Update: Sand Barrels Installed, and ... a Corral?
10/2/2013. Several months ago, the required "crash barrels" were installed around the billboard stanchions. And, just within the past several days, some sort of fence-like structure has been added. Perhaps a privacy fence is being constructed to hide the sand barrels, or perhaps it will serve as a framework on which to hang tarps.
Mr. Siegenthaler (owner of Flats Capital and president of Lind Media) purchased the property without any contingencies (including contingencies is a common practice when writing commercial property contracts), and proceeded to erect the billboards even after CCFYS gave him, both in writing and over the phone, a “heads up” that there may be problems with the Township’s permit, and that he might not want to spend more time/money until it was resolved. The next day, the signs went up, and on Sunday (four days later), two crews were out welding the platforms.
Mr. Siegenthaler, with 21 years of experience in billboard permitting and erection, made the business decisions to omit any contingencies (for example, the issuance of the Final Permit by the State) when purchasing the property, and to proceed with sign erection even after having been notified that there may be a problem. The time and money he spent doing this were his choice.
Based on the facts, it seems to us that the hardship was self-imposed (but keep in mind that we're not attorneys.) What do you think?
Appeals Board Hearing Audio
Thank you to everyone who came to the Appeals Board hearing last night. The Township did a great job of making room for us in their big room, and had lots of chairs! Thank you! And the Appeals Board let the public speak! Again, thank you!
Grab your Position Paper (you can download it here) and listen to last night's hearing. If you're REALLY curious, you can download the Exhibits to the Position Paper here.
Judge for yourself what was said. If you have any questions on the accuracy of the statements or assumptions, please don't hesitate to call us (419) 946-1505 and we'll explain, based on the facts, what we know.
Part 1: Introduction, Lind Media Attorney
Part 2: Lind Media Attorney (cont'd)
Part 3: Township Attorney
Part 4: Public Statements
Part 5: Lind Media Summary
And here's a pop quiz ...
What's highly misleading with the following statement, made by Lind Media's attorney in support of the "fact" that ODOT had givien their objective evaluation that the billboards passed their muster for safety? (Hint: You can find the answer in ODOT's "Advertising Device Control Manual," downloadable from their website here ...
“ODOT actually makes a site visit and looks at the place where the sign is supposed to be located and obviously if they believe there is going to be some kind of safety concern or any kind of violation of ODOT regulations, again subject to township or county regulations, they will not issue a permit. And they did issue a permit.”
The first five persons to email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call
(419) 946-1505 me (Vicki) with the correct answer will get a
(We didn't include this in the Position Paper because we assumed that any
company with 21 years of experience in billboard permitting would have
Update, 9/29/12 ... SORRY!
The quiz is closed! Five very smart (and lucky) people have won their T-shirts!
For the rest of us, here's the answer ....
This is misleading because all ODOT has issued to date is a "Conditional Permit." When ODOT issues a Conditional Permit, they only verify that the proposed billboards are planned to be built outside of their right-of-way, that there is a 500’ distance between signs, and that the characteristics of the signs themselves (size, number, and lighting) meet their regulations. Final permit approval is contingent on local permit approval, leaving other issues (such as safety based on road configuration) up to the local jurisdictions. This is documented in ODOT’s “ADC Manual” (available on their website), and was confirmed when we met with them in late July. To date, a Final Permit has not been issued by the State, so the safety issue has not been addressed.
Lind's attorney led the Appeals Board to believe that ODOT had given the billboards their objective "Safety Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval," when that is absolutely not the case.
We are assuming that he made this statement because he was ignorant of ODOT's process. Perhaps he might want to call the Director of ODOT's Advertising Control Device Section to clarify his understanding.
The Telephone Pole - Letter to FirstEnergy
In the Appeals Board hearing on September 26, the telephone pole on the triangle was mentioned by Lind's attorney and one of our members as being a hazard on the triangle. I mentioned that I had sent a letter to the President and CEO of FirstEnergy to see what his company could do to address it.
Here is a copy of that letter. You can download a copy by clicking here.
On Monday, 9/24, I received a call from Dixie, a FirstEnergy Customer Service Advocate, to let me know that the Engineering Department would be looking into it. I will keep everyone informed as this progesses.
Concerned Citizens for Your Safety has written a comprehensive position paper. It supports the facts that:
1. The initial permit was erroneously issued.
2. The Township appropriately revoked the permit, as it was illegal.
3. A variance should be denied for the new permit application, as the criteria
of "unnecessary hardship" and "not being contrary to the public interest"
are not satisfied.
You can read it by clicking here. And you can download all of the Exhibits (backup documentation) here.
A National Expert on the Billboards ...
Jerry Wachtel, CPE, has been studying billboard safety for over 30 years. He is nationally and internationally recognized as a leading authority on billboard safety.
He wrote a letter to the Morrow County Sentinel (9/19) discussing the billboards on the US 42 curve. Here is his letter. You can download a .pdf by clicking here.
The net result is that the billboards on this curve do indeed present a significant safety hazard.
From his letter ...
