2010-10-16 / News

Wells calls for Cookston’s removal

BUCKEYE LAKE – Former Buckeye Lake Village Council member Peggy Wells told the Buckeye Lake Village Council Monday night that she believes Buckeye Planning Commission chair Karen Cookston should step down from the Commission after Cookston built a “parking lot” spanning four lots in a residential area of the village.

However, council president Charlene Hayden strongly defended Cookston’s actions and questioned whether the long strip of asphalt grindings placed along Anchors Way is really a parking lot; Cookston was not present during Monday night’s council meeting to defend herself.

“The issue tonight is whether the village’s zoning regulations apply to Karen Cookston,” Wells said to the council during the citizen’s comment period. She said Cookston “clearly failed” to acquire a permit before building the parking lot. Wells said zoning clearly prohibits the parking lot. “Both violations question her fitness to chair the planning and zoning commission,” she said.

Wells said Cookston’s defense of her actions during a planning commission meeting wasn’t convincing. Wells said Cookston had four claims. First, she said the parking lot was “already there” after two homes on two of the four lots were demolished. Next, Wells said Cookston claimed a county contractor who recently demolished two homes on her lots placed the grindings there without her knowledge. Wells also said Cookston claimed that other residents have done the same thing, and that enforcement of some regulations will “hurt many residents.” Wells said “If you accept this argument we might as well not have any zoning regulations at all.”

Wells claimed that Cookston believes some zoning regulations don’t apply to her as they do others. “For the good of the village and our future development, council needs to ask her to step down,” said Wells.

Hayden said Cookston did discuss the parking lot with the planning commission and excused herself as chair during the discussion. Hayden said Cookston has all documentation concerning the parking lot and she strongly urged council members to hear from Cookston directly before drawing any conclusions. “I think it’s only fair,” said Hayden.

Council member Donna Thompson asked Hayden if Cookston had a permit.

“It’s debatable about whether it’s a parking lot,” said Hayden, adding that it’s not the village’s job to respond to “newspaper articles,” referring to a couple letters to the editor Wells submitted to the Beacon in reference to the parking lot.

Wells filed a formal complaint with the village and she said zoning inspector Bob Jordan told her the parking lot is a zoning violation.

Hayden had no further comment following the meeting and Cookston could not be reached for comment.

Later in Monday night’s meeting, Wells said there’s a contradiction between the village charter and the zoning regulations in establishing a Zoning Appeals Board. Village zoning regulations state that the mayor appoints five members. The charter calls for seven members with the mayor appointing three and council members appointing four.

Wells said the charter requires the same seven members of the Planning and Zoning Commission to serve as the Board of Zoning and Building Appeals. “This is ludicrous,” she said. “There’s no due process.” Wells thinks a different group should review appeals as it is done in our court system.

In other council news:

• Council members agreed to give Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken a $100 break on its rent from the village for the next two years as Lee’s addresses the store’s HVAC issues. Lee’s leases village-owned space. Council member Jeryne Peterson said Lee’s rent would be reduced from $696.21 per month to $596.21 per month while Lee’s completes repairs.

• Hayden said Ryan-Braden Park must have restrooms, but currently doesn’t because vandals will destroy the restrooms as quickly as they are refurbished. She said village government is open to any suggestions about how to protect the restrooms from vandals. Until this problem is solved, the restrooms cannot be replaced.

• Mayor Rick Baker said the construction activity near the North Shore Boat Ramp is not Eric Mason’s proposed Waterfront Grill, however he said Mason’s restaurant is still moving forward. Wachtel & McAnally Architects/ Planners, Inc., who designed the condos near the North Shore Boat Ramp, is continuing its project and building more residential space.

Garry McAnally, principal with Wachtel & McAnally Architects/ Planners, Inc., is also designing the restaurant, which Mason said would be in Nantucket style.

Mason said the restaurant would be lakeside, near the North Shore Boat Ramp, with a second story banquet facility featuring a patio overlooking the water. He expects to have 140-seat capacity on the first floor with seating for 150 more in an outdoor patio. Docks and carry out will be available. The menu will resemble the Grill on 21st Street-which Mason operates along with the Chophouse Grill in downtown Newark--but offer more seafood selections, Mason said. The Waterfront Grill would be open year round.

• Peterson asked if the village would replace any trees the village’s downtown berm project removes or destroys. Director of Development Valerie Hans said she believes only one tree on Grandstaff and another smaller tree would be removed. Baker said the village could use some of the $2,000 State Farm Insurance grant provided to the village for landscaping to replace the trees.

• Hans said roughly 650 customers have connected to Buckeye Lake’s public water system and Buckeye Lake Estates homes are undergoing inspections in preparation to connect to the system. She added that there are five more derelict homes scheduled to be demolished. Hans wasn’t sure if Licking County would provide funding for any more demolitions, but she said she heard $1 million may become available statewide to continue the demolition program.

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