Applebee’s pulls zoning variance request in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For Bowling Green residents hungry for an Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar in the city, this may not be good news. Applebee’s filed for a zoning variance in June to allow for more parking spots at a potential location on South Main Street. But that request for a variance has been pulled, according to Bowling Green Planning Director Heather Sayler. “It was out of the blue,” Sayler said, adding that she was not told why the engineering firm, Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., withdrew the request. Calls by BG Independent News to the engineering firm in Chicago were not returned. But Sayler said she has gotten mixed messages from the engineering firm, with the city planning office being told to “keep on hold” the request filed for a zoning permit for the restaurant. “I wish I knew more, but I don’t,” Sayler said on Friday. The withdrawal of the variance request was on the agenda of the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals’ meeting on July 13. The casual dining restaurant had requested a variance to allow more parking spots than now permitted at a site at 1175 S. Main St., near Home Depot on the south edge of the city. The request sought a variance to allow 11 parking spaces that would have encroached 5 feet into the required 5-foot setback to the north and east. “The city has definitely been in communication” with representatives of Applebee’s, Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards said last month. Sayler had been working with an Applebee’s representative to find a location for the restaurant, he said. “They definitely have been showing interest,” the mayor said of Applebee’s. “They were looking at different sites,” specifically along East Wooster Street near Interstate 75, Edwards said. But the restaurant chain seemed more interested in the South Main Street location, closer to U.S. 6 traffic.  


UT vets office director, Haraz Ghanbari, seeks Ohio House seat

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News A third Republican candidate has stepped forward to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of State Rep. Tim Brown to become president of the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments. Haraz Ghanbari, director of military and veterans affairs at University of Toledo, has applied to Ohio Speaker of the House Clifford Rosenberger to fill the vacancy, and then he will seek the nomination from the Wood County Republican Party for the nomination to run in November. Ghanbari, who enlisted in the Army National Guard at 17, said being in the State House of Representative was “a bigger way to serve.” Ghanbari has served a total of 15 years in the Army National Guard and the Navy Reserve. He is a lieutenant in the Navy. His service has included deployment to Bosnia in the Army and Afghanistan with the Navy.  A public affairs officer, he has also worked for the Associated Press in its Washington Bureau. The Perrysburg resident joins Theresa Charters Gavarone, a member of Bowling Green City Council, and Edward L. Schimmel, the mayor of Northwood. According to a press release from Rosenberger, the selection committee will meet next week to discuss who will fill the vacancy until the beginning of the next legislative term. In an interview late Friday afternoon, Ghanbari said his life has been “dedicated to serving others,” In that he’s like the people who settled Wood County, he said. These “well-intentioned people” created a society that gave “many people an opportunity to succeed.” Ghanbari grew up in Ohio and graduated from Bay Village High School in 1999 and Kent State in 2004. He said there are people every day who take oaths to serve their fellow citizens. That includes not just those in the service but also the person bagging groceries at WalMart or the person who greets others at church. “I have a grateful heart for all those who serve in many capacities,” he said. As exciting as his work as an AP photojournalist was, taking him to 30 countries and covering two presidents,…


Glass mosaic would add sparkle & shade to Community Center lobby

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Gail Christofferson’s community mosaics are made from thousands of bits of glass, and by thousands of hours of work by hundreds of community members. Some will trim and sort thumbnail-size bits of glass. Some will glue those down in preordained patterns. And some to create those designs. When all is done, Christofferson hopes to have as many as 50 20-inch-by-20-inch glass mosaic panels. Those panels will provide an artistic solution to a problem at the Bowling Green Community Center’s lobby. Now, explains Kristen Otley, the director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, at certain times of day in certain seasons, the staff members working at the main desk are blinded by the sunshine.  That makes it difficult for those trying to serve the public during those times. Right now there are shades up. But Otley envisioned something else. She knew Christofferson from the workshops the artist has presented for Parks and Recreation. In 2011 and 2012 Christofferson facilitated the creation of a mural at the new Otsego Elementary school. Since then she’s turned to glass work full time and worked on about more 10 mosaic projects, as well as smaller work notably her mosaic guitars. Otley said they talked about it for a couple years. It always came down to where the money would come from. They decided to team up with the Kiwanis Club, and working with Alisha Nenadovich, they requested funds from the Bowling Green Community Foundation. It’s the kind of project the foundation likes, Otley said. Something that involves the whole community. The mosaic project was awarded a $5,000 grant. That’s enough for 20 panels, Christofferson said. “Visually my ideal is 50 squares.” She hopes to find donors to sponsor a square or two or several. The price is for $250 a single square with the price per square declining to five squares for $1,000. She plans to send out a fundraising appeal in the fall. After the summer, she’ll be able further gauge how far along the project is. Those sponsoring the panels, can…


