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Akron Council altering new nuisance law

5/1/2008 - West Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

Also, West Hill billboard request draws opposition

Fast-growing grass during the first springlike week of the year had prompted Akron City Council to quickly approve a new law addressing nuisance properties April 21.

A little too quickly, as it turns out.

Council voted unanimously April 28 to reconsider the ordinance — effectively killing it — and subsequently unanimously approved a substitute ordinance reflecting a few changes to the new law. The main changes, which were recommended by the city law department, are the inclusion of a graffiti provision and the changing of the period in which a property owner can abate the nuisance or appeal from five to seven days.

Service Director Richard Merolla told Public Service Committee members five days was “probably too aggressive,” but the seven-day time period is still more aggressive than the city’s old law.

In other business, Council had a public hearing regarding a request for a conditional-use permit to construct a billboard at the intersection of West Exchange Street and Rhodes Avenue in West Akron.

The staff of the Akron Planning Department, as well as the Akron Planning Commission, recommended Council deny the request.

But two representatives from Indiana-based J&B Outdoor Inc. argued the billboard would provide an affordable advertising opportunity for small businesses that can’t afford expensive airtime or full-page newspaper ads. J&B Outdoor also would introduce competition into the billboard market in the area, said owner Bo Hagood.

“We already have five signs built, and they’re the nicest signs in this city,” he said.

Further, Hagood told Council members he was operating on misinformation from the city Zoning Division when he chose the 601 W. Exchange St. location for the billboard (Zoning Division Manager John Moore confirmed a mistake had been made), but he would be willing to make concessions so the billboard would be lower and farther away from residences and meet requirements of the code.

However, two representatives of the West Hill Neighborhood Organization (WHNO) argued the billboard would be far from suitable in the proposed location.

Resident Barb Snyder noted the billboard would be very close to a community garden, as well as the first residential historic district in Akron.

“We really concern ourselves with quality-of-life issues in our neighborhood, and aesthetics,” she said.

Snyder also pointed out that no potential advertisers were present in Council chambers to advocate for the billboard.

“It’s not going to help us raise the value of our homes or our neighborhood,” added WHNO President Jane Startzman.

Council will vote on the billboard proposal at a future meeting.

In other business, Council:

  • approved the $81,940 purchase of Radio IP software to improve connectivity in the usage of mobile data terminals in police cruisers and a $17,534 expenditure to upgrade network equipment in the Stubbs Justice Center;
  • approved an annual contract in the amount of $361,283 with the Summit County Public Defender Commission to provide legal services for indigent defenders in Akron Municipal Court;
  • approved the eligibility report for the Amended O’Neil’s Urban Renewal Area;
  • approved the donation of $669.60 to the AkronReads Program, a tutoring partnership among the Akron Public Schools and local businesses, government agencies and nonprofit and civic organizations, to contribute to an annual luncheon to honor volunteers, a scholarship in the name of retiring Akron Public Schools’ Superintendent Sylvester Small and the purchase of dictionaries for the volunteers;
  • continued taking time on an ordinance that would make it more difficult for scrap metal thieves to sell to dealers, while Council members and police officials seek to collaborate with nearby local governments; and
  • continued taking time on a partial debt-forgiveness agreement with Downtown Hotel Co. Ltd., which owns the Radisson Hotel Akron City Centre.

The next regular Akron City Council meeting will take place May 5 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. in Downtown Akron. Committee meetings are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. that afternoon, also in Council Chambers.

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