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Landowner Fighting River Bend Park Plan

Neighbor of land planned for parking lot is appealing site variances approved by citizen boards

Two River Bend property owners continue their fight against plans for a 12-space parking lot to serve as  on the Cuyahoga River.

Jim and Diana Sumner filed appeals Tuesday in Portage County Common Pleas Court asking the court to overturn variances granted to the Kent Parks and Recreation Department that pave the way for construction of the parking lot and pathway down to the river on park land.

The , then the Kent Board of Building Appeals. The Kent Planning Commission then to permit the project.

The variances pertained to building the 12-space parking lot within 100 feet of the right-of-way for River Bend Boulevard and establishing the park within the flood plain of the Cuyahoga River.

The Sumners live across the river from the park's six acres, but the property lines — which run down the middle of the river — abut each other.

The Sumners' attorney, Joseph Spoonster, argued that the planning commission could not approve the project because it is a boat launch and not a park. Spoonster said boat launches are not permitted uses in residential districts.

The evolution of the plans for the 6-acre site throughout the years would seem to support Spoonster's argument. The parks department has repeatedly scaled down plans — in response to residents' concerns — to eliminate restroom and picnic facilities, remove a dock, reduce the number of parking spaces and lower the lighting.

Kent Parks and Recreation Director John Idone said previously all those reductions were made to lessen the impact of the park on the neighborhood while still serving primarily as an access point for canoe and kayak launching on the Cuyahoga River.

The Sumners are apppealing the decisions of all three boards; the planning commission, zoning board and building board. The appeals were first filed with the court last week. No hearings have yet been scheduled.

