Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It's a Done Deal

NOTE: I’ve received several comments to previous posts on the Telling Mansion – all anonymous. As stated on the frontispiece of my blog, I do not publish anonymous comments. If you wish for your comment to appear on the site, please include your name. Thanks.

 Last night, the Cuyahoga County Public Library board unanimously voted to sell the historic Telling Mansion to Richard Barone, a Cleveland investor who wants to use the building to house the American Porcelain Art Museum and Cultural Arts Center. Some of us foresaw this fate months ago, which is why we came together to form the Telling Mansion Preservation Organization: TeMPO.

I will defend neither the Library board’s decision nor the manner in which they arrived at it. It was contrary to the principles of open governance, and did not take the feelings of the affected citizens into account. However, per Ohio regulations the Library board is an independent entity – city and country officials are forbidden from blocking CCPL’s plans, just as they are not allowed to specify which books and other media the library may carry. So that begs the question: why did members of the Save the Mansion Library group take members of the Cuyahoga and South Euclid governments to task over the situation? Was it due to a lack of understanding of separation of powers on their part, simple desperation, or were certain members of that group using the library issue as a wedge against public servants they didn’t like?

While some members of the SML group may continue to shout “THIS IS NOT A DONE DEAL”, in reality – it is. Whatever one thinks of the library move, it’s now a certainty – no matter how many people picket, sign online petitions, hold “read-ins” or try to shout down speakers at local meetings. The question now is: should citizens continue to push the CCPL into remaining at a site it has neglected for the past decade and has decided to leave, or should we embrace a better guardian? Look for yourself at the deplorable condition of the floor tiles near the entry way or the stone wall running along the driveway. Observe for yourself how the gate house isn’t even open to the public. (I’ve been in the latter – the only possible use right now is as a haunted house.)

Wouldn’t it be more productive if citizens worked with Richard Barone, who wants to make good use of the Mansion, the grounds, and the gate house – which has been closed for years?

In June, members of TeMPO met with Mr. Barone and voiced several concerns: that the site be properly maintained and renovated with historical sensitivity; that the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Historical Society remains on site; that the site remain open for public use in addition to his proposed use as a museum; and that the site – including green space and watershed – be protected in perpetuity via the creation of a foundation with an endowment. Mr. Barone is interested in working with us to accomplish these goals. He reiterated such at a fundraiser TeMPO held in August.

It is doubly important that Mr. Barone is stepping in at this time, because his purchase does more to safeguard the Telling Mansion than the other options: selling to one of the other interested parties (both commercial) or keeping the Library there. At a recent meeting of the citizens’ steering committee for South Euclid’s new Master Plan, I learned that South Euclid’s other Mansion (in a secluded lot off Dorsh Road) may be for sale in the near future. The two mansions sit on adjoining parcels of land, and anyone who’s seen the properties could well envision a nightmare scenario in which both mansions are demolished and a new housing development put in their place.

What I find most objectionable are the accusations, made without any evidence, that TeMPO was secretly cobbled together by the CCPL, Mayor Welo, and Sunny Simon to clear the path for the library move. On the contrary, TeMPO is driven and run by local citizens from all walks of life and political persuasions, who work without compensation, who are solely concerned with the preservation of the Telling Mansion and grounds. Indeed, Mayor Welo’s opponent in the 2011 election, Robert Schoenewald, is a member of our board.

People can continue to scream “the Telling Mansion should be a library” until they’re blue in the face. Fact is, the library is going to move. We believe Mr. Barone’s proposal represents the best way forward for the Telling Mansion – South Euclid’s architectural gem.

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