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Springboro school board softens rhetoric in internal dispute

Published: Monday, June 19, 2017 @ 4:11 PM


            Springboro School Board President Dave Stuckey pulled back on statements he made about Board Member Lisa Babb during a meeting . Her actions were “neither unlawful or unethical” Stuckey read from a statement at a recent meeting as he referred to Babb’s role with a parent group seeking board action on several issues. LAWRENCE BUDD/STAFF
            Lawrence Budd

Before choosing a new member, the Springboro school board clarified statements suggesting one member “overstepped” ethics laws and board conduct rules through her involvement on an issue that triggered another member’s resignation.

Board President Dave Stuckey read a statement at the June 8 board meeting referring to a May 24 statement he made criticizing Board Member Lisa Babb for “colluding” with a parents group.

RELATED: Parents group pressing Springboro school board

“At our last meeting, the board issued a statement regarding the actions of Mrs. Babb pertaining to a parent letter about communication in the district,” Stuckey said in the statement.

“While the board maintains its disagreement with Mrs. Babb’s approach to this issue, it is important to note that her involvement was neither unlawful or unethical,” he continued.

“While there are still issues that we need to address regarding the way we operate collectively, we are committed to working through those issues internally going forward,” Stuckey concluded the statement.

Last week, the board announced it would appoint Dan Gudz to replace Dr. Darin Lunt, who resigned citing stress related to the disagreement over Babb’s role in the letter and petition bearing 130 signatures from district residents.

Despite the dispute, Gudz said the board would be working together as it prepared for a district vote on a substitute levy and the November election, when he would run on a platform with Stuckey and Board Member Charles Anderson.

RELATED: Springboro school board announces board appointment

Gudz is to be appointed in a meeting to begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the junior high library.

At the June 8 meeting, Stuckey also noted Lunt’s resignation followed the resignation of Ron Malone who ran with him and Anderson four years ago on a ticket promising to end an era of division and publicity of the board for discussions of controversial issues, rather than the district’s excellence.

RELATED: Candidates pledge to end division in school district

“We have to replace the replacement,” Stuckey said.

Lunt, an orthodontist, left the board, after advising the other members he would not be running for election in November and was weighing resignation due to threats against his family and business. Malone left last year, citing stress sitting on the board.

At the May 24 meeting, the board also criticized former Communication Director Karen Lane DeRosa’s role in the petition and letter, which claimed there were communication and special education issues in the district.

DeRosa countered with claims the board met illegally before the May 24 meeting to press for Babb’s resignation and violated the law by provided copies of an email from Babb to the group.

RELATED: Former employee accuses Springboro school board of illegal meeting, law violation

In addition to the statement, Babb and Board Member Jamie Belanger commented at the June 8 meeting on the dispute and Lunt’s departure.

Babb expressed disappointment at Lunt’s resignation and hope the board would work together.

“The last board meeting wasn’t good for anybody,” she said.

Belanger said Lunt’s resignation and the events leading to it were a “shame,” but said the district had already taken steps to improve special education at Clearcreek Elementary School.

Belanger also said Superintendent Dan Schroer had sent a letter to parents, offering them individual meetings on their concerns.

“I wanted to email all of you to share that we received your letter and are listening. Today, I reach out to you in the event you would like to have an additional conversation with me about these issues,” Schroer said in the June 6 email.

So far, the district has received three responses, one from DeRosa and her husband interested in setting up a meeting to discuss their concerns, according to the district’s response to a public records request.

Schroer added a new communications director, Scott Marshall, would be charged with making any needed improvements in district communications.

Warren County arts community vote settles zoning case

Published: Saturday, June 24, 2017 @ 8:00 AM


            Ramesh Malhotra in 2011 in Mason, where his property management business is located. He wants to develop an arts community near Lebanon. FILE
            Samantha Grier

When Warren County commissioners approved rezoning 20 acres for a proposed arts community, they also ended a zoning violation case.

On Tuesday, commissioners approved rezoning of Theatre 42 property at 2752 U.S. 42 in Union Twp. for a planned development by Ramesh Malhotra, an entrepreneur also involved in redevelopment of two sites in Franklin as centers for spirituality and the arts.

