The man who wants to build a hotel for adults in Orange Township has filed an appeal with the township's Board of Zoning Appeals to overturn its decision to end a review of his application to develop the hotel site.
Township Zoning Inspector Tom Farahay sent out an email prior to the Monday, July 1, meeting of township trustees stating that a hearing has been set for 7:30 p.m. July 30 at the Township Hall, 1680 E. Orange Road.
Farahay, who is responsible for reviewing the development plan application, ended his review about a month ago on the advice of the Delaware County Prosecutor's Office. The review was halted because the owner of the 7-acre site on Gooding Boulevard, just west of U.S. Route 23, terminated a purchase contract with hotel developer John Kranjec due to an apparent breach of contract.
Kranjec since has filed a complaint in Delaware County Common Pleas Court claiming that property owner North Orange Development LLC improperly terminated the contract based on a decision that Kranjec failed to meet a closing date in April for purchasing the site.
Farahay previously has said the property is zoned for a hotel and that he likely would approve the development application. Township trustees have been advised by the county prosecutor to stay out of the matter because it is legally the job of the zoning inspector to handle such applications. In the past, trustees have followed a practice of signing off on such applications.
The proposed hotel has ignited strong community opposition. A group called Orange Township Community Watch has turned out dozens of residents at several meetings earlier this year to speak out against the hotel.
Kranjec attended the April 15 trustees' meeting and said the hotel would be similar to one he owns in Perrysburg, called Belamere Suites. He said at that time that Belamere Suites is a romantic getaway for couples and that more than 75,000 couples have stayed there in the past nine years.
Concerned residents pointed out the Gooding Boulevard site is near a day-care center, a community pool and other facilities that cater to children and families. They said the site is inappropriate for such a hotel.
Township attorney Mike McCarthy said at the July 1 trustees' meeting that there should be an opportunity for all sides to be heard at the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting.
The township apparently has reached a tentative settlement in the Raechel Peters (formerly Sterud) gender discrimination case, although no details have been announced. Peters, a female firefighter in the township, claimed in 2007 that she was harassed. She was later fired, then filed a discrimination lawsuit in 2010.
A Franklin County Common Pleas Court jury decided in Peters' favor earlier this year and awarded a judgment of $1.7 million against the township and its fire department.
Following the jury verdict, both sides have met to discuss a settlement that apparently would include Peters being given her job back.
"We have reached a settlement with Orange Township," Peters' attorney, Dan Mordarski, said in an email to ThisWeek Olentangy Valley News last week. "The written document containing all the terms of the settlement have not been finalized and signed. Once it is signed, I anticipate the township trustees will vote to ratify the agreement."
Board Chairman Rob Quigley said at the July 1 meeting that he could not comment on any terms of the settlement or when trustees might act.
Trustee Lisa Knapp told several residents attending the meeting that "we are getting very close to solving this issue ... We have a tentative agreement in place."
Also during the July 1 meeting, trustees decided by consent to have Knapp ask the county prosecutor for an opinion as to whether depositions in the Peters case could be released to the public.
Knapp said a couple of people have made public-records requests for the depositions. Fiscal Officer Joel Spitzer, who handles such requests, said he informed those people that he does not have those documents in his possession. He said trustees would need to act on the requests.
Fire chief's retirement
Two residents asked about the status of Fire Chief Tom Stewart, who had said late last year that he planned to retire in 2013.
Stewart was not at the July 1 meeting and has not given any timetable for his planned retirement. Quigley told the residents that there was nothing new regarding that matter.
Residents Kirby Nielsen and Chandra MacFarland said they understood there would be just one chief once Stewart retires. Matt Noble is the assistant chief.
Nielsen previously has said he has concerns about the top leadership in the fire department due to the Peters case and other matters.
"My question is whether or not we are going to interview qualified applicants from outside our current employee base for this position," Nielsen said. "It would be my assumption that his resignation would be a chance to show the public a good-faith effort toward a new start and meaningful change."