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Mining battle could cost city $1.8M

The Shelly Co. claims damages in Streetsboro

By BOB GAETJENS Staff Writer Published: July 11, 2017 4:00 AM
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The city of Streetsboro may be on the hook for more than $1.8 million if it loses its case against The Shelly Co., which wants to operate a sand and gravel mine at Sahbra Farms, a 292-acre horse farm at the corner of S.R. 14 and Diagonal Road.

A letter dated June 8 from Brian Barger, who is acting as Shelly's attorney, to Streetsboro Law Director Paul Janis states that "damages and attorneys' fees already exceed $1.8 million, and they continue to grow."

Barger on Monday confirmed he sent the letter.

"The company has incurred damages for which we believe the city is liable, and we've put the city on notice," he said Monday, adding he did not want to discuss how the company arrived at that number.

The city is appealing a ruling by Portage County Common Pleas Judge Becky Doherty, allowing Shelly a zoning permit to operate the surface mine, in the 11th District Court of Appeals.

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Mayor Glenn Broska said he was unaware of the letter, as did City Councilman Jeff Allen.

"Paul has never mentioned it to me," said Broska, declining to comment further until he could learn more about it.

City Council President Steve Michniak said he learned about the letter during the last couple days. He said he wants to hear from Janis before commenting further.

The letter, in and of itself, does not amount to much, legally, he added.

"It sounds nasty, but it's just a party claiming that's what its damages are," he said.

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Allen said he's concerned Shelly may be "well within their rights by our zoning code."

Janis declined to comment on the substance of the letter, that Shelly is claiming $1.8 million in damages.

Allen said he was not surprised to learn of the potential for liability and was unhappy council did not hear about the letter sooner.

"I don't know why he's not sharing that with council," he said. "That's very bad. I don't know how we can make proper decisions if all of council does not know that."

Janis said he didn't share the letter because it looks like a "standard tactic" to "sow doubt and panic" in an opponent.

"When your perceive it's in your interest to sow doubt and panic, you will sow doubt and panic," said Janis.

The Shelly Co. is seeking conditional zoning to mine about 152 acres of Sahbra Farms and has been locked in a legal dispute with the city since the Streetsboro Planning and Zoning Commission voted last summer to reject the permit. Citing the city's Comprehensive Plan, commission members stated the sand and gravel extraction project would not be "harmonious" with the surrounding area, which includes rural residential development, a new high school and an asphalt plant.

In March, Doherty confirmed a ruling by Magistrate Natasha Natale, overruling the commission's decision. In her judgment, Doherty said if the city wanted to eliminate surface mining, it had two years between the passage the Comprehensive Plan in 2014 and the 2016 filing of the conditional use permit application by Shelly.

"It appears probably that (Shelly's) application would never have been approved, given the prevailing position of the city and residents that surface mining is not in keeping with the master plan," stated Doherty in the decision. "The underlying motivation to deny the conditional zoning use application emerges as a desire to deny all surface mining as a conditional use, rather than because (The Shelly Co.) failed to satisfy standards set forth in (the city zoning code)."

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Ian_Maserb Jul 15, 2017 3:49 PM

The city loses one way or another when they go t war against private enterprise. Whether they pay damages or suffer job loss, they lose.

Crestwood387 Jul 12, 2017 6:38 AM

Shelly Materials should be allowed to take over the Sahbra Farms area. I think this could bring MORE JOBS! Streetsboro should have the heart to purchase The Shelly Materials asphault to put on Streetsboro's roads.

StephenA Jul 11, 2017 9:25 AM

The sad fact about this entire scenario is not the lame excuse (spin) that the law director gave in this article, but the fact that he witheld the letter from city council. This city is a Strong City Council form of goverment.That means that city council is the City of Streetsboro, not the administration. City council is his client.They need to make informed decisions to protect the faith and credit of the city, and to have "their" attorney withholdvital information after he was asked if this type of communcation exists, is equal to lying. The mayor claims that he knew nothing about the letter. As the Chief Executive Officer of the city, he should be equally outraged. The city council members are part-time and have no time to "check the facts" of their emloyees, theyneed to able to trust them and their work. If they can't be trusted, then you terminate them. If you as a resident were on the "hook" for $1.8 milion dollars and your attorney withheld that fact, you woud feel the same way. He's not underpaid, he makes in excess of $100,000.00. Oh, and bythe way this"is" your money too. As a Streetsboro businees owner and taxpayer, the logical next step is to terminate him!