“I’m neither an artist or a singer or an actor. I try to help the artist,” Malhotra said in a telephone interview after the rezoning.

Malhotra described himself as a “spiritual capitalist.”

MORE: Malhotra redeveloping Catholic church in Franklin

The arts community plan was developed after the property was cited for a code violation after property was changed from the Living Tree Community Church to a theater used by the Mason Community Players, Zoning Inspector Mike Yetter said Tuesday.

Churches are permitted in residentially zoned areas, but not community theaters.

Malhotra is planning to open Ever One Performing Art Theaters in a developing corridor on U.S. 42 between Mason and Lebanon.

He already has the Malhotra Collection of Spiritual Art on display at a museum developed in an old home along the Great Miami River and multi-use trail at 318 River St. in Franklin. Malhotra said he has begun opening the museum on Wednesdays and Thursdays, as well as on weekends, for visitors from around the world and as interest grows.

MORE: Malhotra redeveloping Catholic church in Franklin

Before working on the theater plan, Malhotra said he plans to convert the former St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Franklin to the Oneness Harmony Center. Malhotra plans to seek donations and fees for musical and spoken-word presentations “to raise the individual spirit through meditation.”

The Harmony Center is expected to open in August in time to capitalize on visitors in Franklin for Downtown Saturday Nite, a local auto show held for more than 30 years. Malhotra looks for some of the show’s audience to also stop by the art museum.

In September or October, work is to begin on remodeling of the old Theatre 42 building, where the Mason Community Players (MCP) have been staging shows since 2015, before Malhotra took over a land contract for the property from Mason Mayor Victor Kidd.

MORE: Spiritual art museum opens in Franklin

“We are a part of the plan with the owner of the property,” Laureen Catlin, an MCP board member, said via email.

Their production of The Wiz is to open on July 14, and the group is soliciting donations to help make rent and subsidize improvements to the building.

“When you lease a space, there are rent and utilities to be paid,” the group said on its website. “And MCP tries to improve Theatre 42 as much as possible in order to make it more and more comfortable and accommodating to its performers, technicians and staff, and most importantly, for its audiences.”

Malhotra also plans to build a second building in anticipation of another group, such as a children’s theater group, moving to the center.

MORE: Mayor says new company fits city’s “strong culture of wellness and entrepreneurship”

Ultimately, plans show as many as six buildings, including a 27,900 square foot theater, on the property, which lacks sewers and much of which is in a flood plain.

“We appreciate your vision,” Commissioner Dave Young said before the unanimous vote to rezone the property from residential use to allow the planned-unit development in a neighborhood commercial business zone.

The land is owned Evan Ford but is under a land contract previously held by Kidd and the church and taken on by Malhotra, property records show.

At the meeting, Malhotra, based in Mason, said he would lease the buildings to groups and planned to open a music school in the existing building. He said the zoning violation complaint was made after the property passed from Kidd to him in 2016, although the theater had been operating in the former church building since 2015.

Commissioner Tom Grossmann quizzed Malhotra about the property’s ownership.

Grossmann lives in Mason and served on the city council and as mayor before his election as a county commissioner.

“I think it’s a great use,” he said. “I sure hope it works.”

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Malhotra, a coal broker and head of the Malhotra Group, based in Mason, said the projects fit his model for developing charitable businesses.

“I was given a gift to build businesses,” he said. “I have made enough money. I don’t really need more.”

Kidd said he sold the contract to Malhotra when his church mission changed and they no longer needed the property.

The development plan for the arts community still has to be reviewed by the commissioners.

“You’ll get to see it again,” Yetter said. “Ultimately, the commissioners will have the final say.”

CONTINUING COVERAGE

We are committed to coverage of issues of importance to Warren County, including recent stories about residents who fought a septic business and potential medical marijuana cultivation sites.

Businesses may face penalties for prohibiting guns in private vehicles

Published: Thursday, June 22, 2017 @ 6:32 PM
Updated: Thursday, June 22, 2017 @ 6:32 PM

Businesses may face penalties for prohibiting guns in private vehicles (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

Business groups are fighting an Ohio Senate proposal that will open them up to civil lawsuits by employees and others who bring handguns on to company property.

