By DENISE GRANT
Findlay City Council was told Tuesday it has no choice but to allow the vacation of two undeveloped streets to become law, even though the debate over the decision is still raging.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Councilwoman Holly Frische, R-1, said she has learned of new hardships caused by the city relinquishing its right of way for Carrol and Benton streets, including landlocking at least two property owners. At least one of those owners, Frische said, was not notified of hearings on the vacation.
The right of way for the streets, which were never developed, connects to Hawthorne Road, north of East Sandusky Street.
A motion by Frische to rescind council’s legislation was deemed “out of order” by City Law Director Don Rasmussen, who said that according to council’s own rules, the legislation could only have been reconsidered at the Aug. 21 council meeting. That was the meeting immediately following the Aug. 7 meeting when the legislation was approved.
Rasmussen said it’s also too late for a veto by Mayor Lydia Mihalik, who signed the legislation, which goes into effect today.
There was debate Tuesday about whether the street vacation is truly landlocking any property owners. At least one of the properties impacted by the vacation, at 730 E. Sandusky St., may not abut the vacated streets, which means the owner would not have been notified about the hearing, according to the current rules.
In an email exchange between council members and city administrators prior to Tuesday’s meeting, Mihalik said, “If proper notification was not given to adjoining and/or impacted property owners, then that is, in my opinion, not right. I would be happy to look into how we notify property owners in the future. I’ve already suggested changing this for rezones and conditional uses. You’ve seen this in recent legislation.
“To remedy the functional access issue for 730 E. Sandusky St., I would like to investigate getting an easement for access off of Hawthorne via the county-owned flood mitigation parcel to the north.
“The biggest issue we have here is where people want to use unimproved rights-of-way to drive on what are functionally people’s backyards. This is why I agreed with the vacation, and this is why I believe others supported it as well,” Mihalik said.
Mihalik was silent on the issue at Tuesday’s council meeting.
During the meeting, Frische found herself trying to out yell Council President Ron Monday.
Monday became enraged after Charles Williams, of 804 Fishlock Ave., began shaking large banners that he brought to Tuesday’s council meeting, while Frische urged council to take some action to “correct this mistake.”
Monday, pounding his gavel, yelled to an onlooking police officer that if Williams picked up the banners “one more time,” that Williams and the banners should be thrown out of the council meeting.
Frische chastised Monday for behaving rudely to citizens who address council, and then asked him to “change his tone” when speaking to her.
The banners, which accuse city officials of being corrupt and demand their resignations, were hung outside Williams’ home during the Hancock County Fair last week. The main entrance to the fairgrounds is on Fishlock Avenue.
Williams, who has repeatedly confronted council about the two vacated streets, addressed council again on Tuesday, along with Matthias Leguire of 830 E. Sandusky St., and his mother, Renee. The Leguires continued to argue against vacating the undeveloped streets.
Matthias Leguire has said he uses the right-of-way of the streets to access the rear of his five-acre property. He says the right-of-way also provides an escape route from his property during floods, and gives him development options.
The Leguires are circulating a referendum petition that would stay council’s legislation and put the issue to a citywide vote, most likely in November 2019.
With the right-of-way reverting to property owners along the vacated Carrol and Benton streets today, it was unclear Tuesday what happens to use of the property if the referendum petition drive is successful.
Matthias Leguire, who has accused city officials of harassing his family, has called council’s decision to vacate the streets “evidence of favoritism at best, corruption at worst.”
On Aug. 7, council voted 6-5 to vacate the streets, with council President Monday casting the tie-breaking vote. Voting in favor of the legislation were John Harrington, R-5; Dennis Hellmann, R-2; Dina Ostrander, R-3; along with Republican at-large Councilmen Grant Russel and Tom Shindledecker.
The same five City Council members requested the legislation in June, after a petition to vacate the streets was denied by the Findlay City Planning & Zoning Committee.
The City Planning Commission and the Hancock Regional Planning Commission also opposed the street vacation.
Chris Neely, of 841 Hawthorne Road, filed the petition to have the streets vacated. Neely argued that neighborhood children and pets play in the grassy areas. He wanted the streets vacated to stop Leguire from driving on the undeveloped streets.
Matthias Leguire has been at odds with city officials for months. First, because a fence he built was not set back far enough. Then he challenged a new rule that requires Findlay homeowners to keep their grass mowed below 6 inches.
So far, council has yet to decide whether the 6-inch rule will be waived for owners of large lots like Leguire.