Public comments on development plan
So, what would you do to make sure Cleveland Heights remains a prosperous, desirable city in which to live, work, shop and recreate? That is the basic question the Cleveland Heights Strategic Plan 2010 strives to answer, and the city has asked residents to respond.
So far, about 28 residents and organizations have commented on the plan via the city’s website www.clevelandheights.com, and more than 50 people attended the public hearing on Sept. 13.
The primary focus is to find ways to increase the city’s tax base, with the highest priority on “strategies that will increase population, average household income and commercial tax revenue.” Yet a number of comments received so far raise concerns about the increasing number of vacant houses, the difficulty residents face trying to sell their homes and the number of houses slated for demolition.
For many, addressing the reasons that people are moving out of Cleveland Heights is more important than planning to build more houses and condominiums–let alone offer any kind of tax abatements.
Others recommend that the city start small to address obsolete housing characteristics that contribute to the loss of population.
While the plan addresses development issues throughout the entire city–with considerable focus on retail districts and new housing opportunities–many commentators zeroed in on the three paragraphs that identify alternative scenarios for the future of the former site of Oakwood Country Club.
At the public hearing, Councilman Dennis Wilcox, chair of the Council Planning and Development Committee, reiterated that the city does not own the 97-acre property, but that it is included in the plan “because of its significance.” Of the 29 online posts, 17 recommended the parcel be retained, either in part or in whole, as open space. The plan does not make a recommendation for Oakwood; it only summarizes the development possibilities and their impacts.
Some residents also took the opportunity to comment on the state of current recreation facilities, and many identified the need and benefits of more recreation as their justification for wanting to see Oakwood remain as open space.
FutureHeights and others requested that the city include maps that identify where problem areas are concentrated, where assets, such as historic properties and schools, can be leveraged, and which “locations are a priority for what kind of improvements.”
In addition, some stated that it would be easier to understand the rationale behind each strategy if more documentation of existing conditions, such as age distribution of current residents and characteristics and locations of renters, were included.
The plan is intended to guide future decisions of the Planning Commission, administration, City Council and “all who invest and develop in Cleveland Heights.”
Yet, some observed that the plan is more like an overwhelming “to-do” list with little guidance for where to start. At the public hearing, resident Mark Chupp said the plan identifies goals and ideas, but it needs a more clearly articulated vision, an analysis of the city’s strategic advantages, and strategies to deal with the city’s deficits.
An online post urged the city to transform the draft into a document that inspires “local citizens and businesses to rally behind all the tasks that must be done.” Overall, residents and local organizations appear to support the work accomplished so far, but underscore that “we’re all in this together,” and that the city should continue to engage citizens as partners in setting the course for the future.
Kristin Hopkins, AICP, is a land use planner with the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission and a resident of the Roxboro neighborhood.