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Concerns voiced over Boston road vacations

5/17/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Opinions on vacating three roads in Boston Township were shared during public hearings before Summit County Council May 14.

While viewpoints differed about the township’s request to vacate Stanford, Oak Hill and Wetmore roads, those who spoke and members of Council seemed to be in agreement about one thing: The roads in question are in need of repair.

Township Trustee Amy Anderson appeared before Council to explain why the township is seeking the vacations of the roads, which are on land owned by the National Park Service, with some areas part of Metro Parks, Serving Summit County. By vacating a road, the township would no longer maintain it, effectively closing it to public traffic, according to Jason Dodson, chief of staff for County Executive Russ Pry.

“It’s simply economics,” Anderson said. “We just don’t have the money to maintain [them].”

Representatives from Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) and Metro Parks commented during the three separate hearings held. In addition, a few residents in the area gave their opinions on the proposed vacations.

Of the three roads, Oak Hill Road raised the most questions and concerns.

CVNP Deputy Superintendent Paul Stoehr said the park service opposes the vacation of that road because there is a park-owned structure there with a resident. There are also four other residences on the road, he added. The closure would limit access to the area from the north and increase response time for emergency vehicles, Stoehr said.

“Further study is needed,” Stoehr said. “We need to explore other options.”

According to Joe Paradise, of the Summit County Engineer’s Office, the road is in need of major repairs. He estimated that fixing just 300 feet of the road would cost about $1 million.

“Fixed, relocated, closed, abandoned — something needs to be done out there,” Paradise said.

Stoehr suggested that federal funding through the Public Lands Highway Discretionary program be looked into. But Paradise said the county has applied to that program for various projects over the years and usually gets a fraction of what is needed to address a job fully. He added that a county study on all the roads, bridges and culverts in the national park in Summit County showed there’s more than $81 million worth of work needed.

Three residents who live on the road spoke before Council and expressed their opposition to vacating it.

“We have long-term residents of 70 years that have lived there,” said Erin Aldridge. “They own their home and pay taxes there.”

She added that the road also is heavily used by cars going to Old Trail School and Hale Farm and Village, both located in Bath Township.

Paul Wilkerson, Metro Parks’ chief of planning and development, said the park district is not opposed to the road vacation there or the other two proposed vacations. CVNP’s Stoehr said the park service does not oppose the Stanford and Wetmore proposed vacations.

During the Stanford Road hearing, resident Max Fogg said he opposes the vacation there. Fogg’s house is technically in Sagamore Hills, but he has a Peninsula mailing address and the road is in Boston Township, he said.

“I’m stuck in the middle of a nightmare,” he told Council. “I just want what everyone else takes for granted: mail, police protection. I’ve lived here for 28 years. I didn’t think I would have to fight to have my road taken care of.”

Stoehr said if the roads within the park are vacated, CVNP would maintain them as access areas. But he assured Council that Stanford Road would not be “treated like a parking lot.”

Along with the public hearing, a public viewing of each of the three roads was held May 11. Councilman John Schmidt (D-District 2) said he thought another viewing should be scheduled so Council members could have another chance to see the roads in question to have a better idea of what the issues are.

Councilwoman Ilene Shapiro (D-at large) conducted the hearings and stressed that Council would like the parties to work together to try to find solutions for the road issues.

Anderson said that already has been tried.

“We have had dialogue with the National Park Service, but they said there was no mechanism to help with roadways,” she said. “We have asked for help.”

Final public hearings on the road vacations are scheduled for June 11 at 4:30 p.m. in Council chambers.

In other business, Council adopted on first reading two resolutions that will allow the county to move forward on a summer youth employment program. Youths and young adults ages 14-24 in families that are Temporary Assistance to Needy Families-eligible can take part in the program.

Council also adopted an updated version of the Intergovernmental Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Job Creation and Retention and Tax Revenue Sharing. Dodson has said 21 communities in the county have signed on to the MOU, which aims to prevent unfair attempts by communities to lure businesses away from other communities in the county.

Summit County Council will meet for committee meetings May 21 at 4:30 p.m. in Council chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, 175 S. Main St.

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