Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Letter to Coucilman Romeo

Dear Councilman Romeo:

As a citizen of South Euclid and your ward, I am writing to express my opinion in favor of rezoning the South Euclid portion of the former Oakwood Club.

When the sale of the former Oakwood club was announced, I was opposed to rezoning and published a blog post to that effect. After researching the issue in depth, I came to realize that a refusal to rezone could lead to several alternatives – all of which would be devastating to South Euclid. You are welcome to review my blog posts here: http://hankdrake.blogspot.com/search/label/oakwood

Many of those opposed to rezoning at Oakwood have cited this as a decision that should be made regionally. The issue of regionalism has been a hot topic in Cuyahoga County for several years. While I favor regionalism in terms of smaller communities collaborating to save costs on things like rubbish collection and recycling, opponents of rezoning at Oakwood are using regionalism as an excuse for a larger suburb to exert undue influence upon a smaller one. It’s no coincidence that the majority of those opposed to rezoning hail from Cleveland Heights – indeed the primary driver of the opposition is the Severance Neighborhood Association, in collaboration with Heights businesses.

One of the factors that led me to support rezoning at Oakwood is that First Interstate has been very above board in their statements to the media and on the Oakwood Commons facebook page (to the extent of leaving comments from those opposed to rezoning on the page) while the anti-rezoning group has made many unsubstantiated claims, repeated them ad-infinitum, and censored their page – deleting many comments which do not agree with their agenda.

Basically, the issue of rezoning comes down to the best use for the community as a whole, as opposed to the needs of the few who would be negatively affected by rezoning. It is certainly understandable that those who live on streets bordering the old Oakwood Club would not want the area to change. But efforts to sell the Club have been common knowledge since the 1990s, so they should not be surprised or outraged that this is happening. Many of those opposed, either deliberately or through a form of collective delusion, refuse to comprehend that denying First Interstate’s zoning request does not mean the area will magically become a park. Instead, it will remain an unused empty space and eventually, the site of more housing – the LAST thing this area needs.

I also see the Oakwood Commons project in the larger context of the great things that are happening in University Circle and Gordon Square, which are helping to bring population back to the urban/inner-ring area. These efforts are vital if we are to combat exurban sprawl, which is the driving factor of fossil fuel consumption in America - a point that seems to be lost on those who claim to be concerned about the environment.

Many of those opposed have also stated that they do not oppose development per se, they just oppose development at Oakwood. The problem with that line of thinking is that developers wishing to invest in an area will look to a municipality’s history in dealing with business. They are far less likely to invest in a city which denies rezoning requests or engages in arbitrary and needless over regulation. They are far more likely to work with a city that shows genuine interest in improving its business areas – even when that city holds the developer to rigorous design and environmental standards. That is exactly the course South Euclid should follow after approving First Interstate’s rezoning request.

Hank Drake

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