"For these reasons, enlightened State and local governments, and countries around the world, have identified suitable and unsuitable locations for billboards. One of the locations typically deemed unsuitable is at a curve in the road. Accordingly, numerous jurisdictions have strict prohibitions against locating billboards in or near curves."
Oh, One More Thing ...
in the "US 42 Billboards Risks Outweight the Benefits" (see the section, "IN THE NEWS!"), I forgot to mention something about that north/south west road.
Lind says in its filing, "... the cut-off road/alley [CCFYS] points to as intersecting CR 143 is not shown or named on the Morrow County Engineer map. As such, it could be considered inactive, vacated or qualify as an alley, which does not constitute an intersection per Township code."
Let's look at the Engineer's Map. It has crummy detail, but here it is. Note how the whole triangle is a blue blob. (All maps below are on the Morrow County Engineer's website.)
Let's look at the Morrow County Tax map. Yup, it's there.
OK .... now let's look at an Atlas Map from 1926 (before the State came in and rounded out the intersection) ... This, too, by the way, is available on the Morrow County Engineer's website.
And let's focus in on the relevant area. That's CR 128 going north of CR/TR 143. The part going south, after jogging a little, is also CR 128. Why?
Google the "Northwest Ordinance of 1787," through which Congress divided the Northwest Territory (including Ohio) in to townships of 6 miles square. They laid out roads on flat pieces of paper, but when it came to transferring those straight roads onto an earth with longitudinal lines which met at the poles, they weren't so straight anymore. That's why you see a lot of "jogs" in north/south roads (but not east/west roads).
This is confirmed by the State Highway Patrol. Here is a map of an accident from May of this year. Note how the "road" is identified as CR 128.
And as far as usage? We went out to take a picture of the billboards, and just by chance, caught a car on the road.
Here's another photo ... note how the road is paved. And here's one of the two stop signs.
This is NOT just a dirt road/alley. It is a road which is used to make a left hand turn onto CR/TR 143. If it were to be eliminated, you'd have to make a left hand turn at the TR 143/US 42 intersection, and that would make this curve exceedingly dangerous. And that only supports that, indeed, the TR 143/CR 128 intersection is a full-fledged intersection.
What a GREAT Trustees Meeting!
Last night (Monday, 9/10), the Cardington Township Trustees held one of their regularly-scheduled meetings. Representatives from CCFYS were in attendance.
You shoulda been there! It was very informative!
Mr. Charles Howland, the Morrow County Prosecutor, was there to explain to the Trustees and to the three (of the five) Appeals Board members the logistics and legalities of the appeals process. The billboard company submitted their appeals application on August 30, and the hearing is scheduled for September 26. After the hearing, at which the billboard company and the Township with their respective attorneys (the County Prosecutor serves as the Township's attorney) state their cases, the Appeals Board members confer. They have a "reasonable time," (as I recall, not more than 30 days) to make their decision known.
If either the billboard company or the Township disagree with the decision, they can then appeal to the Court of Common Pleas.
We learned several things.
First, CCFYS has no role in the process, at least for now. The hearing is a public meeting with no public input. Immediately after the hearing, we can request to file what is called an "amicus brief," a document submitted as a "friend of the court" to be considered by them while making their decision which lays out evidence and data and matters of law in support of either party. It is up to the Appeals Board to approve our submittal of such a document. Hopefully they will see the wisdom of learning what we have uncovered over the last several months, and what we know.
Second, until the hearing, the Appeals Board members are NOT to be lobbied by anyone, nor engage in conversation with anyone, about the issue. This means that no one is to send letters to them, nor call them. When, a month ago, we recommended doing this, we were wrong. So ... don't do it. The best (and only) ways you can have your voice heard is through the media (e.g. writing letters to the editor of the Sentinel), or by signing a petition which we have just launched. If you'd like to sign the petition, or if you'd like to circulate one yourself, please call me at (419) 946-1505.
Thank you, Mr. Howland, for taking time out of your hectic schedule to share your expertise! What an informative meeting!
ALSO, through a Public Records Request which we submitted last week, we received a copy of the billboard's appeals application. It is reproduced below (it's a little fuzzy ... sorry). If you'd like to download a copy, you can do so by clicking here.
If you've been following this whole thing either on this website or through the Sentinel, you'll be able to read this with a critical mind. Read it and see what you think.
Anyways, that's about it for now.
Except ... OH WAIT! Pencil in September 26 at 7 PM at the Township office to attend the hearing ... you're not allowed to speak (no one in the audience is), but what a great chance to see how the legal process works! You will have been there first hand to see history being made here in Morrow County!
Now, all of us just wait. I can't emphasize it enough. Write letters to the Sentinel. Go to the "You Can Help!" tab to see where to send them. And circulate and sign petitions. Again, call me if you'd like to sign or circulate. (419) 946-1505.
And (here comes passing the hat), we're around $300 in the hole (I haven't done the exact calculations ... been too busy doing work on this). Donations of any size would be so appreciated! You can stop by any First Knox bank, mail it to us at our P.O. Box 275, Mt. Gilead, OH 43338, or use Paypal. Just go to the "You Can Help!" page.
