Last night, the South Euclid planning commission held a meeting regarding the rezoning of the former Oakwood Club. Due to time constraints, statements from South Euclid citizens were kept to two minutes each - those from other localities 1 1/2 minutes each. Here is the complete text of my remarks, which I have also sent to the planning commission.
My name is Hank Drake. My family moved to South Euclid in 1971. I went to South Euclid-Lyndhurst schools – Anderson, Memorial, and Brush. After living in many towns all over America, I decided to move back to South Euclid in 2008. I have a vested interest in this community.
On January 5, I posted an entry to my blog in which I stated my opposition to the purchase of the Oakwood Club in general, and the building of more retail in this area in particular. I must confess, I am still skeptical about the creation of Oakwood Commons, in particular I do not want to see a Walmart or Sam’s Club there.
Concern has been expressed that the creation of Oakwood Commons would harm other local retailers. Both sides have cited studies which advance their own point of view. But we already have a real-life case study on the impact of additional retail: It’s called Legacy Village. Go to Beachwood Place. Go to La Place. They are as busy as they ever were before Legacy Village was opened – maybe more so. In any case, the purpose of zoning is not to protect niche retailers or to appease one set of people. The purpose of zoning is to ensure land-use that is fair to the greatest number of citizens, while also respecting private property rights. There have been times when politicians have overstepped those bounds and abused eminent domain, such as several years ago in Lakewood which got their mayor tossed out of office. I mention that case because eminent domain would now be the only way to overcome one simple fact: The South Euclid portion of the former Oakwood Club is now Mr. Schneider’s land. Whether we like it or not, it’s his private property to use as he sees fit, as long as it falls within an already established regulatory framework. Currently this land is zoned residential. Mr. Schneider could build houses on it right now, and we’d be powerless to stop him. The last thing this area needs is more housing. But anyone who thinks that Mr. Schneider, after spending all that money to acquire this land is just going to roll over and give it away for use as a park is living in Fantasyland.
What has changed my mind over this issue most of all has been the fact that, when I asked questions of First Interstate and those who support rezoning, I received answers that were factual and rational. But from the Citizens for Oakwood group, all I’ve heard were rumors, suppositions, hysteria, and condescension for the people of South Euclid.
I believe that our best option in South Euclid is to approve this rezoning, but to also use our resources to ensure that First-Interstate keeps their promises with regard to green, Leed-certified construction, mitigation of traffic issues, and builds the best center for the people of South Euclid and the surrounding communities to use. Those who don't like it don't have to shop there.