Historic Designation OK’d – Pit Bulls KO’d?

Council president Michael Dever brought the May 19, 2008 council meeting to order at 7:40.

After a year of hard work by the Lakewood Planning Commission, the Heritage Advisory Board and advocacy by the Lakewood Historical Society, council finally passed revisions to the zoning code providing for Historic Preservation Districts (HPD) and Historical Property (HP) designations.

Most readers are familiar with Historic Districts such as Bird Town. That designation is a result of completing a long application process to the National Historic Register. Ultimately, it is hoped that the Bird Town Historic District will retain its unique character and will result in appreciable benefits to the larger Lakewood community and the property owners in that area.

While that is to be commended, a gap in the zoning code became apparent several years ago. The owner of a house at Lake and Nicholson, facing foreclosure, had applied for several demolition permits. At that time there were no conditions to obtaining a razing permit. Neighborhood homeowners were very concerned about the eventual use of a very beautiful house and property. Then councilman Edward FitzGerald hosted a public meeting at the high school to allow concerns to be heard. The basic outcome of that meeting was the realization that the city had few tools in the way of laws on the books or even programs to deal with such a situation. Even the Lakewood Historical Society while gravely concerned was unable to step in.

So, the Lakewood Planning Commission started the long process needed to revise the zoning code so that the City would have laws to deal with individual situations as well as establish a process to allow for an expansion on the theme of historical preservation.

Generally, an area – a street or streets - could request that the Heritage Advisory Board assist in the application process to designate an HPD. The Heritage Advisory Board acts as a technical assistant and resource during the designation process. Individual and commercial properties could also request an Historical Property designation.

After such a designation property owners would have to go to the Architectural Review Board (ARB) with plans for any major exterior changes. This is currently required anyway. The ARB would then apply historic criteria to the proposal to see if it reflected defined historic standards. A homeowner would continue to be able to institute general maintenance repairs without review.

According to Planning Commission Chairman William Grulich this would help Lakewood maintain the area's unique character and architectural diversity. Grulich added, “There are benefits to home and business owners from tax credits, which may allow people to afford more improvements. This legislation would not have been possible without the dedicated work of Rick Sicha, Tom Einhouse, John Pyke, Heather Rudge, and councilman Kevin Butler.”

Mazie Adams, director of the Historical Society said, “Passage of this legislation Monday night is an historic event for Lakewood.”

Upon entering city hall Monday night visitors were greeted by a friendly dog on a leash. The pup appeared to be what is commonly known as a pit bull. His doggy grin elicited many pets as he clearly relished his role as designated greeter for the evening

Inside, however, Brian Powers (at large) was introducing legislation which would ban that pup and any that looked like him from Lakewood. Powers pointed out that in the last six months the animal warden has had to respond to many complaints involving pit bulls and in one instance a man was bitten in the face by one. Referring to the current ordinances that required leashes, muzzles, and liability insurance as inadequate, he called for an outright ban on this kind of dog.

Maybe the reason the pup outside was so friendly is because he knew the council audience was filled with his supporters that night. They all wanted a chance to talk.

Melissa Ungerman of Waterbury Avenue stated that she acts as a dog rescue for pit bulls. “This is a reaction to a perceived and not real threat, she said. Let’s go after the owners who aren’t responsible.”

Bob Scott of Lake Avenue asked the question, “what is a pit bull? There is no dog called that in the American Kennel Club.”

Jason Brown of Wyandotte Avenue said “pit bull is a generic term. It is the owners who create these monsters. There is no reason why my dog should suffer because of these knuckleheads. Over 350 children touch my dog everyday when I walk my 7 year old to school.”

Ann Kaiser, a professional dog trainer, and Sharon Klein – president of Canine Advocates of Ohio both stated that there is no evidence that breed specific laws reduces dog bites.

This is an issue that will undergo intense public scrutiny in the next several weeks. It was referred to the Public Safety Committee which is chaired by Tom Bullock (ward 2). He indicated that he would be holding public hearings on the proposal and he would make every effort to elicit all opinions.

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Volume 4, Issue 11, Posted 11:13 AM, 05.20.2008