Pat February 23, 2011 at 12:18 PM
No--these property owners have all the right to fight the boat launch and parking. They moved to River Bend to own beautiful homes in a woods setting, not to have their yards littered with parking, trash and loud people. I think the city, parks and everyone should step back and look at the situation more closely. Where is the Council Man who said, we shall keep our neighborhoods safe and no controlling from KSU???? Once elected the same old, same old. Why don't they have a boat launch up behind Oak Knolls. Oh, I know it is out of the city limits--always some excuse.
Chris (Kit) Myers February 23, 2011 at 01:40 PM
If boat launches are, in fact, not allowed in residential districts, what was Parks and Rec thinking when they spent all that money in planning for it. Empire building?
Laurel Myers Hurst February 23, 2011 at 01:47 PM
Again I say, Kent Parks and Rec has owned this property a good long time. This is the way of city government: 1.) The city (the citizens or an ancillary department) has a good idea 2.) The idea is pursued and developed (sometimes even funded) 3.) The majority of citizens are behind the plan and proud of the city (citizens or ancillary department) for pursuing funding to execute the plan in a fiscally responsible way 4.) A few naysayers set out to destroy the plan 5.) The city reacts as if a nuclear bomb has been set on the plan although the vast majority of citizens remain positive or indifferent to the plan 6.) What remains of the plan after the minority speaks barely resembles the initial idea that, in its original form, was excellent in scope, design and funding, OR the plan is scuttled altogether Result = Kent continues to be known only for Kent State University rather than art, recreation, dining and entertainment. @ Pat: If we don't build or do anything in Kent that ranks notably with Kent State University, KSU will continue to rule the fate of our city. A city park with adequate parking spaces will have far LESS impact on the Riverbend community than a boat launch with inadequate parking. By scuttling their original plan, Kent Parks and Rec has put themselves in a position to try to argue otherwise.
Diane Stresing February 23, 2011 at 03:14 PM
As I understand it, when the city scaled back the park design to placate residents, it actually gave the residents a new legal argument - that a boat-launch-only park doesn't fit the definition of a park and therefore is not a permitted use of the land. Which means the original park plans should work just fine. Let's get on with it. Beyond this tiny little plot of land, consider a couple of points regarding parks in general: Establishing parks and recreational land uses typically increases property values, and - re: Pat's comment above - Kayakers and people who visit parks, for the most part, aren't loud litterbugs. In fact, most folks who visit parks regularly pack a bag to pick up any trash they find along the way, and are the first to volunteer to fix any problems or patrol and report any potential trouble.
Chris (Kit) Myers February 23, 2011 at 03:43 PM
First let me take back my "Empire building" statement, but not my initial comment about planning for a boat launch if it is not an allowable use in a residential district. Ms. Hurst, I would think that a park that closes at dusk would be an asset to the neighborhood, but... I don't live there. I am just a guy who grew up in a house on a 60 x 140 city lot and have never had any desire in isolating myself from outside human activity. I guess when you dump a bunch of money in a piece of real estate, you can start to feel very protective of it... maybe a touch overprotective. But, to each his own. My dad once told me that if you have a vacant lot next door and you are worried about what someone will build on it, buy the lot! A boat launch? Well, while I am a firm believer that noone should be able to own property down to major waterways, lakes, or the ocean, or to be able to prevent or make it difficult for the public to have access, I think a boat launch in a residential neighborhood, may be a little much. If someone is willing to carry a canoe on a car, walk it down to the river, shove it in the water, and paddle off down the river, that is a different story. Yes, while Kent State is a wonderful asset in that it provides an exposure to the fine and performing arts to the citizens of Kent, and has some excellent departments, it is always wise to be constantly wary of the motives of a giant, any giant, in one's midst.
Laurel Myers Hurst February 23, 2011 at 05:31 PM
@ Diane: Exactly what I said a month ago...re-instate the original plan @ Kit: Yes! In my opinion the original plan was an asset in every way. The vast majority of citizens are either adamantly for it or indifferent to it. A few residents who have an illegitimate complaint (since they knew the property was owned by Kent Parks and Rec but chose to live there and NOT to sell at top market value) have endangered this plan.
Kasha Legeza February 23, 2011 at 06:22 PM
Excellent points, Laurel and Diane!
demo rat February 25, 2011 at 03:29 AM
That's what you get when you purchase a home in a new neighborhood that is not yet fully developed. Deal with it.
KentCitizen007 February 25, 2011 at 04:38 AM
Pat- You are right the people of RiverBend spent the money and are actually some of the few people in this City that pay property taxes. They should have a say in what is put in the neighborhood. Neighborhood parks do not need parking lots. People that live in a neighborhood can walk to a neighborhood park. Kayaker are usually good about the trash but the problem will come when Park's and Rec puts one trashcan down there and lets the trash blow around like they do every other park. In addition if there was a Council person that ever said keep our neighborhoods safe and controlling from KSU they are long gone. If you know anything about what is going on with this "Town and Gown " garabage you would know KSU runs this City and takes over anychance they get. Chris- The boat ramp may or may not be allowed according to the law in that area. However The Department of Parks and Rec does not think. They are run by a dictactor and a spinless board. They don't care how they waste the State of Ohio grant money. They don't care if the ramp is allowed or not. They will put it there and make you sue to stop them.
KentCitizen007 February 25, 2011 at 04:45 AM
Laurel- Are you serious? I would like to know if you live there or you connection to the Department of Parks and Rec. Just because the Department owns the property does not mean they should be able to do anything they want. WAKE UP!! Kent State does run this City this boat ramp and park is being made to assist KSU with their livery operation. I feel sorry for those people when KSU is dropping off groups of Kayakers starting at 8am on the weekends. If you don't think this will happen wake up. The picture even has a bright yellow KSU Kayak like the kayaks I have seen KSU launch at the other park. The race they had a while back launched over a 100 boats without a parking lot. Chris- Like you said most people who want to launch a canoe or kayak at that location have been doing so for years without a problem. They did not need a lighted parking lot. Kent State does have its place in the community but as of the last few years they have over stepped their mission and are killing small busniess. Kent and the Department of Parks and Rec have a motive and agenda for river recreation. When you are paying to launch in the future or to even paddle a portion of the river because they created some BS Whitewater park people will wonder what happen.
Fred Pierre February 25, 2011 at 06:57 AM
I would love to launch my canoe there - it is a beautiful spot on the river. I guess if you live upstream, you just don't appreciate how many landowners share the river with canoes. There are parks and boat launched everywhere else in Kent, abutting people's properties, without ruining lives. I understand this might cause a minor drop in the resale value for two houses, but it might increase the value if canoeists move in. Now go ahead and throw bombs, I can handle it. Canoeing is really fun. Hope you get a chance to try it someday.
MOST HATED PERSON ON PATCH February 25, 2011 at 11:11 AM
i've launched a canoe or two from there before. no hassle. it would be nice to have more than 1- 1/2 parking spots there though.. and a picnic shelter park area... what a great idea. something half the size of tannery park would be perfect. what's the harm?
Raymond March 16, 2011 at 11:45 PM
Move to the middle of Montana if you dont want so see people next door. They arent putting in a Six Flags. The residents were adamently against a parking lot for a bike trail on Hudson and Judson Road, and the main people who were fighting it later donated a part of their land to use for extra parking. The hikers and bikers take great care of the trail and it is an asset to the neighborhood. It seems like most people are for this idea, especially the scaled back plan. Even if you were to give the people of the neighborhood the right to say what goes in their area. Id bet they would vote for this
KentCitizen007 March 17, 2011 at 12:47 AM
Raymond, I doubt it would be an issue in a City that takes good care of the parks. However the director of the park department does not. For example last week when I took my lunch breaks in Tannery Park .I saw the same trash can overflowing with trash. The trash was all over the park and looked terrible. If they can't even keep the parks clean in the winter how will the keep up in the summer. Residents in Riverbend have good reason to be concerned about their new neighbor.
Brian November 26, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Kent has never learned that you can't please all of the people all of the time. How many well-deserving projects in this city have been delayed or altered (to their detriment) because of 4)? It's pathetic.

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