‘We run, we get shot. We stay still, we get shot.’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As well intentioned white people sat around the table expressing varying degrees of outrage over the latest shootings of black men by white law enforcement officers, Ana Brown had to interject. “As the only black person in the room,” Brown wanted them to know how she felt. “I’m tired. As black people, we are so tired. We are tired of black people being hashtags.” During Thursday’s meeting of the Bowling Green Not In Our Town organization, Brown shared the story of a black student who was recently pulled over because of a clerical error. The student was surrounded by police with guns drawn, then handcuffed. “That would not happen to me,” said Cindy Baum, who is white. “We run, we get shot. We stay still, we get shot,” Brown said. The Not In Our Town meeting gave people a chance to discuss the police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota this week, and to ask local law enforcement how things can go so horribly wrong. “This is the place we talk about this stuff,” said Rev. Gary Saunders, of NIOT. The shootings brought a couple new people to the meeting this week. One was seeking answers. “After the recent events, I can’t sit back anymore,” Baum said. “It is pretty remarkable how much of this is happening over and over and over again. Something has to change.” Others said the issue isn’t new, just the proliferation of videos from cell phones. “Thank goodness,” Baum said. Despite their frustration, there was a realization that the public only sees fragments from video footage. “Right now we don’t know all the facts,” said Lt. Dan Mancuso, of the Bowling Green Police Division. “We’re getting bits and pieces reported from the media.” “There’s more to the story,” agreed Bowling Green State University Police Chief Monica Moll. But Moll also said it’s hard to deny that a problem exists. “It’s tough when you see a group of incidents, when you know there is something wrong,” she said. Moll said she believes the problems…


BG asked to be patient on green space decision

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green residents were urged to be patient as the city deliberates on the future of the gray area known as the downtown green space. On Tuesday evening, Mayor Dick Edwards said he expects the city to make some decisions within the next two months on the open 1.7 acres at the corner of West Wooster and South Church streets that formerly housed the junior high school. Edwards noted that the 15-member Green Space Task Force completed its work more than nine months ago, after “very intensive study efforts.” That group suggested that the location be preserved as a green space and gathering area for the community. “I don’t want to see the work of that task force slip away or be forgotten,” the mayor said. The task force, led by Eric Myers, addressed the four points they were asked to study: Develop and recommend a conceptual plan for the space. Review the history of the site and prior recommendations for possible use of the space. Consider design elements that require minimal operating costs in keeping with the history of adjoining properties. Recommend a plan that lends itself to private fundraising efforts. In the nine months since then, City Council’s Public Lands and Building Committee looked at the possibility of a new city office building sharing the acreage with a green town square. “Council and the administration have been engaged in a process that reflects the weight of the topic and the value of the land as well as the varying opinions from many members of our community,” Edwards said to council. The mayor said that out of respect for that process, he has tried to listen quietly to public debate. “At the same time, it’s been no secret that I strongly favor the retention of the 1.7-acre green space as green space given its integral spatial relationship to our historic downtown and the adjoining historic church and neighborhood,” Edwards said. “I see great value in what it means to be a vibrant and healthy community to…


