CLAYTON — During a special meeting Thursday at the Clayton Government Center, the board of the Clay Township / City of Clayton Joint Economic Development District voted to pass a resolution to retain the services of Sebaly Shillito & Dyer for outside legal counsel to help its efforts to promote light industrial business development.
The JEDD Board of Erik Collins, Kevin Schweitzer, Mike Stevens and Steve Argast reviewed proposal submissions from three law firms before agreeing to accept the bid submitted by Sebaly Shillito & Dyer.
“Of the three proposals submitted, the only firm that had experience at all with JEDDs was Sebaly Shillito & Dyer,” Schweitzer told the board. “Their rates are in the middle. They are not the highest or the lowest, but they do have experience and they are also local.”
Collins agreed Sebaly Shillito & Dyer was the best choice due to their experience working with JEDDs.
“They are good,” Collins noted. “They did a lot of work down in the Dayton Mall area.”
Schweitzer said he conferred with JEDD Board Member Bill Kindred, who also believed that Sebaly Shillito & Dyer was the firm to go with. He added that Board Member Jim Borland said the same thing. Neither was present at the special meeting due to scheduling conflicts.
Collins entertained a motion to accept the bid submitted by Sebaly Shillito & Dyer and Stevens moved to accept the bid. The board unanimously voted to accept the bid proposal.
“This is the first time I have ever heard of hiring an attorney firm,” said Argast. “I don’t remember the JEDD ever having to use one.”
Schweitzer said that the city’s current legal counsel couldn’t really represent the JEDD due to a potential conflict of interest, which prompted the solicitation of bids for legal representation.
“We wanted to do it because we felt that the city has an attorney, but that we needed our own firm to serve as a check and balance,” Collins said. “I think we can tell the taxpayers that this is a good deal for all concerned.”
One issue that prompted the move to retain legal counsel came about when a property owner located within the JEDD wanted to withdraw his property. Clayton Council had scheduled a public hearing regarding the request but tabled it when Clay Township stated it would not hold a hearing regarding that request.
The land in question is located on Wellbaum Road just south of National Road. Clay Township conferred with its legal counsel, which advised both jurisdictions would have to agree to a zoning change.
Schweitzer said that he had heard, but could not confirm, that Clay Township’s reasoning for not holding a public hearing was that if Clay voted to allow one property owner to pull out, others might also follow suit and would request a hearing to withdraw from the JEDD.
According to Clay Trustee Steve Woolf, township trustees can’t change zoning, only its board of zoning appeals or zoning commission can approve or disapprove the decision. The trustees have no influence over that decision and must remain neutral, according to the Ohio Revised Code. The property owner entered the JEDD voluntarily and to have the property rezoned for light industrial, according to Woolf.
A potential developer wanted to buy the land for residential use. It is zoned for light industrial under provisions of the JEDD. Clayton’s legal counsel also confirmed that both the city and township would have to agree to have the land removed from the JEDD. Clayton tabled its public hearing in case the township ever decided to hold its own hearing, then the matter could be brought back before council for further action.
“In my opinion and my observation since coming to the JEDD Board, it’s a long play,” Collins said. “We have to accrue cash, and if I am paying taxes you want an instant answer to what you are getting. It’s a tough thing as opposed to the Dayton Mall area. That’s a different story. They are accruing a lot of cash that in turn spurs development.”
During further discussion, board members agreed that it would be a good idea to have Sebaly Shillito & Dyer attend one its meetings to see what is taking place instead of paying for their services until they are absolutely needed.
Reach Ron Nunnari at (937) 684-9124, via email Rnunnari@aimmediamidwest.com or on Twitter @RonNunnari