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Overhead wiring could block supermarket progress
Overhead wiring could block supermarket progress
By JOSEPH KOZIOL JR.
The Chardon city planning commission agreed Monday to allow work to continue at the Aldi's supermarket while an issue involving electrical service is worked out.
The commission voted 5-2 to hold off on enforcing a stop-work order at the supermarket that has been under construction at 302 Center St. (Route 44) for the past year.
Commission members William Niehus and Gary Hanlon voted against allowing the company to continue work at the site.
"It allows them to continue working while they solve the problem," Councilman Philip King said of the commission's vote.
The problem came to light last week when the city discovered that overhead power lines had been installed to service the new supermarket. City ordinances call for underground service.
The commission's action allows Aldi's to continue working until May 26. If it is able to produce a bond covering the cost of removing the above-ground poles and wires and installing the underground service, it can continue to work. If it fails to produce the bond, work must stop.
David Richards, attorney for Aldi's, conceded that plans for the store, approved by the city, called for the underground power lines. But he said the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. informed Aldi's officials that the best solution for power needs in the area is overhead lines. He said a CEI representative was invited to the meeting to explain its reasoning but failed to show.
Mr. Richards said store officials were shooting for an opening by the end of June. But now, Aldi's faces the prospect of paying double for electrical service, because it would bear the costs of removing the overhead lines and poles and changing it to an underground system, he said.
"We're between a rock and a hard place," Mr. Richards said. "The main thing is Aldi's wants to move forward and we don't know why CEI did what it did."
John Sheehan, the city's planning and zoning administrator, said it was the staff's recommendation that work be stopped at the store until developers meet the city's requirements.
Mr. Sheehan said CEI would not release who specifically authorized the overhead lines, although it did not appear to be a representative of Aldi's.
Aldi's representative Kevin McClure said he could not understand why CEI was not present to explain why it directed store officials to accept the overhead power. "This befuddles me why they wouldn't give an explanation," he said.
He said he was sent an application from CEI about a year ago, stating that the overhead lines were the best way to serve the area.
The lines were installed around April 28.
Gayland Moore, Chardon's public service director, said inspectors contracted by the city were on site at the time of the installation but apparently were inspecting elsewhere.
Mr. Sheehan said most new developments, like Heinen's, Home Depot and Walmart, were able to install underground service for their buildings. He said developments like Home Depot and Walmart had "substantially higher power draws" than Aldi's and questioned why CEI would now say that overhead lines are needed to serve Aldi's.
Commission member Gary Hanlon said the ultimate responsibility lies with Aldi's, which knew the approved plans call for underground service. "It is your responsibility to go through proper channels?" he asked.
He said the company had ample time to notify the city that CEI was changing plans.
Councilman Robert Cromwell also faulted Aldi's officials, saying they knew for a year that overhead power was to be installed yet said nothing to city officials. Even after the lines were being installed, Aldi's did not inform the city. He said it was either "ignorance or arrogance" on the part of Aldi's. "I find these things very troubling," he said.
Chardon Law Director James Gillette said CEI also was likely to know that it was violating city ordinances when it chose to install the overhead lines.
Joseph Orel, of JJO Construction, the contractor on site, said it did not make sense for CEI to consider the overhead lines. He said his company was responsible for excavating and provide the conduit for the underground service, not CEI, which would make it less costly for the power company.
Mr. Richards said, if the city is unwilling to give a variance for the above-ground service, it hopes it would at least allow the company to keep working.
Mr. King agreed, saying it appeared that CEI was as much at fault as anyone else in the matter.
"They hold the power," Mr. Richards said.
He asked what should be done if CEI is not cooperative on the matter, because the power company's costs will have to be calculated into the bond.
Mr. Gillette said the city will have to have a contingency plan, if CEI does not cooperate.
Planning commission chairman Kenneth Miller said he has little faith in CEI cooperating in the matter. "My experience in trying to get cooperation is they'll tell you to your face what you want to hear and then do what they want behind your back," he said. "I have no faith in the company."
Councilwoman Leslie Bednar asked whether the city could take any action against CEI for failing to abide by the rules.
Mr. Gillette said the city could make a phone call to CEI. If that proves to be futile, he said, the city could take enforcement action through the courts and obtain a court order.
Commission member Andrew Blackley said, in the past, the city has received power service from CEI separate from plans submitted by developers. He said such plans were submitted by the power company for the Hidden Glen subdivision. But, in this case, no such plans were submitted.
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