On May 21, 2020, Mayor Andy Gardner admitted that the man behind the commercial dumping on protected residential property on Chardon Road, Mark Belich, is his “old friend”. Belich’s father-in-law also contributed thousands to Gardner’s campaign for Mayor just weeks before beginning the dumping. Rather than taking responsibility for failing to enforce the City’s zoning code and shutting down the commercial dumping which is not a permitted use of residential property in Willoughby Hills, Gardner’s supporters are now blaming former Council Members and Gardner’s opponent in the last election, Councilwoman Nancy Fellows.
Denise Niedermeyer, treasurer of a Willoughby Hills Political Action Committee that supported Gardner’s campaign and received over a thousand dollar contribution from Belich’s father-in-law shortly before the dumping started, recently suggested Fellows and former Council Members were to blame for the dump on Facebook:
Denise Niedermeyer’s suggestion is FALSE.
Who is responsible for allowing this commercial dump in the first place?
Belich first brought his project before the City’s Planning Commission and Architectural Board of Review in April of 2018. He presented the project as a residential driveway project. The PCABR approved the “residential driveway” project in June of 2018. Approval gave Belich two years to complete the project. Those on the PCABR who voted to approve the project, which turned out to be a commercial dump as soon as the November election was over, were former Mayor Robert Weger, Former Councilman David Fiebig, John Lillich, Chris Smith, James Shannon, Jonathan Irvine and current Councilman Michael Kline.
No one could have known that Belich was going to open a commercial dump based on what he told the PCABR in 2018. Again, it was only after the November election and after Belich’s father-in-law gave Gardner and his team, which included Denise Niedermier’s PAC, over $6,000 in campaign contributions, that Belich’s commercial dumping began. Contrary to Denise Niedermeyer’s suggestion, the project was never brought before City Council.
Late last month, before Belich’s two years to complete the “residential driveway” project ran out, Belich came before the PCABR again to present plans for a house on the property, which would then give him another two years to complete his “residential” project. Gardner abstained from voting on his “old friend’s” project, but the other members of the current PCABR, Lillich, Shannon, Tom Elliott, Ron Lewis, and Councilwoman Tanya Taylor-Draper voted to approve it. No one on the PCABR asked any questions at the May 21, 2020 meeting or raised any concerns about the commercial truck scale or seven straight months of apparently illegal dumping happening on the property.
Make no mistake: Mayor Gardner makes the decisions about whether to enforce the laws of the City and he clearly thinks its ok for his “old friend” to operate a commercial dump on protected residential property. Of course it’s just a coincidence that this “old friend’s” father-in-law gave Gardner and his ticket, including Michael Kline and Denise Niedermeyer’s PAC, thousands in campaign contributions days before beginning to dump.
Who’s responsible for allowing the commercial dump on protected residential land?Gardner, Kline, Weger, Lillich, Smith, Shannon, Irvine, Fiebig, Elliott, Lewis and Taylor-Draper. Gardner and these other City Officials need to take responsibility and they and their supporters should not bully by blaming others for their controversial or bad decisions.