KWWF and CVLC wins in Court!
On August 24, 2023 Geauga County Common Pleas Court Judge Paschke released her ruling in the case of Bainbridge Township fire and zoning vs Kelly’s Working Well Farm, finding that our educational programming, summer camps and farm immersion home-school cooperative, indeed qualify as agritourism, and that there is no legal basis for the Township’s claim that the farm was/is operating a school or day-care. Yet over the past four years the Township has used countless tax-funded hours pursuing their case against our small, non-profit educational farm. We believe that the role of local government should be to help its residents and to work with them to resolve concerns they may have. Township Council members refused to intervene, or even talk with us, in spite of the fact that it became increasingly clear that the township was pursuing a losing strategy – one that harmed the reputation of the township and incurred substantial financial costs to the taxpayers, in addition to creating needless legal fees, and causing well over 100 thousand dollars in lost revenue for the farm. The fact that this case had to be resolved in court is the biggest failure of all.
As a society we face significant challenges on many fronts. Many, if not all of them, will be best managed at a local level. This will require local government members and citizens who are good communicators, creative problem solvers, and always seek to understand each other and pursue win-win solutions. We hope that the members of the Bainbridge Council, as well as the zoning and fire inspectors will take this opportunity to change course and decide to work with the farm to resolve the remaining issues that prevent us from fully pursuing our educational and agricultural mission.
We are thankful to Emily Collins and Andy Karas of Fair Shake Environmental Defense for guiding us through a very challenging legal situation. Their high ethical standards and professionalism helped steady us during difficult times. We were supported by many folks in the community who wrote letters, gave technical advice or financial contributions, stood with us on the courthouse steps (!), and sent encouraging words and thoughts. Heartfelt appreciation and respect go out to the Chagrin Valley Learning Collective families who endured the trauma of dislocation and uncertainty over the past four years. We don’t know how the program would have survived without the steadfast presence of CVLC staff Erin Rodriguez who has stewarded the program through this whole period, and with the help of Paige Rutz, brought the program and summer camp back to the farm in 2022 in spite of threats of the Township to shut it down again. Thank you all! The CVLC begins its 2023-24 year on the farm next week and is still accepting new members.