“For us this isn’t a concealed carry issue as much as this is an employer rights issue,” said Chris Kershner, vice president, public policy & economic development for the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Employers should be able to manage the actions in their private business on their private property, period.”

Ohio’s newly expanded concealed carry law - passed in December as Senate Bill 199 - lets people with concealed carry permits bring their guns onto private property regardless of the policies and wishes of the company or property owner.

RELATED: Guns at work: New law allows handguns on private property 

The gun must remain stored in the permit holder’s private vehicle.

But the law did not include any penalties for companies that do not comply and gun rights advocates have called for teeth to be added to it.

RELATED: Guns at work: New law allows handguns on private property

A provision in the Ohio Senate’s version of the proposed state budget would do that by creating a civil liability for employers and property owners if they try to prevent concealed-carry permit holders from bringing their guns onto private property.

John Fortney, spokesman for Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said the new provision is needed to concealed-carry permit holders who are following the rules don’t face unfair discipline at work.

“It doesn’t make sense for someone to lose their job for being responsible and following the law,” Fortney said.

The provision has prompted the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and 17 other business groups to send a letter strongly opposing the new provision to Obhof and Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville.

The letter is signed by groups representing retailers, manufacturers, contractors, auto dealers, financial service and insurance companies, attorneys, and other businesses 

“We were opposed to Senate Bill 199 last year,” said Don Boyd, director of labor and legal affairs for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. “We believed it infringes on employers’ private property rights and everyone’s private property rights. It also applies to every property owner and business owner in the state.”

RELATED: do concealed-carry laws make us safer?

Boyd said the business groups hope the provision will be removed in the final version of the state’s two-year budget that is being discussed now in a 6-member conference committee made up of members of the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives. The House version of the state budget does not include the provision.

“Looking at this new amendment we think it just exacerbates the problems of 199 by creating a new way to file a lawsuit against employers and private property owners,” Boyd said. “It’s a step backward for Ohio’s legal climate.”

The Senate provision would allow the business or property owner to be sued in civil court and the plaintiff awarded compensatory damages, injunctive relief, costs and attorney’s fees.

A lawsuit could be filed against a property owner, or employer “who establishes, maintains, or enforces a policy that prohibits a valid concealed handgun licensee from transporting or storing a firearm or ammunition in the person’s privately owned motor vehicle in accordance with existing law conditions,” according to a summary of the budget provision by the state’s non-partisan Legislative Service Commission.

RELATED: 5 things to know about Ohio’s CCW law

“Penalties are needed because some businesses have refused to comply with the spirit of the law,” said Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association.

He said some employers are “harassing” employees who bring guns to work in their cars by asking them to come forward and show proof of a concealed carry permit and gun safety training.

RELATED: Hundreds killed by guns in workplace

The State Legislature in December approved the concealed carry expansion in a flurry of late night lame duck voting.

RELATED: Gun restrictions ease in Ohio

The law overrides company policies regarding weapons on company property but does not require a business to let people bring guns inside the business.

It was opposed by gun safety advocates and business groups but supported by gun rights advocates who said it allows people to have their weapons with them if they need to defend themselves on the way to and from work.

The concealed carry law originally would have established concealed carry holders as a protected class under civil rights laws but that was removed after businesses objected.

RELATED: Business groups lament Ohio expanded gun laws

The law does not apply to federal facilities like post offices or Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

RELATED: Wright-Patt employees can’t bring handguns to work

The law does let colleges, universities, and local government officials allow concealed carry permit holders to bring guns onto their property. Kershner said private businesses should have given private property owners and businesses the same right to choose to keep guns out.

“This is about employers being able to operate with less government interference,” Kershner said.

RELATED: Residents respond to new law allowing guns on private property

RELATED: 5 things to know about Ohio’s CCW law

RELATED: 9 Workplace Shooting incidents in Ohio and the U.S.

RELATED: Tips to avoid gun violence at work

89 homes, town center part of first phase of Warren County community

Published: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 @ 8:21 AM
Updated: Thursday, June 22, 2017 @ 11:53 AM

The first signs of Union Village — a 1,400-acre, 4,500-home new urbanist community to be built over the next 20 to 30 years in Warren County — should become evident next summer.

