Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Trouble at Lincoln Park – April 1967

Since the last two days’ posts have been about Lincoln Park Ballroom, I might as well post this article, which ran in the Journal on April 1, 1967. It details some of the unhappy problems that were going on at that time between the nightclub and the neighborhood surrounding it.

It's nothing to be nostalgic about, but still, it's part of the history of the property.


Lincoln Park Is Talking About…
Battle Plans
Staff Writer

Inside, Lincoln Park Ballroom throbs with the sounds of electric guitars and snare drums.

Outside, neighbors seethe with resentment.

Inside, young people sway with the beat of rock-and-roll bands.

Outside, home owners shake their fists and curse.

Discord between area families and ballroom owners is mounting and does not promise to diminish even when the last chords of popular songs fade away.

In fact, the rift promises to erupt at any moment into a legal showdown.

THE PROBLEM at Lincoln Park is an old one – but the recent fuss, which culminated at a public hearing last week, began when ballroom owner Richard Yepko petitioned the City Planning Commission for a rezoning ordinance.

The private park is one block west of Broadway, nestled between mobile homes on the west side and Lincoln, Jefferson and Josephine streets on the east.

Last summer, Yepko asked that seven acres of his property be rezoned. Yepko said he needed the new classification to build a swim club at one end of the park.

HIS PLANS call for pool and clubhouse that would shelter a dining room and bar, at one end, and bathhouses at the other. The club would be private with 500 members and would be operated independently of the ballroom.

The swim club would take up only a small portion of available land in the park. The remaining area, between the club and ballroom would be used for parking, tennis courts and picnic facilities.

Although the presence of the ballroom upset Yepko's neighbors, it was his announcement of swim club plans that really riled them.

They felt it would only be another headache – creating more traffic congestion, more vandalism and more noise.

In the past, they say, windows have been broken by flying wine bottles, yards have been torn up by passing cars, mail boxes have been knocked down, noise has kept them awake at night, and streets have been clogged with cars that file in and out of the park.

THEY DIDN'T fight it before but with the announcement of the swim club, they feel their headaches will double.

Some of them are pretty upset.

Said Mrs. Junior B. Haller of 194 Lincoln Ave.: "When I first moved out here my taxes were $38 a year. Now I pay $100 a year and all I got to show for it is a busted street."

"The speeding out here is terrible," said Mrs. Michael Yuhas Jr. of 202 Lincoln Ave. "We have 36 children who live out here in this area and someday one of them is going to get killed."

Donald R. Jordan of 198 Lincoln Ave. agrees.

"THE STREETS out here are pretty narrow and there aren't any sidewalks. With all these cars coming in and out, there isn't even room for a teenager to ride a bicycle on them," he said.

"It's not that we object to a swimming pool," said Robert M. Bernhardt, leader of the opposition group. "As a matter of fact, I think it's a great idea. But this just isn't the place for it."

BERNHARDT, who lives at 230 Jefferson Ave., recently gathered his neighbors in an organized band to fight the rezoning measure. They appeared before city council at the public hearing and presented a petition signed by 27 residents who were against it.

Yepko, on the other hand, gave council a petition with names of 37 people who were in favor of it.

Yepko says he fails to see what neighbors were complaining about.

"I don't know," he said, shaking his head, "you try to do something nice and look what they do to you."

Yepko pointed with pride to the inside of the night club.

"We run a good place here. No trouble, and no complaints until I proposed this swim club," he said.

Yepko said he kept a careful watch on young patrons who come to his place to dance. He pulled out a list of rules.

ANYONE WHO violates the rules or misbehaves could be banned from the club anywhere from six months to six years. The list of offenses ranges from abusive language to possession of a false identification card to possession of fireworks.

"We've kicked out more than 200 kids for rule violations," he said.

He said he takes special care to see no one carries drinks in or out of the building.

"If bottles of beer or pop are thrown on these people's lawns (and I don't believe they are), they don't come out of my place."

Yepko said he employes four special patrolmen to check rowdyism, illegal drinking, reckless driving and to park cars in the lot."

"I DON'T think these people have anything to complain about," he said, "and I still can't see why they oppose my swim club."

Yepko said he had received few or no complaints from the 106 families who live in two mobile home parks on the ballroom's west side.

"Most of them favor the swim club," he declared.

Mrs. Neal Szabados, a member of the neighborhood opposing the club, disagrees with Yepko.

"I don't think many of them are well-informed about how it is going to be operated or what they are going to charge. Most of the people in the trailer park won't be able to send their children to the pool every day."

Mrs. Szabados, who lives with her family at 3945 Josephine St., said the neighbors finally decided to fight the proposal after taking "all we could stand."

"WE'VE TAKEN it all – car jams, vandalism, noise – everything – without a whimper. Now we're going to stick up for our rights," she said.

Her husband has been helping the effort by taking pictures of alleged offenses and plans to display them at next Monday's meeting with City Council.

At the neighborhood powwow last Monday night, Bernhardt laid out the strategy for the skirmishes ahead.

"We've had all kinds of complaints. We've bent over backwards and went along with all this wahoo. Now we're going to fight back.

"We're going to make him obey all parking violations. If a car pulls into your driveway," Bernhardt told the group, "call the police. If the police give you a run-around, keep calling them back.

"Anytime you have any vandalism, call the police and then call Yepko. Get him over here and confront him with it.

"If you have any bottles and cans on your yard, don't pick them up," he continued. "Let it sit there until it gets nice and thick. Then call the city service director.

"KEEP COMPLAINING until something gets done.

"If we have to get nasty, let's get nasty. We'll tear city hall apart if we have to But, above all, stick together."

Bernhardt confided the group may hire an attorney, "if worse comes to worse," adding that his group would fight to have their ward declared "dry" by voters if Yepko's swim club is approved.

Yepko, in turn, says he'll exhaust all legal possibilities until he gets approval. It's either sink or swim for him.

UPDATE (October 1, 2015)
According to an article sent to me by Rick Kurish that appeared in the Chronicle-Telegram on June 28, 1967, Lorain City Council’s building-lands committee "recommended unanimously that rezoning to permit the club be denied.” That apparently scuttled the swim club for good.

In May, the Planning Commission had voted to approve the request to rezone the area from a residential classification to one that would allow for the swim club. But Council refused to agree with the Commission’s recommendation, due to the objection of the nearby land owners.


Anonymous said...

So,what is the rest of story? What was outcome?&

Dan Brady said...

I'm going to have to go back and hit the microfilm to find out. We know the swim club was never built, but I'll have to go see if it was killed at the zoning stage. Sorry about that! Often when I am on microfilm, I gather screen-grabs of things that look interesting and then end up reading them – and posting them – months (or years) later!

I'll post an update right under this original post as to what I find (give me a few days to head back to the library).

-Alan D Hopewell said...

Isn't Richard Yepko the guy who became "Big Dick" in the 70's?