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New Franklin Council OKs lawsuit settlement

8/28/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

NEW FRANKLIN — New Franklin City Council approved legislation that ends a two-year lawsuit on a zoning issue at its Aug. 20 meeting.

Council voted 6-0 to sell an easement to Michael Hutfles and Heidi Haverly for $2,500 to address the construction of the couple’s garage on city-owned property. Councilwoman Andrea Norris (at large) abstained because she had a previous contract with a principal involved.

In addition to the sale of the easement, the legislation also includes a stipulation the residents will lower the height of the garage so the height and the total square footage of the garage conform to the city’s zoning code. That plan will have to be submitted to the city’s zoning officials and the Summit County Division of Building Standards, and no work can begin until the owners receive written authorization from city and county officials, according to the legislation.

The legislation also states the residents will be required to pay additional costs related to a survey of the property and the easement documents.

Law Director Tom Musarra stated the city could have appealed the settlement to the Ohio Supreme Court, but city officials decided not to because of the uncertainty of the outcome and the associated costs. He added the legislation does not settle a lawsuit involving a property dispute with a neighbor. That issue involves a 5-foot setback from the property line.

One resident spoke against the agreement, suggesting it was too vague and it sent the wrong message to those who do not follow the proper procedures to build on residential lots.

Jeff Enright, of Rex Lake Drive, told city officials the settlement agreement helps those who broke the rules and hurts the neighbors, who are involved in the related lawsuit.

Fred Krueger, the neighbor, suggested the legislation favors Hutfles and Haverly.

“This [proposed legislation] is a slap in the face to all the good people who try to follow the rules,” he said “There is no justice for us. You should support your zoning and not allow this to happen.”

Musarra responded that Hutfles and Haverly have not come out of the matter easily, as they have to pay $35,000 in attorney fees plus the costs associated with lowering the roof of the garage. He also said the settlement is a “win for the city,” as two of the three issues in the matter, including the height and area of the garage, “are corrected,” and the third issue — the 5-foot setback— is still in the courts. He added that to say the legislation favors one party is a “mischaracterization” of the matter.

“I think it’s a fair settlement,” said Musarra. “I don’t think it favors Hutfles and Haverly and it does not disfavor the Kruegers.

In other business, Council approved the following:

  • the purchase of a 2015 Ford F-550 dump truck and a 2015 Ford F-250, both for the Service Department, to replace aging vehicles;
  • an agreement with Lindsay Precast for upgrades to the New Franklin Treatment Plant to address Environmental Protection Agency standards for a septic system near City Hall;
  • the transfer of $15,000 from the General Fund to the Dispatch Fund; and
  • an additional appropriation of $10,000 received for an insured fire loss.

In other business, Musarra announced Green High School senior Madison Wolbert, who was recently appointed as interim clerk of Council, has resigned and Council will need to look for someone else to serve in the position.

The next Council meeting will take place Sept. 3 beginning at 6 p.m. with committee meetings followed immediately by the regular meeting at City Hall, located at 5611 Manchester Road.

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