Charters Gavarone interested in state rep seat

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council member Theresa Charters Gavarone announced Wednesday evening that she is seeking the state representative seat vacated by the resignation of State Rep. Tim Brown. Charters Gavarone, a Republican, is an attorney, business owner, and is serving her second term as council member representing the city’s Fourth Ward. She earned a business degree from Bowling Green State University and a law degree from the University of Toledo. “I really enjoy the work on council,” she said Wednesday evening. “I think I have something to offer at the state level.” Charters Gavarone said she is interested in mental health issues, drug addiction, education and economic development. As an attorney for 22 years, Charters Gavarone said she has first hand experience with the justice system. “The impact of mental illness and drug addiction on both adults and children is devastating on both a personal and community basis. Although a lot is happening to improve services, there is more work to do to make services available to those in need.” “I think we have a long way to go,” she said Wednesday evening. As co-owner with her husband of the Mr. Spots restaurant in downtown Bowling Green, Charters Gavarone said she understands the role small businesses play in the local economy. “I think it’s important to keep Wood County working,” she said. “It’s important to support small businesses.” Charters Gavarone also pointed to her experience as a parent. “As a mother of three, I understand the challenges faced by families, children, and schools,” she said in making the announcement. “I’ve worked with students in the classroom and library and have supported teachers and coaches as a fundraiser and volunteer. Wood County needs a representative who understands the issues from all sides and someone who is willing to listen and represent their interests in Columbus.” As a city council member, Charters Gavarone said she has employed a bipartisan approach to issues. “In my years as an elected official, I have proven that I can work with people to…


Teen musician Grant Flick having fun fiddling around the country

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Musician Grant Flick, 17, has gone from being the talk of the town to earning plaudits in national roots music circles. A few years back he was jamming with guitarist Frank Vignola, when the New York-based jazz recording artist, was playing a show at Grounds for Thought. This spring when Vignola brought together his favorite young guitarists for a showcase in Salt Lake City, he made sure Flick and his violin was on the bill as well. Flick, who also plays mandolin and tenor guitar, continues to gig locally with Acoustic Penguin and as a duo with his father, Don Flick. He’s also spreading his wings with his own trio of fellow string prodigies Ethan Setiawan on mandolin and Jacob Warren on bass. The trio, billed as New Branch, with vocalist Sadie Gustafson-Zook, will perform at the Red Wing Roots Festival this summer. Local audiences will get a chance to get a taste of Flick’s trio when the band plays the Black Swamp Arts Festival. That trio will have string wizard Josh Turner on subbing for Setiawan who will be off studying in Valencia, Spain, at the time. For all the whirlwind activity of his career one thing remains constant for Flick: “I still do it for fun. That’s the main reason I do it. I wasn’t going after this as a career; I was going after it because it was fun. And that’s still the reason I do it. I enjoy it.” Flick met Turner, Setiawan and Warren at the American String Symposium, a select gathering of the best roots music strings players under 22, hosted by the Savannah Music Festival. At the event players have time to collaborate and work on original music. The trio, Flick said, plays all their own tunes. Flick has expanded his musical arsenal. He often plays a five-string violin, which extends the range of the fiddle down into the viola register. He also plays the mandolin and, more recently, the tenor guitar. That instrument, like the mandolin, has the same tuning as…


BG Council balks at setting tough trash bin rules

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After months of discussions on garbage bins cluttering front yards, the bins have yet to budge an inch. Other college towns in Ohio have set clear rules about garbage bins in their communities, but Bowling Green is reluctant to ask residents to move their bins beyond the front of their homes. City officials spent well over two hours discussing the issue again Tuesday evening – first during a committee meeting, then at the city council meeting. Those who want the most sweeping changes have heard from citizens who are tired of overflowing trash cans sitting in front yards and littering their neighborhoods. Those who want minor changes have heard from citizens who say moving the bins back from the front of their homes would pose a hardship. At the end of discussions, city council presented a watered down version of the original proposal – and it’s still not clear if that has enough support to pass a first reading at the next council meeting. City Council had wanted the new rules to be in place by time BGSU students arrived back in town at the end of August. Those council members wanting the strictest rules were Daniel Gordon, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino. Those wanting the loosest requirements were Mike Aspacher, Theresa Charters Gavarone and Bruce Jeffers. Bob McOmber appeared to be the swing vote, with his secondary concern being clear wording that citizens can understand and the city can enforce. Some in the audience appreciated the “healthy debate,” which was a little testy at times. But some were frustrated with the proposal that was weaker than they wanted. “I’m very disappointed and depressed that a majority of the council can’t stand up for the older neighborhoods,” said Les Barber, who lives on North Prospect Street. Many of the older neighborhoods have been overtaken by rental properties, where residents take less pride in their homes. That leads to “degradation of those areas,” he said. Barber questioned how the city will proceed with its neighborhood revitalization plan if…


