The undeveloped land situated between Broad and Walnut streets in kalida is the source of a dispute between the developer, Roger Rampe, and those property owners immediately adjacent.
The undeveloped land situated between Broad and Walnut streets in kalida is the source of a dispute between the developer, Roger Rampe, and those property owners immediately adjacent. (Google Maps)

KALIDA — At the August 28, 2017 meeting of the Kalida Village Council, Jason Birkemeier, Council President told local developer Roger Rampe the following, “Normally, we get a proposal, a site plan, and then if we have questions…we would have [the Village’s] engineer and solicitor get involved…That would be step one. Get us a plan to bring to these folks, and let us do some research.”

‘Step one,’ more than a year and a half later, has still not been cleared.

On Sept. 5, 2017, Rampe returned to Kalida’s Council with engineered drawings and spoke of his plan to haul in dirt from a nearby area of the flood zone. Also discussed was the riser that Rampe had attached to the village’s catch basin. At the time, Mayor Al Gerdeman informed Rampe that, “We do not allow anybody to tamper with the Village’s storm sewer system without permission.”

One year and four months later, the riser is still there.

The plans Rampe submitted were forwarded to the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources (ODNR). The agency, through emailed communications with the village, indicated that it did not have an issue with Rampe’s plan to bring in dirt from a nearby location within the expected flood zone (new flood zone maps were known at the time, becoming official in June of 2018, and includes the entirety of Rampe’s property). As Flood Zone Administrator, Gerdeman then approved these initial plans. Assuming the project continues forward, a post construction survey is also required to ensure no significant impact to the flood zone.

Rampe again returned to council on Mar. 19, 2018, seeking permission to begin construction. An agreement of sorts was eventually reached. Rampe said he would discuss the concerns regarding the riser with his neighbors. The village indicated that should the neighbors be satisfied, the town would be as well.

This either did not happen, or the neighbors were not satisfied. At the Oct. 1, 2018 meeting, the first neighbor appeared to voice their concerns. They asked pointed questions, and had also clearly done their homework on the new flood zone ordinance passed by council.

The wording of this legislation came almost entirely from FEMA. Its implementation was required for village residents to be able to access the federal flood insurance program. As such, council quickly approved and passed the ordinance. And then, with the legislation in place, began to understand what was in the ordinance they had passed.

“I’m asking point blank,” this neighbor said last October. “Have [required testing]…that are in your ordinance been done?”

“No,” answered Gerdeman

“Okay, so then why is there not a ‘cease and desist’ put on there. Because right now, he is in violation of [the ordinance].”

“He hasn’t done anything more since the last meeting,” Gerdeman responded.

“But, per [Bockrath & Assoc.] he has deviated from that plan,” said the neighbor.

This deviation now brings us to the present. At this past Monday’s Kalida council meeting, this neighbor plus four additional appeared to express their ongoing concerns. Their presence seemed sparked by recent actions taken by Rampe, who was also at the meeting.

Rampe, as his neighbors described and he readily admitted, has taken dirt placed on the property’s high ground (which is allowed) and pushed it into a low lying area (which is not allowed). He has also begun moving dirt into place to ready it for construction of a driveway. The neighbors present viewed this as a dyke which would immediately increase the likelihood of flooding on their own properties.

“So, how far away [have you gotten] from the proposal that was turned in.” asked Birkemeier to Rampe this past Monday. “How much different is it?”

“Oh, not much different,” responded Rampe. And then, through fits and starts, it eventually became obvious that the plans were either very different, or not set at all. Rampe contradicted himself on the number and placement of driveways, and if access would include a common drive or even a public roadway. At one point, he claimed that he was no longer interested in developing three homes, and would only build one instead.

“In order to get what you need for our ordinance, which is law,” Birkemeier said. “There is a flood hazard area development application. To meet the ordinance, you have to have that filled out and approved. Part of that is [submitting] a plan…I understand where the neighbors are coming from, because they don’t know what the plan is…We don’t know what the plan is. They have a right to know, and we have a right to know.”

This is not all that different from what Rampe was told in August of 2017, and he is already an experience developer. Yet, Rampe wanted more details on what was required to be included in the development plan. The village promised to provide a detailed list after consulting with the village’s Board of Public Affairs (BPA). Birkemeier also personally promised to keep the neighbors informed of any and all developments regarding Rampe’s project.

Following discussion, and after both Rampe and the five neighbors had left, one of the newer members of council asked, “Do we know what the path forward is if [Rampe] continues doing work?”

“I’d like to make a motion to go into executive session to discuss potential litigation,” Birkemeier said immediately, hinting towards an answer.