Working Together to Resolve Neighbor Disputes
The Cities of Stow, Tallmadge, and Cuyahoga Falls are collaborating with The University of Akron School of Law to refresh the Neighborhood Mediation Program, or NMP. This program will provide citizens with an avenue to resolve conflict with neighbors without involving the court system. Akron Law students trained in mediation are volunteering to provide FREE mediation services for residents of those cities coordinated by each city's law director. "I have spoken with several citizens who can benefit from a program like this. Mediation is a way to avoid legal fees and court costs as well as providing a confidential service that will resolve current conflict and help avoid future conflict," says Jaime Syx, Stow Law Director.
"Akron Law is pleased to partner with the cities to assist the community in resolving disputes in a collaborative way. It provides our trained student-mediators with an opportunity to share their expertise and give back to the community." Professor Tracy A. Thomas, The University of Akron School of Law.
Mediation is a means for people to decide for themselves how they want to solve their problem. The mediator does not make decisions or provide judgment, just assists the parties in listening and understanding the other's position and hopefully coming to an amicable resolution. "Tallmadge has had this program available to our residents for years. We would love more people to be open to using this free, valuable service early in a dispute." Megan Raber, Tallmadge Law Director.
"The City of Cuyahoga Falls prioritizes building strong relationships within our neighborhoods to foster a sense of community and belonging. The Neighborhood Mediation Program is an opportunity to address neighborhood disputes before they escalate to the point of causing harm to valuable relationships." Cuyahoga Falls Law Director, Janet Ciotola.
If any resident feels that they have a matter that can be resolved through NMP, we encourage them to contact their respective law departments. There is an initial form that needs to be completed in order to determine if the resident's concern is appropriate for referral to NMP. Once the form is completed and reviewed by the law department, the citizen will be contacted. If the matter is appropriate for NMP, the respective law department will attempt to coordinate a mutually agreeable date and time for the mediation between the parties. The Akron Law students are trained in single mediation, Zoom mediation, and dual mediation, as well as facilitative and evaluative, so they are more than capable of providing whatever tailored approach is warranted in any particular situation.
Examples of matters appropriate for mediation include disputes as to trees, leaves, animals, noise, and other basic disputes that affect the health, safety, and welfare of the neighborhood. Examples of matters not appropriate for this program include pending or potential criminal violations, matters pending in civil litigation, property line disputes requiring a survey, or items already acted upon by the referring City.
"Our cities want to assist our residents in working together to resolve their disputes, not against each other. If we can bring people together and work toward the common goal of being able to enjoy one's home life, everyone will win and neighbors might even become friends. The fact that this can be done via Zoom, makes it even more convenient and easy for residents to participate." Syx explains.