County cool to solar field request for tax break – commissioners want more information

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The prospect of Bowling Green having the largest solar field in Ohio appeals to county officials – but they don’t like to be kept in the dark about tax abatement details. So on Tuesday, company officials involved in building and operating the solar field northeast of the city were asked to explain their request for a 30-year tax break for the $43 million project. Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw noted the confusion on the part of NextEra Energy officials about needing to outline their request. But she explained that the commissioners have a policy of meeting in person with any company that wants tax breaks. “We certainly feel it’s something we need to know as much as we can about,” Herringshaw explained to representatives of NextEra Energy and AMP Ohio. The tax abatement request for the solar field is unlike those that normally come before the commissioners. First, the amount is massive, giving a tax break of $10 million over just the first 15 years. Second, the duration is proposed at 30 years, compared to the customary 10 to 15 years. Third, there is no ongoing employment, which is the basis for most tax breaks. Construction of the solar field will employ about 85 people from July 18 to Dec. 31. And 80 percent of those people are required to be Ohio residents – but there is no requirement that they come from Wood County. Fourth, regular tax abatements require that school districts be “made whole” by the business getting the tax break, but this agreement does not. The company will pay some money to local taxing authorities “in lieu of” the tax breaks, but not the entire amount. One other concern is that the solar array will be built using panels from Hanwha – not Wood County’s First Solar company.  Jared Haines, of NextEra Energy, said his company has an ongoing relationship with Hanwha, which produces solar panels that have a “less toxic influence” when they are removed at the end of their usefulness. But Wood…


County senior center expenses getting old for BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The building used to house senior citizens services in Bowling Green is a senior itself. And like anything elderly, the 102-year-old structure is showing its age and facing some costly repairs to keep it functioning. Earlier this year during a city strategic planning meeting, it was noted that major structural repairs are needed at the Wood County Senior Center, which the city leases to the Wood County Committee on Aging for $1 a year. But while the rent is cheap, the repairs are not. Many city officials were not aware of any contract holding the city responsible for repairs, but learned the city had always just done the work. However, the long-standing lease agreement for the senior center does state the city is responsible for “major maintenance requirements,” including repairs to the roof, boiler, furnace and electric system. The agreement holds the Wood County Committee on Aging responsible for “minor building repairs,” such as general maintenance and upkeep including interior painting. So city officials are looking for someone to share the costs of the senior center, which started out as a post office in 1914 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. And the most natural place to look for help is Wood County, since the senior center serves residents of the entire county not just Bowling Green. “We would like to have a discussion with the county commissioners,” said Bowling Green City Council President Mike Aspacher. “We would like to have that discussion to figure out if we can work together to do what the building needs.” However the Committee on Aging’s six satellite sites in North Baltimore, Pemberville, Perrysburg, Rossford, Walbridge and Wayne are also open to any older residents of the county, and rely on community partners, according to Denise Niese, executive director of the Wood County Committee on Aging. None of those communities are objecting to the expense, she said. “We could not do what we do throughout the county without support of the communities,” Niese said. None of the senior…


