that future councils will not sell to a developer. It’s a compromise that has gotten wide support already from those people who vehemently opposed a sale.
On the other hand, a lease will allow us to recoup some of the debt payments, and allocate those savings to our roads and to prevent houses from flooding. Likewise, if we lease the course, we will be insulated from future potential operating losses, which we have sometimes sustained in prior years.
There will still be some people who oppose this plan. Many of them get free golf at Fox Den. Others have friends and family who work at the course. I refuse to honor those special interests. Rather, this is about fiscal responsibility and respecting the wishes of Fox Den’s neighbors.
Council will further discuss my compromise on July 23.