The Warren County Regional Planning Commission Executive Committee is to consider the plan for the first phase of the development during a meeting to begin at 1 p.m. Thursday at the county administration building in Lebanon.

RELATED: 12,000 residents, $1.5B in investment expected at Union Village

The development company set up Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices for the project is expected to begin putting in roads and other infrastructure late next spring or early next summer on the $8 million first phase.

“They are fronting a lot of this. They’ve got some protections so they can get it back,” Warren County Auditor Matt Nolan said.

For 30 years, half of the property taxes paid by homeowners and all paid on commercial properties will go into a fund used to pay for roads and infrastructure.

Union Village property owners will be able to enjoy amenities including a town center, places to shop and eat, and a walkable community featuring planned parks and open spaces.

RELATED:Lodgings tax hike to fund $15 million sports complex

A sports complex will be built in Union Village, north along Ohio 741 and on the north side of the property on Greentree Road, west of Lebanon, in Turtlecreek Twp.

It would be the first development in the area overseen by a new community authority that will assess property owners to help offset the cost of amenities and maintenance.

Property owners should expect to pay an additional 12 to 15 mills in property tax next year, $420 to $525 on a $300,000 home or business, according to Nolan.

“But for that, they would pay the same as anyone else living in Turtlecreek Twp.,” Nolan said.

The initial assessments are to be set next month by the Union Village Community Authority, a board set up like a homeowners association, to oversee the development and manage the assessments.

SOCIAL MEDIA:Follow Lawrence Budd on Twitter

Plans call for the town center, 89 homes, four apartment buildings and seven town homes to be built on land across from the main Otterbein retirement campus, between Springboro and Mason on Ohio 741.

RELATED: Otterbein also making changes on retirement campus

If approved, Otterbein next plans to demolish maintenance buildings and barns on the east side of Ohio 741, across from the retirement campus, to clear land for the project.

Dayton: Public incentives return $78 million, 2,760 jobs

Published: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 @ 2:52 PM

The new office building at Water Street is filled, and developers want to build a hotel next door. CORNELIUS FROLIK/STAFF

The city of Dayton has given out about $4.5 million in economic development incentives to private companies since 2013, including more than $1.5 million awarded just this year, according to data obtained by this newspaper.

But the city says its economic development fund investments have resulted in or will result in more than $78 million in private spending, and those employers have pledged to create or retain 2,760 jobs.

RELATED: Dayton to spend up to $1M more on Arcade redevelopment

The city’s biggest awards have gone to some of the most highly anticipated projects in the center city, including the redevelopment of the Dayton Arcade, the building of CareSource’s new office tower and the construction of a new hotel at the Water Street District.

The city invests its economic development funds strategically, officials said, and those payments have persuaded large and important employers to remain or expand in Dayton, including some which have been courted by other communities.

“With the economy improving, there’s more need for economic development incentives,” said Ford Weber, Dayton’s director of economic development. “As the economy strengthens, the projects get bigger — even though our incentives are increasing, we’re leveraging more money than we have in the past.”

RELATED: Dayton OKs funding for $13M hotel project

Recently, Dayton city commissioners approved giving Water Street Hotel LLC $500,000 out of the city’s development fund to support the building of a six-story Fairfield Inn & Suites at the corner of Monument Avenue and Patterson Boulevard, across from Fifth Third Field.

The award will help pay for unexpected engineering and construction costs related to a 5-foot storm sewer line that cuts through the property. The hotel, the first to be built in downtown in more than 15 years, is expected to cost $13 million and will have 98 rooms.

In March, the commission also approved giving $1 million to help pay for architectural, engineering and demolition services for the Dayton Arcade.

The funding, which will be matched by the team developing the complex, will help ensure developers have an accurate cost estimate for the project before closing on the purchase of the property, city officials said. That is important for developers to put together the financing for the project.

The rehab of the arcade could exceed $75 million, which is not yet reflected in the city’s estimated return on investment for its economic development fund awards.