We've made tremendous progress, and still have a ways to go.
Thank you to all who have been so supportive!
Lind Media Billboard Locations
Lind Media (the billboard company) claims on its website that "Expertise in location acquisition, permitting and development is perhaps the hallmark of Lind Outdoor."
So ... just how experienced are they in this business?
Apparently, very experienced.
In North Central Ohio alone, they have (or have plans for) billboards on at least 215 sites.
Some are 1-facing, some 2-facing, and some 4-facing.
So ... they are no neophytes in permitting.
One would think that with this level of experience, they could have read the Township's Zoning Resolution (which was on the Township's website), and having read Section VIII ("Outdoor Advertising"), determined that a variance would have been required.
We were WRONG!
Originally, we thought that "Flats Capital, LLC," which had purchased the "triangle" on which the billboards were constructed, was a subsidiary of the billboard company.
We were wrong.
According to the Ohio Secretary of State's Office, Flats Capital, LLC, is a corporation owned by the president of the billboard company and his wife.
According to the Richland County Auditor's Office, "Flats Capital, LLC" owns no fewer than 12 properties in the county, with 7 of them being parcels on which only billboards have been constructed.
What is the significance of this?
Not one, but two organizations which were supposed to have done due diligence prior to applying for and receiving the permit and subsequently purchasing the triangle did not acknowledge the stipulations in the Cardington Township Zoning Resolution. One such organization was the billboard company, the other a corporation personally owned by the president of the billboard company. According to his statement to WMFD, he's been doing this for 21 years. Certainly persons within his company should therefore have been knowledgeable in reading and interpreting "outdoor advertising" zoning regulations, not to mention he, himself, who purchased the property for his own personal LLC. The the Zoning Resolution (including Section VIII - "Outdoor Advertising") was, after all, on the Township's website (http://www.cardingtontownship.org) and was accessible to all who looked.
"Community Information Meeting" Held
This article in the Sentinel describes what went on in the meeting. Thank you to all who came!
Nadia Kerman, a member of CCFYS, stands behind a timeline of proceedings should Lind Media choose to obtaining a legal permit fo the billboards on the US 42 curve.
Friday, August 24 ... Save the Date!
"Concerned Citzens for Your Safety" (CCFYS) will be hosting an informational meeting to bring everyone up to speed ...Spread the word and bring your family and friends! The ONLY way the billboards will be removed is if we, as citizens, let the Township know that we view the billboards as a safety hazard and that for this reason, they need come down to insure our safety. We will have free refreshments (unless we run out)!
Permit Withdrawn, Several Avenues Possible
On Friday, August 17, Township officials met with the County Prosecutor. As a result of this meeting, Permit #398 for the billboards on the US 42 curve has been withdrawn. Our complaint was returned to us via certified mail and with the uncashed check for the $100 fee which was required.
At this time, we are uncertain exactly what procedure will be followed.
There are two alternatives.
The first is that a formal Appeals process (invoked by the billboard company?) would start. The Township Appeals Board would have 30 days to complete its review and render a decision.
Under this scenario, a public hearing would be held probably within the next three weeks. There would be no public comment at the hearing, and the Appeals Board would serve in a "quasi-judicatory" role, namely they would act as if they were judge and their vote would be final.
The Appeals Board members are as follows:
The second is that a whole new permit process can be initiated by the billboard company,
We will publish here the details of the process when we find out what they are.
We encourage everyone to contact Cardington Township officials to share their concern about the safety hazard presented by these billboards.
CCFYS truly appreciates the fact that the Township is now pursuing a procedure which is legally consistent with its Zoning Resolution, and commends the County Prosecutor and Township Trustees for deciding to take a course of action to correct that. We have many documents relevant to this case, and have offered both Mr. Lee (Trustee Chairperson), and Mr. Robinson (Zoning Officer) access to these documents as well as our "institutional memory" to bring members of the Zoning Board and Appeals Board "up to speed."
Thank you to all who have supported and who continue to support this effort.
"US 42 Curve" Accident Statistics
On Monday, August 8, 2012, Sargeant Burkhart of the State Highway Patrol was very kind and tallied the number of accidents at the curve-in-question. Here are the numbers as maintained by the State Highway Patrol. Is this a "dangerous curve" even without the billboards? YOU answer ...
Cardington Township Trustees Meeting 8/13/2012
On Monday, August 8, Cardington Township Trustees met. They had invited Vicki and Linda to discuss the complaint.
Here are audio files of the session. It lasted 49 minutes. If you've never been to a township or village or school board meeting, you don't know what you're missing!
A representative from Lind Media was in attendance, as were members of "Concerned Citizens for Your Safety" and residents from local communities who had a true stake in this issue. It was a heart-wrenching experience. Thank you to all who came and spoke to the issue. (It was standing room only, so at the next hearing, if you come, you'd better plan on bringing one of those folding chair things.)
Thank you, Founding Members of CCFYS!