Local athlete AJ Digby to represent USA on Paralympic track & field team

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When AJ Digby was born without fibula in both his legs, his parents believed he would never walk. The doctor was reassuring. He’ll be able to climb trees, he said. He’ll be able to play soccer, his mother Robin Digby said. When AJ Digby was 10 months old, both his feet were amputated. Soon he was fitted with his first prosthetics. Now 18, AJ Digby has made the USA Paralympic Track & Field Team. He’s headed to Rio de Janeiro in September to represent the United States in the Paralympics. This weekend the official announcement of the track and field. And though he’s already represented the USA in the World Games, making the Paralympic squad is “the pinnacle … the ultimate” said his father, Gordon Digby. His parents are making their way back from Charlotte, North Carolina, where the trials were held, and where they experienced yet another milestone in their son’s sports career. It was their son’s second try at making the team. He participated in the trials in 2012. He ran in the 100, 200 and 400 meter races, though it’s uncertain which events he’ll run in Brazil. Born into a sports-obsessed family, his participation in sports isn’t surprising. “Our kids didn’t have a chance,” said Gordon, who played football and ran track. “They fell into sports very early.” Robin Digby competed in volleyball. “We’re into all kinds of sports,” Gordon Digby said. Despite using prosthetics, AJ Digby competed against able bodied athletes in a range of sports, basketball, soccer, hockey and his favorite, football. Still as hard as he tried, his father said, there were limits to how competitive he could be until he started running. Blade technology leveled the playing field. Now he could show his best running against his friends and athletes from other schools. “It was awesome to watch him continue to compete and progress and get faster and faster,” Robin Digby said. In May he graduated from Otsego High School. He’s intent on starting his freshman year at University of Mount Union…


Assessing the State of a 240-year-old Nation on its birthday

By BG INDEPENDENT NEWS Between the last blast of “The Stars and Stripes Forever” and the first blast of Bowling Green’s fireworks display, BG Independent News roamed through the crowd Sunday night to ask people how they were feeling about the state of the United States during the celebration of its 240th birthday. The responses ranged from upbeat to concerned, from pithy to expansive. Here’s what we heard: Chip Myles, of Bowling Green, disputed the naysayers who paint a negative picture of the state of America on its 240th “I think we’re far better off than people realize. How many people can gather freely throughout the world, like we do?” he said. “Everything we hear is negative. The economy is not what it was, sure, but it’s still good.” Myles did voice one complaint: Philanthropists focus some of their wealth on helping Americans in need. There is no need for people in America to go hungry. “I wish they would help some of our own here, they have so much.” David Hupp, a 1964 BGSU alumnus who lives in Sylvania and returned for Sunday’s fireworks, sees the nation at turning point. “I think we’re at a crossroads. We have two candidates that are running that both have a lot of negatives. One is certainly being supported by special interests. The other one only has his self-interests.” One may need to be pardoned, and the other has no tact, he added. “One may take us to war and that scares me.” The presidential election will be tough, but the nation will remain strong. “This country has survived much worse.” Curtis Bennett, of Kenton, gave the nation a solid “poor” rating and listed off the negatives. “The economy. You don’t make enough money to support your family. The crime rate has gone through the roof. And drugs have taken control,” said Bennett, whose wife has family in Portage. “When we were growing up, it took a community to raise a child.” Now many communities have lost their way. As proof, he said a spectator was stabbed during…


Lisa Chavers taps into love of relationships for first book

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Lisa Chavers holds onto friendships. She’s still is in touch with her best friend for first grade. Her 87-year-old mother says that Chavers, who turns 57 on July 4th, I “the most relational” person she knows. That’s not just because Chavers keeps in touch with people, but also because she thinks deeply about those relationships, what sustains them and how they shift over time, and sometimes how to discard them. The retired Bowling Green State University administrator has put those thoughts into a book “The Rhythm of Relationships.” She’ll have a reception and book signing for the book Saturday, July 9, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Grounds for Thought, 174 S. Main St., Bowling Green. “Over time, relationships can develop their own rhythm, pace, cadence, and unique sound,” she writes early in the book, and through its spare 105 pages, she explores how this happens. It’s told through the lens of her own life, growing up in Cleveland, both in the city and often visiting extended family in rural Twinsburg. A major aspect of her life is being a devote Christian. That’s how she was raised. “I know what I am and what I was trained to be from youth, a God-fearing young lady,” she said. Her acceptance of Jesus Christ as her savior in 1978 is so crucial it is in the first sentence of her introduction. She cites the Bible. But, she said, the Bible is a book, the Lord is a living presence. Still as much as she draws sustenance from her faith, Chavers aims to enlighten those who don’t share it into the importance of relationships and how they change and how that change needs to be addressed. As much as the book is the work of a lifetime, she traces its origin though back to a class in mission work at her parish, the Covenant Church in Maumee. She wrote a paper on her experience in Jamaica. On the top, the teacher, whom Chavers held in high esteemed, wrote in red ink: “You…


