NOACA Considering White Road I-271 Exit in Willoughby Hills

According to Cleveland.com, the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency is considering plans to add several new freeway exits in five Northeast Ohio counties, including one on the border of Lake and Cuyahoga Counties in Willoughby Hills and Mayfield Village at White Road and I-271. Those who support the idea say the White Road exit is necessary to relieve traffic from Progressive. A decision is expected to be made by NOACA in December.

Did Mayor Gardner and Planning & Zoning Approve Former Council Member’s New House on Lot Less Than One Acre?

Willoughby Hills residents have long prided themselves on being where the city meets the country thanks in large part to one acre minimum zoning. Apparently, one acre zoning might not be a requirement in Willoughby Hills under the Mayor Gardner administration. On July 16, 2020, Gardner and his Planning and Zoning Commission approved former Councilwoman Linda Cover’s plan to build a new home on Stark Drive property she purchased in February. According to information from the County Auditor’s website, Cover bought .88 acres made up of two .44 acre parcels on Stark Drive, one with an existing home on it and one vacant. While most of the homes on Stark Drive were built before there was a one acre minimum in place, no new homes are supposed to be permitted on lots smaller than one acre in single-family residential zones in Willoughby Hills. The Willoughby Hills Charter requires than any changes to zoning uses be approved by the voters, but no vote on the one acre minimum has occurred. At the July 16 meeting, Cover said she is building the new home for her retirement.

Mayor Andy Gardner’s Supporters Look to Gofundme for Money to Continue Suing Nancy Fellows

Screen Shot 2020-06-21 at 1.09.02 PMOn June 4, 2020, nine months after their previous suit was dismissed and deemed frivolous, Mayor Andy Gardner’s supporters—Tony Miller, Vicki Miller, Jeffrey Fruscella, Steve Crone, and Jack Hay—filed their second suit in Lake County Probate Court seeking to remove 18-year Councilwoman Nancy Fellows, and Gardner’s opposition in the recent mayoral election, from office.  Fellows, outraged, said the frivolous suit was yet another example of Gardner and his supporters bullying those who speak out against them.

Two weeks later,  Gardner’s supporter Tony Miller created a Gofundme page soliciting donations to pay his and his team’s expenses related to the suit.  The fundraising effort comes on the same day the News-Herald reported that claims made under oath by the Millers, Fruscella, Crone, and Hay were false.  Explaining their strategy in bringing the suit and asking for money, Miller says on the Gofundme page:

“Our counts are very well prepared and substantiated and we are confident we can prove more than one count of misfeasance and or malfeasance. When we win all court costs and legal fees will be assigned to the defendant and money received from this fundraiser would be returned. If, by some catastrophic event, we could not prove 1 out of 19 counts of misfeasance and or malfeasance we would be responsible for legal fees and court costs. To date I am personally vested approximately $1000 and one or two others lesser amounts.  Our next deposit to the court is a minmum of $750 deposit to cover juror fees and will be due in the next couple weeks.”

So far the campaign has raised $65 of the $2,500 Miller and friends are seeking from Wilda Jaros, Philomena Listoria and one anonymous donor.

 

News-Herald Catches Mayor Andy Gardner’s Supporters in Lie Under Oath in Suit Against Fellows

On June 18, the News-Herald issued a correction to its story about the lawsuit filed by Mayor Andy Gardner’s supporters—Tony Miller, Vicki Miller, Jeffrey Fruscella, Steve Crone, and Jack Hay—which seeks to remove 18-year Councilwoman Nancy Fellows from office.  Miller and his cohorts claimed under oath that Fellows is under investigation by County Prosecutor Charles Coulson, the Ohio State Auditor’s Office, and the Ohio Ethics Commission.  The News-Herald originally reported this claim without verification, but the newspaper has since contacted these agencies and they refuted Miller and friends’ claims.  On June 18 the article was updated and now says:

“According to the complaint, the case is currently being investigated by the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office, Ohio Ethics Commission, and the Ohio Auditor’s office.

Lake County Prosecutor Charles Coulson, however, said his office is not reviewing that case, and a spokesperson for the Auditor of State’s Office also said they are not conducting an investigation.

Ohio Ethics Commission Executive Director Paul Nick said he cannot confirm or deny investigations by his office, but said his office does not handle Sunshine Law violations.”

If Andy Gardner’s supporters would lie under oath about something so easily verified, what won’t they lie about?

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Willoughby Hills Safety Forces Respond to Two Significant Incidents in Chagrin River in 24 Hours

7WWAD3NT6JBCZBX4ZVUQJU67YQOn June 18, the Willoughby Hills Police Department responded to a Trailard Drive residence to find a 20 pound antique artillery shell.  A 12 year-old boy playing in the Chagrin River found the shell and carried it home before the police were called. Luckily he was not harmed and the Lake County Bomb Squad was able to disarm it without incident. The WHPD issued the following warning related to this incident:

If you come across something that you think may be an explosive device (a bomb, shell, or mortar for example):
*do not touch it.
*leave the item where it is – even if it looks old and rusty, it may still contain explosives and is therefore potentially dangerous.
*contact your local law enforcement and/or fire department for further assistance.

