By Sue Serdinak
May 3 village council meeting
In acknowledgment of the high sewer bills that 10 owners paid over several years, Richfield Village Council voted to not charge them a fee to tap into the village’s newest sewer line.
The properties are in, or just beyond, the Briarwood development off Route 303. They were not annexed to the village along with the rest of the development, so they remain in Richfield Township.
Those property owners are required to tie into the village sewer line being built to serve the existing Briarwood development and the new Briarwood Estates subdivision. The Richfield Furnace Run Associates’ sewer line that served this area is being shut down.
Council has debated how much to charge the property owners to connect to the system. In the past, all property owners paid an assessment fee to tap into a village sewer line. As sewer lines were constructed, property owners were required to tap in, just as the Briarwood properties must do. Employing the formula used for previous sewer districts, the village charge for each Briarwood property would be $5,600.
Legislation was proposed allowing the village to offer wastewater treatment services to these township properties without an assessment fee. Over several meetings council discussed whether the owners should be exempt from the charge because they paid high sewer bills to Richfield Furnace Run Associates for decades.
The village received a $900,000 grant from Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District to defer part of the cost of the new sewer line. In addition, according to a tax increment financing agreement, increased real estate taxes on the new development will help fund the infrastructure for 10 years.
After 10 years, the township will receive the real estate taxes paid by the new property owners, as per terms of the annexation agreement.
Council President Bobbie Beshara said the village has spent over $2 million to get this project underway and will receive no money in return. She added that village property owners in the past had to pay the assessment. She also asserted that the township could cover the assessment for the property owners since the township will receive the property tax from the new part of the Briarwood development in 10 years, after the TIF has ended.
“I disagree,” said Mayor Michael Wheeler. “We’re getting more than enough money coming back in [now] because of the TIF. … Why tax people when we don’t need to?”
Councilperson Ralph Waszak concurred: “Given the circumstances and what has been going on for a long time. … The township residents were held hostage by the former owner of the land … and the sewage treatment plant.”
Councilperson Jeff Stoppenhagen disagreed: “A lot of money has been spent [to solve the sewer problem]. I think the [TIF] plan we have now is terrific. They are not village residents, and I think we should not be covering their cost. We had a lot of cost because the township opposed this project.”
Said Councilperson Rick Hudak, “I believe Richfield is one community. These people have been paying so much for their utilities and are being impacted with all of the construction there. … I think this legislation should be adopted.”
Councilperson Pat Norris concurred, saying, “In this project we are not charging the homeowners, whether they live in the village or township.”
Added Councilperson Sue Ann Philippbar, “I think the TIF fully covers it, and I feel the township won’t get that extra property tax money for 10 years.’’
Council passed the legislation with Stoppenhagen and Beshara voting against it.
Shared recreation director
Wheeler has proposed that the village and the Richfield Joint Recreation District share a recreation director. He said the village would employ the person, who would be paid about $73,000 annually, according to village scale. The village would also pay benefits and provide a vehicle for the employee, along with car insurance.
The rec director would be expected to work 20 hours per week for the RJRD and have an office at the Richfield Heritage Preserve, because the village sold its recreation building on Brecksville Road.
Village law director Alejandros Cortes drew up terms of the agreement, and Bill Hanna represented RJRD for negotiations. Both men are lawyers for the Walter Haverfield firm. The law firm could not represent the RJRD in a dispute.
Wheeler noted the village has a car that could be used. He said the collaboration would be reviewed every 90 days.
“It is a concept that I’m behind. It gets reviewed every 90 days,” said Beshara.
This would be an executive hire, so council and the RJRD would not approve the mayor’s choice, but legislation would be required to implement the agreement.
According to Waszak, the two positions are different. He said the RJRD rec director would be more like the village service director. Waszak also questioned if a person working 20 hours per week would be sufficient.
Wheeler said the RJRD would like to employ a separate person to work as park service director.
Hudak said RJRD board members and volunteers could take on most responsibilities of a service director.
Waszak added that the village had a dynamic recreation program for many years, and he would like to see it restarted.
Councilperson Chuck Boester agreed that the positions seem different.
“We don’t know if it is going to work if we don’t try,” said Wheeler.
Cortes will prepare legislation for the job sharing.
Wheeler reported that he met with local tennis expert Doug Wenger regarding the placement and the number of pickleball and tennis courts the village should construct.
At an earlier meeting, Wheeler recommended the courts be constructed on village property, just east of the Senior Center.
The zoning commission has been reviewing the zoning code regarding fences, walls and hedges in the village. Village council has been discussing the proposed changes but has not voted on the ordinance.
Greg Matta, owner of Cutting Edge Decorative Concrete, located on Brecksville Road south of the turnpike, said code requirements should be re-examined.
He said theft and damage to property should be considered when establishing the requirements. He said open fencing allows for better security.
Frank Tamaro, who put up new fencing at the former Richfield Radiator shop, has an active case before the Board of Zoning Appeals for a fence he recently installed which is not in compliance with the code.
Planning Director Brian Frantz explained that solid fences are not permitted on the property line, and front-yard fences can be no higher than three feet. He said more than 20 properties in the village have fences that are not in compliance.
Waszak said fencing should be reviewed differently for different zoning districts and security fencing should be considered.
Boester noted that chain link fencing is not permitted in the historic district.
Council did not vote on the fencing ordinance.
Frantz said it would cost about $32,000 to install a crosswalk beacon at Humphrey Road and Route 303. He said that GPD Group, the village’s engineer, selected another location on Route 303, west of the Parker Serdinak Trail, for a second flashing beacon.
In other news:
• Waszak reported that when the Eastwood barn was razed, it left a wide opening into the neighbor’s yard. The owners had offered to contribute significant money to repair the building, but the work was not done in time to save it.
Waszak suggested something be done to provide some privacy.
• Wheeler also announced the retirement of Rick Kovach, who served in the service department for 20 years.
• The mayor said he met with representatives from Charles Schwab who said they are planning an expansion in the future.
• Police Chief Michael Swanson said the department was chosen for the EMS Star Life award.
• Waszak reported that Richfield will be recognized for being a Tree City for 27 years. See article on page ??
• Interim Recreation Director Laura Toth said reservations for summer camp are almost at capacity.
• Frantz said quotes are being solicited to replace the village phone system. ∞