RELATED: Taylor Communications to move hundreds of workers downtown

The city also expects to give Taylor Communications $500,000 out of its economic development fund to help the company move hundreds of workers from their offices on the west side to a building at 111 W. First St. in downtown.

The move benefits a major employer in the city and brings many workers downtown, which hopefully will help existing businesses and will spark new investment, officials said.

In November, the city commission approved spending $500,000 to help CareSource build a new six-story office tower on the 100 block of East First Street that has about 800 office spaces.

CareSource, which employs about 2,100 people downtown, is one of the fastest growing health insurance plans in the nation.

Dayton pitched in funding for the expansion project because it has to compete with other communities to attract and retain major employers, and the entire city benefits from the tax revenue generated by the payroll growth related to the expansions, Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein said last year.

Here’s a look at the 31 projects that have received economic development grants since 2013 and the amount of private investment involved and the number of jobs employers agreed to create or retain.
2013 Development Fund Projects
Development
Fund (Grants)
Private Investment City Investment Created Jobs Pledged Retained Jobs Pledged
Industrial Fiberglass
Specialties INC
$380,000.00 $10,000.00 0 26
Boost Technologies LLC $760,000.00 $50,000.00 20 52
Barr and Prevost $578,000.00 $70,000.00 35 0
idX Dayton Corporation $7,270,000.00 $100,000.00 120 130
Coolidge Wall $60,000.00 0 58
Midmark Corporation $1,800,000.00 $100,000.00 57 0
Front Porch Marketing dba
TriComB2B
$90,000.00 35 0
Total: $10,788,000.00 $ 480,000.00 267 266

2014 Development Fund Projects
Development
Fund (Grants)
Private Investment City Investment Created Jobs Pledged Retained Jobs Pledged
Creative Foam Corporation dba
Dayton Molded Urethanes
$1,500,000.00 $50,000.00 80 90
Elizabeth Place Holdings, LLC $2,350,000.00 $ 200,000.00 0 0
Dinsmore & Shohl LLP $1,250,000.00 $275,000.00 0 0
Total: $5,100,000.00 $525,000.00 80 90

2015 Development Fund Projects
Development
Fund (Grants)
Private Investment City Investment Created
Jobs Pledged
Retained Jobs Pledged
MVPackaging Solutions $2,100,000.00 $10,000.00 9 21
Talbott Tower Associates $50,000.00 $100,000.00 0 30
Techmetals $1,500,000.00 $100,000.00 25 147
GEM City Engineering $4,000,000.00 $100,000.00 25 103
Miller Valentine Group $315,000.00 $60,000.00 36 43
Aimia Proprietary Loyalty $40,000.00 $60,000.00 0 70
Simms Brownstones at 2nd Ltd $4,760,000.00 $240,000.00 0 0
Home Avenue Redevelopment, LLC $300,000.00 0 0
Real Wire, LLC $550,000.00 $35,000.00 0 0
St. Peter Partner, LLC $2,160,000.00 $90,000.00 0 0
Faruki, Ireland, and Cox PLL $275,000.00 $75,000.00 0 0
Total: $15,750,000.00 $1,170,000.00 95 414

2016 Development Fund Projects
Development
Fund (Grants)
Private Investment City Investment Created Jobs Pledged Retained Jobs Pledged
Westwood Fabrication &
Sheet Metal
$723,500.00 $40,000.00 41 0
Angstron Materials, Inc. $1,025,000.00 $65,000.00 15 11
Hohman Plating & MFG, LLC $2,950,000.00 $50,000.00 9 146
GoHypersonic $26,000.00 $6,500.00 1 12
Lunne Marketing Group $100,000.00 $10,000.00 6 20
CareSource $25,000,000.00 $500,000.00 400 500
STP $5,400,000.00 $150,000.00 345 0
Total $35,224,500.00 $821,500.00 817 689

2017 Development Fund Projects
Development
Fund (Grants)
Private Investment City Investment Created Jobs Pledged Retained Jobs Pledged
GCI Metals, Inc $163,800.00 $10,000.00 20 0
Water Street Hotel $ 1,000,000.00 $500,000.00 24 0
Dayton Arcade $1,000,000.00 0 0
Total: $11,163,800.00 $1,510,000.00 44 0