Then, on June 19, the Willoughby Hills Fire Department, with assistance from several departments from neighboring cities, rescued a man who fell 75-100 feet from a River Road cliff overlooking the Chagrin River.  Fortunately, the 27 year-old seemed to only suffer mild injuries. The WHFD issued the following warning related to the incident:

“While enjoying the many scenic views and landscapes our region provides, the public is urged to use great caution when hiking or exploring near cliffs or ravines and to avoid all restricted areas.”

Mayor Gardner Shirks Responsibility as His Supporters Continue Attack on Fellows

IMG_7592Yesterday, the News-Herald published an article about Mayor Andy Gardner’s supporter’s lawsuit against Nancy Fellows, which contained no response from the mayor.  Gardner’s supporters, Tony Miller, Vicki Miller, Jeffrey Fruscella, Steve Crone, and Jack Hay, filed their second suit in Lake County Probate Court against Fellows in less than a year.  Gardner’s supporter’s filed their first probate suit against Fellows in August of last year, just days after Gardner announced his campaign to run against Fellows for mayor.  The judge dismissed the first suit and the Willoughby Hills Law Director ruled Gardner’s supporter’s claims in it to be frivolous.

The current suit filed by Tony Miller and company makes the same claims that former Mayor Robert Weger used as justification for his illegal attempt to remove almost the entire City Council, including Fellows, in the fall of 2018. Miller also led an unsuccessful attempt to recall Fellows in 2018 shortly before Weger attempted to illegally remove her.

 

FACT CHECK: Who Really Approved the Commercial Dump?

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:

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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.

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Mayor Gardner’s Bullying Continues; Councilwoman Fellows Calls for End to Bullying Only to Be Threatened with Removal Again

I am disgusted that Mayor Andy Gardner has failed to keep his campaign promise to work together and is instead allowing the bullying in city hall to continue … I ask Mayor Gardner to stop this nonsense once and for all and keep his campaign promise to work together. He’s responsible for this—the buck stops with him.

~ Councilwoman Nancy Fellows, June 11, 2020

WILLOUGHBY HILLS – On June 8, 2020, Willoughby Hills Councilwoman-at-Large Nancy Fellows—the longest serving elected official in the City and notable as the first Council President of a female-majority council in Lake County history—introduced a resolution against bullying and racism and asked her City Hall colleagues to work harder at working together. Fellows introduced this legislation partly in response to the 2020 resignations of two of the seven members of the Willoughby Hills Council who cited bullying and fear for their personal safety in their resignation letters.

“No one should go to work and feel threatened and in fear of their life,” Fiebig said in his January 27, 2020, resignation letter.

“Truthfully, the venom and nastiness in City Hall literally makes me cry,” Majka said about her reasons for resigning in a May 30, 2020, News-Herald article.

Days after Majka resigned alleging Gardner and his supporters bullied and harassed her and Fellow’s prepared a resolution denouncing bullying, five of Mayor Andy Gardner’s supporters filed a lawsuit in Lake County Probate Court to remove Councilwoman Fellows from office. These same people—Tony Miller, Vicki Miller, Jeffrey Fruscella, Steve Crone and Jack Hay—unsuccessfully attempted to remove Fellows from office in 2019, shortly after Gardner announced his campaign to run against Fellows for Mayor, by filing a similar claim, which was dismissed in court and ultimately deemed frivolous by the City’s Law Director.

“I am disgusted that Mayor Andy Gardner has failed to keep his campaign promise to work together and is instead allowing the bullying in city hall to continue,” said Councilwoman Nancy Fellows. “We expect our children not to bully, so it’s particularly disturbing to see adults bullying others, especially adults who are supposed to be leaders in our community. Anyone who steps up to serve their neighbors should not have to fear for their safety for doing their job like Dave Fiebig, Jan Majka and I have. I understand why Dave and Jan resigned, but I’m not going anywhere. For almost 20 years, the residents of Willoughby Hills have trusted me to speak up for them and if I let Mayor Gardner and his supporters bully me too, who will be left to speak for the people of Willoughby Hills? I ask Mayor Gardner to stop this nonsense once and for all and keep his campaign promise to work together. He’s responsible for this—the buck stops with him.”

The hearing on the case is set for Monday June 15, 2020, in Lake County Probate Court.anger-2728273_1920

WH Stuck with Higher Garbage Fees for 5 Years, More Fee Hikes Guaranteed

There is no opting out of Mayor Andy Gardner’s controversial garbage fee hike which locks in residents for the next five years and guarantees residents rates will climb again. Gardner’s executive administrative assistant Gloria Majeski told the News Herald, “everybody is going to pay for it.”

Majeski justified the rate hike by explaining that the City spent almost $20,000 to operate the brush drop-off last year. Councilwomen Nancy Fellows and Janet Majka introduced a proposal for the City to allocate the funds that were used for the brush drop-off to offset the increased cost to residents. Mayor Gardner dismissed Fellows’ and Majka’s proposal, instead choosing to offload the expense to the residents.  Gardner has yet to explain how the money saved by closing the brush drop-off will be reallocated.  Gardner’s 2020 budget increased City spending by almost $1,000,000 over 2019 before closing the brush-drop off, and there have been no proposals for other increases in resident services resulting from the increased spending.

The new garbage contract runs through 2025 and guarantees additional rate increases to begin in 2023. bolt-1751089_1920