Bexley tree nursery sale crops up again

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The perennial Bexley tree nursery issue has sprung up again, with developer L. Rider Brice seeking to purchase the property he missed out on two years ago.

Bexley City Council May 27 introduced an ordinance to sell the property to Brice, who for several years had sought to buy the lot for a condominium project on it and adjacent land he owns.

Brice is now interested in building single-family homes on the North Parkview Avenue properties, according to Bexley Development Director Bruce Langner.

Brice had previously offered around $600,000 for the lot, but council ultimately rejected his request for rezoning.

The project drew the ire of neighbors concerned about the loss of open space and added traffic in the area.

One opponent, Jay Schottenstein, submitted the only other bid for the nursery, with the plan to turn it into a park that would be given back to the city.

Brice and Schottenstein both threatened to sue the city over the land, as did a group of residents interested in keeping it as park land.

Brice and Schottenstein are now reportedly in partnership in the latest development.

Reducing court costs

In other business, City Attorney Lou Chodosh reported that he is looking at hiring attorneys that can prosecute more serious crimes committed in Bexley, rather than sending the cases to the county municipal court.

This would be a cost-saving measure, as well as a way to ensure stricter sentences rather than having them plea-bargained down, Chodosh explained.

In one instance, a case of hit and run involving a drunk driver was plea-bargained down to a minor misdemeanor, he noted.

"We can find a better way to serve our residents who are victims," he said.

Having the Columbus city prosecutor handle these cases is costing Bexley as much as $40,000 a year, according to Chodosh. He thinks he can get that figure down to $25,000 or $30,000 by hiring lawyers who can handle the cases in Bexley.

Chodosh has already been saving the city money since taking office in January by handling mayor’s court cases himself.

All felony cases automatically go to the county court. And defendants in Bexley mayor’s court have the option of requesting another venue, Chodosh pointed out.

Speakers’ guidelines

Council President Matt Lampke is proposing that guidelines for speakers at meetings be adopted that would outline a code of conduct, but would not limit the amount of time or the topic a citizen can speak on.

Lampke said that he wanted to avoid any liability on the part of the city if a disruption were to occur.

The policy would require speakers to give their names and addresses, prohibit interruption or other interference with meetings, including defamatory or abusive remarks.

Violations of the guidelines could terminate the speaker’s remarks, and further interruptions could result in removal from the meeting.

Chodosh noted a recent Whitehall City Council meeting, which got out of order over debate on a pit bull ban, as an example where a policy would be useful.

"I question the need for it, but I don’t find anything offensive in it," Councilman Jeff McClelland commented, suggesting it could be posted in council chambers.

In other business, council:

•Introduced an ordinance to appropriate $6.6 million from the general fund to pay for the construction of a new police station. The city expects to sell bonds for the long-term financing of the project, which has a hearing before the Planning Commission June 2. Chief Larry Rinehart is hoping for a September groundbreaking on the Delmar Avenue lot purchased for the station.

•Extended the refuse collection contract with Rumpke Co. through Dec. 31, 2009. Councilman Mark Masser abstained.

•Heard second reading on an ordinance to begin assessing homeowners for sidewalk repairs.

•Heard a report from Councilman McClelland that he is working on a draft of bylaws for the Jeffrey Mansion Commission, which would be responsible for the future renovation, management and maintenance of the building.

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