Taylor Road rehab plan quietly ignores residents’ need for wider tree lawns
The plan to narrow South Taylor Road between Euclid Heights Blvd. and Mayfield Road, from seven lanes to five, is an improvement that is long overdue.
This brilliant idea is tarnished, however, because the Cleveland Heights administration is allocating all of the liberated land to the commercial zoning east of South Taylor, and offering nothing to the residents on west side of the heavily traveled roadway.
This misallocation of land was never presented to city residents but instead was conjured up behind closed doors.
The residents of the homes on the west side of South Taylor Road have a keen interest in the redesign of the road. Whenever the city is pummeled with a heavy snow, convoys of snowplows throw three lanes worth of ice and snow across the thin tree lawn that currently exists. This creates an ongoing hazard to South Taylor residents and others who need to use the sidewalk—particularly children, the elderly and the disabled. When passable, the sidewalk is used by many to access school buses, RTA shelters and shopping, and to walk their pets.
The plowing after the March 11 snowstorm generated a barrier of snow in driveway aprons that was—literally—knee deep. The residential sidewalk was peppered with ice boulders weighing up to 15 pounds. There was a time when a city Bobcat cleared the sidewalks on South Taylor Road, but that service ceased abruptly after the voters rejected a tax levy.
The city’s position - that it elicited public input on the South Taylor rehabilitation project - is only partially true. This so-called public input was in March 2002, nine years ago. More significantly, the current design is substantially different from what was presented at that public meeting.
In 2002, the residents were presented with cross-section and aerial diagrams of the existing conditions, and several alternative conceptual designs. The consensus at the time was that Concept C was the superior alternative. Among the features was a substantially wider tree lawn and sidewalk on the west side of the road, adorned with shade trees. The recommendation in 2002 was that the tree lawns should have a minimum width of 10 feet, with 12 feet being considered ideal.
Records show that city officials later modified Concept C to eliminate this desirable feature, but took no steps to inform the public—including residents of South Taylor Road—of the change. The evidence suggests that the current, modified design has never been presented to the public. A NOACA review team recommended a 15-foot tree lawn and sidewalk on the west side of the road, but the city rejected the suggestion.
The city acknowledged in an August 2009 document that it was responsible for conducting a public hearing on the environmental aspects of the project, yet there is no indication that any such hearing was held. This would have been an opportunity for the public to express concerns about how the rehabilitation project could provide a solution to the natural and manmade accumulation of snow and ice in the driveways and sidewalks.
At least one member of city council has expressed concern about the history of this rehabilitation project and is evaluating the information that has come to light. Perhaps there will be those who, having evaded the gauntlet of public scrutiny for nine years, will insist that too much time has passed to tolerate critical citizen input.
Yet, in light of the city’s recent commitment to sound principles of sustainability, it only makes sense that the Taylor Road Rehabilitation Project should proceed based on a design that is more insightful than expedient. Given that construction is scheduled to begin this year, time is of the essence.
Douglas Whipple has been a resident of Cleveland Heights for sixteen years.