Requirements for an as-built plan from Labor and Industry brought developer Bill Grant and Mahoning Township supervisors together to discuss the Grant Retail Center. But the conversation did not end with the immediate resolution of the issue but rather an agreement to table the decision for two weeks to give the newer supervisors an opportunity to learn about the history of the plan.
"It's been about a year and a half since I was here, and I'm not sure where we left off," Grant said to supervisors during last evening's meeting, but he indicated that Labor and Industry through building inspector Carl Faust was indicating they needed an as built plan and a building occupancy permit for the building which is full at this point so they can inspect it.
Individual occupancy permits were granted to tenants over the last year and a half, but the building plan was never finalized. At one point there were a half dozen issues where the final building deviated from the approved initial plan, and supervisors at the time expressed their concerns about it. The one issue that was never resolved was the lighting issue.
A year and a half ago when the issue was last discussed the impasse led to threats by Grant to sue the township and his refusal to remove the deviating light standards. The majority of the supervisors refused to sign the plans.
At the time the original plan showed three lights, but upon construction and alterations during that period after the plan was approved, the final project ended up with five lights on it. Grant told supervisors the lights were installed to enhance the safety of the area while a majority of the supervisors felt that was an unnecessary alteration that should have been approved before it was made.
Supervisor Travis Steigerwalt was especially firm in his belief the extra lighting is doing nothing more than adding to the light pollution of the area and he wanted Grant to adhere to the approved plan. During that conversation, Steigerwalt produced reports from engineering consultants who recommended to the state preferred lighting measurements. Grant said the study was irrelevant as the township had no ordinances or regulations governing light standards so he agreed to do what he thought was best for the safety of the property.
Last night although Grant said he did not know where things were left, it became pretty clear once the discussion began that both parties knew the problem. Grant told supervisors he spoke with the adjoining property owner of the car wash. He said the owner was glad for the light and had no problems with it.
He also told supervisors if the township had regulations he would have followed them, but because there were none he made a judgment call to err on the side of safety on his property. He didn't believe this would be a problem citing past experiences with other projects and if he had known this was a problem he would have addressed the issue differently.
"I did it the way I did it because in other municipalities things were done that way. You could make some changes and as long as they didn't violate an ordinance and were shown on the as-built plan, they would be approved," Grant said.
He claimed the reason the deviation occurred was he was under a difficult time constraint due to the excessive amount of time it took to place a footer on the property citing instead of the standard 48 inches, the building needed a 20 foot footer due to the lack of solid ground. This caused other aspects of the project to fall behind schedule.
Grant told the supervisors when the property was inspected by Faust and his engineer, both recommended due to the grade on the property to move the handicapped space to the other side of the building and the engineer said he could install a couple lights there to make it safer. He admitted that he did not believe it was an issue that it would cause the problems it has so he agreed with the change. Knowing how things were going to play out though, he probably would have handled the issue differently he said in retrospect.
He told supervisors in the interim the building has been filled with tenants who offer 40 plus jobs to the township. He said the building itself generates 15 to 18 thousand dollars in property taxes and is in his opinion beneficial to the community. "If you look at what was there before and what is there now, I think it is an asset," he said.
Grant also said he felt the other buildings being erected have much more lighting than what supervisors are taking issue with in his and he would like them to reconsider their stance.
Chairperson John Wieczorek told Grant while he understands what he is saying, it was and is his feeling that developers have a responsibility to do what they say they are going to do and not do what they want to do once a plan is approved. He asked Grant if the developer changes what he wants to do after a plan is approved because he needs to or finds it needs to be different he should be able to do that without approval. Grant said to some extent provided it doesn't violate an ordinance it should be okay to make minor deviations, but major ones he believed should be approved by the supervisors.
Supervisors pointed out issues with both Tractor Supply and Giant with regard to lighting. In the former case, supervisors requested the lights be pointed or moved away from the highway. This was done before construction without a question by the company. In the latter case, Giant complied with removing an extra light standard they erected at the request of the supervisors since it was not on the plan.
Steigerwalt pointed out the supervisors accommodated Grant's deviations on 99% of the issues, but this one issue with light standards which he felt would be the simplest one to resolve was being the most difficult by Grant's refusal to comply with the request. He said what made him especially uncomfortable was Grant's posturing by threatening lawsuits at the idea of removing the non-complying lights and unwillingness to follow the plan on that issue even after supervisors left more major issues like the building footprint slide.
Supervisor Franklin Ruch said even though he had received the information he had not had enough adequate time to review everything to the level he was comfortable making a decision so he asked if one had to be made immediately. Faust said a decision was not necessary until the end of May.
At that point, supervisors decided to table the issue until the next May meeting to give the newer supervisors more time to understand the project. The motion carried unanimously.