The following story first appeared in the June 2 Press.

Avon Lake

There could be a new park designated just north of the Wildberry subdivision and east of SR 83, but some in the city are questioning the use of city green to pay for this green space.

The Parks and Recreation Commission met May 26 for the first public discussion of the possible purchase of about 3 acres of land from builder Bucky Kopf to be set aside as a neighborhood park.

The seed for discussion came from a potential dispute residents of the Wildberry subdivision have regarding the provisions of their subdivider’s agreement. The agreement stipulates residents in the homeowners’ association  would be responsible for part of the cost of putting in Cortland Drive and Spruce Street, platted to run along the north and east sides of the subdivision, respectively, and its underground improvements. The city’s estimate of the residents’ cost, with interest over 20 years, is about $500,000.

The agreement also states the association and owners of the common properties would donate and dedicate to the city a proposed 30-foot right-of-way and 12-foot utility easement next to the right-of-way. Residents who live along the northern and eastern borders of the subdivision would have the streets running near their backyards, should the streets ever be laid.

Kopf intends to build on Belmont Drive, north of Wildberry, causing residents to wonder when he’ll move his plans south and need Cortland improved. However, the city has only heard of plans to develop Belmont and Albion Drive  farther to the north.

Mayor K.C. Zuber recently approached Kopf about purchasing the land to turn it into a park, according to a recording of the commission meeting.

The land in question runs east-west along the north side of the Wildberry subdivision. Kopf would sell the city 23 lots that are about 40-feet wide and about 135-feet deep at an estimated cost of $10,000 per lot, for a total area of 2.87 acres. The mayor proposed using a state Issue 1 grant to pay for 75 percent of the land purchase, leaving only 25 percent for the city to cover.

“I’m here to solve problems,” Zuber said at the meeting. “This was a problem dumped on us. This was back right before the second mayor went to prison. Where else in the city of Avon Lake do you have people allowed to build homes 30 feet – with their backyard 30 feet from a street, a possible street to go in today?”

The mayor said he feels the city is culpable for letting this happen.

“All I’ve done is propose a plan to try to take care of a situation,” he said. “It would be a good neighborhood park for these people and these future people over here.”

Council President Greg Zilka took issue with the mayor’s portrayal of the subdivision’s development, particularly the implication of illegal activity.

“With all due respect to the mayor, I think it’s unfortunate that he talked about mayors going to prison and cutting deals,” he said at the meeting. “He suggests illegal activity here, which really clouds the issue.”

Saying the city has an obligation because some illegal action took place in the past is unfounded, Zilka said.

The mayor countered he never said anything illegal was done with this subdivision and he was using former Mayor Vince Urbin’s conviction in 2001 as a time reference.

Zilka said the city has empathy for what is going on with the residents of the subdivision, but it is a private matter.

“I’m not sure how I feel in this situation, except is it the city’s responsibility to take an action to bail people out of a situation like this and use all the homeowners in Avon Lake’s tax dollars to help those individuals?” he asked.

He also posed the question of whether the residents would be interested in buying the land. The total cost of the land, at Kopf’s price of about $230,000, would be less than the cost for Cortland and Spruce.

“I want to see how this proposal fits into our park plan, if it’s a plus for the immediate area and the whole city,” Zilka said.

The residents she has met with are open to the possibility of purchasing land, Ward 2 Councilwoman Jennifer Fenderbosch said, but she hasn’t met with every resident in the subdivision. Fenderbosch, who is in favor of the park, said she has a meeting set up with them in June and will discuss the topic.

The current discussion doesn’t have anything to do with Wildberry, Ward 1 Councilman Tim Rush noted.

“Whether that is a proper place for a neighborhood park is what it boils down to,” he said.

The commission voted to recommend to council applying for the grant before June 25.

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