Senior sleuths study if BG is age friendly

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   So, just how age friendly is Bowling Green? To find out, a group of senior citizen sleuths was armed with cameras and sent out to document how accommodating the community is to its oldest residents. The study used World Health Organization criteria for age-friendly cities, and paired up local senior citizens with a Bowling Green State University graduate class in gerontology led by Dr. Wendy Watson. The project began by finding willing participants at the Wood County Committee on Aging, then setting them loose in the community with cameras to photograph ways in which the city poses challenges and helps senior citizens. “These are people who don’t often have a voice,” Watson said. The photos showed a city with some roadblocks and some assists for seniors. “It’s not perfect, but it’s getting better,” Watson said the results revealed. “There were many more positives than the students expected.” The challenges included areas not made accessible to some seniors, such as not having handicapped doors, no hand railings and missing sidewalks that make it very difficult to navigate especially for someone using a motorized scooter. The study also found that while Bowling Green has many services that are helpful to seniors, they are not accessible to all. “We certainly have some great services, but not everybody can afford those things,” Watson said, noting the cost of transportation services. “Those aren’t available to everybody if you don’t have the money.” “Transportation comes up over and over and over,” as a barrier to seniors, she said. The study also identified support systems in the community, such as the Wood County Committee on Aging, churches, medical services and volunteer opportunities for senior citizens. And the seniors participating in the study noted positive attitudes in the community about aging residents. “There’s a friendliness of the community,” and a growing sensitivity to the needs of seniors, Watson said. “They had seen positive changes over time.” For example, the larger lighted street signs installed by the city were appreciated by the seniors. The study pointed…


For Garrison Keillor, the time is right to part company with “A Prairie Home Companion”

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News It’s not like Garrison Keillor hasn’t left me before. Back in 1987, he deserted “A Prairie Home Companion” to go to Denmark in pursuit of an old flame. Then he came skulking back two years later. Said he’d changed. Took up residence in New York City, the metropolis he’d dreamed about as he read The New Yorker back in Minneapolis. Now the show had a grander moniker, “American Radio Company of the Air.” He drew on New York talents, including those from Broadway, notably Walter Bobbie who went on to direct a smash revival of “Chicago.” Keillor himself sang more, engaging in duets with a dazzling rotation of female vocalists. When that show moved back to Minnesota, it still carried some of its cosmopolitan airs. A year later it returned to its maiden name and has been faithful to its listeners in the intervening decades. Now the show hit the road and high seas. Traveling more to Hawaii and Iceland. Tonight (July 2), the last “A Prairie Home Companion” with Keillor as host will be broadcast on public radio stations across the country, including WGTE-FM in Toledo. Maybe it’s telling that the show was done in the Hollywood Bowl, far removed from its prairie roots and is a rare recorded original broadcast. The last live broadcast was last weekend from the tony environs of Tanglewood in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. Maybe it’s just me, but this seems less momentous than the 1987 departure. That show was a must listen and extended well beyond its scheduled closing time. This season has been more of an extended fade out, a fade to black for many local listeners given WGTE has announced it will stop broadcasting the show after Saturday. My waning interest as the show ends mirrors my slow acceptance of it. I remember hearing a bit of it back in 1980 or so. It hadn’t been airing nationally all that long. The clip I heard struck me as nostalgia for a better time that never was. Still like a mosquito…