Friday, March 11, 2011

Oakwood Reconsidered

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.

2 comments:

Laurel said...

We can stop Mr. Schnieder and his destruction of Oakwood -- why not make a commitment to HELP? You can volunteer -- collect signatures -- donate money.

We can prevent rezoning of the Oakwood property. Nobody will build small homes there in this economy! If we keep Interstate from building, in time they may be willing to sell the land to the Metroparks at a reasonable price.

I know you have big dreams for an "upscale" place like Legacy (but ten minutes from the REAL Legacy Village) but the reality is, this is CH and SE: very downmarket. This will be a big Walmart SuperCenter just like the one at Rockside Road (PLEASE DRIVE BY THIS AND SEE OUR FUTURE!!!!). It is also a lower middle class area. The presence of Walmart DROVE OUT Target next door -- so they have no Target store now. WIll this happen to our Target store at Cedar Center????

When Walmart MOVES (as they have told all their employees already), the store at Severance will CLOSE. Other stores will follow -- they will go to Oakwood (if developed). We had big dreams for Severance Town Center? Remember? What is there now? IHOP, Burger King...dollar stores like Conway. The bookstore is gone. The parking lot is filthy. They have lots of crime. I only go if I am desperate (yes, it's worth driving 4 miles to go to the Home Depot on Wilson Mills!)

Interstate will NOT be building us an IKEA surrounded by Trader Joe and fancy upscale stores -- we already have that nearby. Why would a wealthy person drive from Beachwood to go into CH? Makes no sense! We will have fast food and drive thrus -- cell phone stores -- dollar stores -- cheap junk. In a few years, it will look JUST LIKE the Rockside Walmart SuperCenter -- a giant big box, surrounded by blight.

Hank Drake said...

Laurel,

You spoke in another post about saving "our" greenspace. Have you ever heard of private property rights? The Oakwood land is not "ours", it is Mr. Schneider's. Severance Neighborhood Association tried and failed to raise the money to purchase Oakwood. No other concern - neither South Euclid, Cleveland Heights, nor the Metroparks - has ever come forward and expressed interest in this land. The time for trying to make Oakwood into a public park has passed.

The time has now come to work with First Interstate to encourage them to bring the kinds of services that are needed in the area, and to build this center in the best way possible. Will there be fast food there? I somewhat doubt it, as there is plenty of that within walking distance. As for Home Depot, I am loathe to shop there whether it's at Severance or on Wilson Mills. I prefer Lowe's and I have already suggested one go to Oakwood. In the end, all we can do is make suggestions.

In any case, the purpose of my comment is not to put together a wish list of which retailers/restaurants should, could, or would go into Oakwood Commons. That has been discussed an nauseum elsewhere. We have no more right to make demands in that area than I have to dictate who you would rent or sell your home to.

Perhaps if people like yourself, Fran Mentch, and Susan Miller had been more interested in working with Mr. Schneider instead of demonizing him, you might have had more leverage beyond desperate and irrational letters to the Sun newspapers and posts on various sites.

Based on your bitter and overpuctuated posts and letters, it's clear that you hate the area in which you live.*

Hank Drake

*LETTER TO THE EDITOR of THE CLEVELAND FREE TIMES, 7-8-99, by Laurel Freeder

"I think the issue of urban sprawl is bogus. The inner ring suburbs you describe -- I live in Cleveland Heights, the worst of all of them -- are decaying from bad management, rotten schools and most of all, high taxes.

There is no way in a free society to legislate where people can live. I applaud my former neighbors who have had the guts and vision (and the dollars) to move out of a decaying inner ring environment, where it is virtually impossible to effect any kind of meaningful change in the local governmental policies which have led over the decades to appalling decline.

It is absolutely ludicrous to assume that citizens can be bullied or forced to live in cities or suburbs that they don't like simply to fulfill some kind of silly utopian fantasy. If the "First Suburbs Consortium" wants to attract more residents to their individual cities, they should concentrate their efforts on

a) making their communities attractive to live in and

b) study what makes outlaying communities so appealing to homebuyers.
I can save them some time by stating the obvious: People want good schools and fair taxes.

In my community of Cleveland Heights, decades of addle-brained policy, overspending and bloated bureaucracy have nearly destroyed a once beautiful city, and have given us the second highest real estate taxes in Ohio and one of the worst-ranked school systems in the state.

I think the members of the "First Suburbs Consortium" care less about urban sprawl than attracting more tax dollars for ridiculous, overpriced projects, like Cleveland Heights' Forest Hills expansion, and also about lining their own corrupt pockets.

Laurel Freeder, Cleveland Heights"