BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Two appeals, a referendum and a recall are in the works, following the November 28 decision by Waterville City Council to allow a conditional use permit for an open-air amphitheater on Pray Boulevard.
Last weekend, resident Wayne Wagner opened his home to welcome in residents who wanted to sign petitions for the recall and the referendum. Several residents opposed to the amphitheater have formed committees to take action in different ways, he explained.
Wagner’s committee is focused on a referendum that would ask voters whether the amphitheater should be permitted.
“They’ve forced our hands into doing this,” said Wagner, adding that he feels most residents – whether for or against the amphitheater – want an opportunity to vote.
City Law Director Phil Dombey said that referendums are limited to any legislative action taken by a government but that council’s decision on November 28 was an administrative one.
“Legislative is when council makes a new law,” Dombey explained. “In this case, when the decision is interpreting and working within the existing zoning ordinance and the existing code and charter, (council) is just looking at what we have as making an administrative decision. So, (the residents) can’t do a referendum.”
Wagner disagrees and said that two attorneys have reached out to offer help at no charge. Both believe that council made legislative actions within the administrative one, and therefore a referendum is possible.
“We’ll keep fighting,” Wagner said.
Another committee, including members Kirby McKeen, Mitchell Leese, Steve Timms, Sue Jurski and Sarah Murlin, is collecting signatures to place on the ballot a question of whether to recall council members Anthony Bruno and John Rozic. The two men were among the four votes in favor of accepting the Waterville Planning Com-mission’s recommendation to issue the conditional use permit for the amphitheater.
While council members Barb Bruno and Todd Borowski also voted yes, the committee decided to seek a recall of Anthony Bruno and Rozic because the two members’ terms don’t expire until the end of 2025. Barb Bruno is term-limited and cannot run again when her term expires at the end of 2023. Mary Duncan voted no, along with Mayor Tim Pedro. Rod Frey and Borowski have terms that expire on December 31, 2023. Frey recused himself from voting on the amphitheater project.
Shannon Bostelman, who was at Wagner’s house collecting signatures for the recall, explained that the petition states that the two council members do not adequately reflect the will or interests of the constituents who elected them, resulting in a lack of confidence in their leadership. Anthony Bruno and Rozic “disregarded the interests of the community in his lack of due diligence and vote on the amphitheater special zoning matter,” the recall petition states.
“Because they voted it through and they’re on until December ’25, we need to get them off,” Bostelman said. “We need movement and change, or the city is never going to get better.”
Wagner said he’s considering a run for office. The deadline to turn in petitions to run is Wednesday, February 1 at 4:00 p.m. Like many cities in Ohio, Waterville changed its filing deadline to February 1 because of the primary election being moved to May.
Both the recall and the referendum require a minimum of 681 signatures from qualified voters who are Waterville residents, based on 25 percent of the number of voters who participated in the last general election, which was 2,721, said Tim Monaco, deputy director of the Lucas County Board of Elections. The board will review the signatures to determine how many are valid.
If the signatures and paperwork are determined to be valid for the recall, a date for a vote would be set by the city. A referendum, if determined valid and eligible to go on the ballot, would occur during the soonest general election, according to the charter.
If a council member is removed by recall, his spot would be filled by council, Dombey said.
In addition to the recall and referendum efforts, a group of Mill Creek residents represented by attorney Jeffrey Stopar is appealing council’s November 28 decision.
“The community has banded together to fund it,” said Steve Letzring. He and his wife are among four couples named in the appeal.
The Letzrings moved to Mill Creek in 2006 and their backyard is at the property line with a farm field that currently separates their home from the amphitheater site.
“It’s like a par-4 golf hole. I could get there in two,” he said.
Like his neighbors, Letzring is very concerned about noise levels, especially after learning that the applicants’ attorney is now appealing the city’s intention to limit the noise at the eastern property line to 65 dBA, or A-weighted decibels, a noise rating that takes into account how the human ear hears different frequencies.
Last week, Dombey confirmed that he received a letter from W. David Arnold, an attorney representing the applicants for the amphitheater, stating that the city’s intention to limit the noise to 65 dBA at the eastern property line as stated in its fixed source noise level ordinance, 531.11 (a), is flawed and that the ordinances do not provide a sound limit that must be met by the amphitheater.
The December 13 letter from Arnold, an attorney with RCO Law, states that the ordinance definition includes industrial and commercial processes, machinery and other mechanical devices and apparatus, and no such noises would be present on the property and therefore doesn’t govern the amphitheater. He also notes that the city council approved the amphitheater without any additional conditions which are related to sound propagation and that the municipality has approved musical productions, thereby exempting the amphitheater from the city’s noise level regulations.
The letter also states that the applicant’s sound study shows that the sound would rarely, if at all, exceed 60 dBA at the Mill Creek property line and that the applicant intends to use landscaping or mounding to keep sound from escaping the amphitheater.
“Applicants are confident they are entitled to a variance, either from the municipal administrator or a Lucas County Common Pleas judge,” the letter states.
The November 28 decision on the amphitheater included two ordinances that list 25 conditions. The first 10 conditions were set by the city’s Planning Commission. The second set of 15 were added by council but don’t include Pedro’s recommendation to limit the sound to 60 dBA at the property line – because Dombey said it would be addressed in the fact findings since it’s already part of the law.
The applicants – including John Henry, Chris Campbell and Hunter Brucks – did not respond to an emailed request for comment. Rozic and Anthony Bruno also did not reply to a request for comments.