Citizens protest Oakwood development

Aiyanna Adorjan, a fourth grader at Noble Elementary School, protested before the public hearing on the proposed Oakwood development at South Euclid City Hall.

About 50 citizens from Cleveland Heights, University Heights, South Euclid and other communities held signs in front of South Euclid City Hall on May 25 to protest the development of the former Oakwood Country Club.

The protests were a prelude to a public hearing held by the city that evening to hear residents’ comments about the proposed development. The city is required by law to hold such a hearing before voting whether to rezone the propoerty from residential to commercial use. The property was  purchased by First Interstate Properties in December 2010.

Aiyanna Adorjan, a fourth grader at Noble Elementary School in Cleveland Heights, joined the protest “to help people to vote to keep Oakwood green and not take away nature for animals.”

Peggy Kacerek came from Bedford to join the protest. “Communities should be in charge of what happens [to properties such as Oakwood], not large corporations. This is a regional and an environmental issue,” she said.

Laura Luxenberg, who lives in South Euclid, two blocks away from the proposed development, said she sees no long-term benefit to the community  if the property is developed into big box retail. She doesn’t believe the reports of the consultants the city hired to study the effects of the development, and says her neighborhood will be devalued by cut-through traffic, noise and light pollution. “My neighbors are not happy with this,” she said. “They’ve been hit hard by the recession and this development will further devalue their homes.”

Another South Euclid resident, Kathy Schaefer, said she has five shopping areas to which she can easily walk, bike or drive. “There are so many empty stores; we don’t need more retail.”

“The city has told us that Oakwood is a done deal,” said Schaefer, “but I don’t believe the city’s claim that there is nothing they can do. If people in the past thought like that, we wouldn’t have the Shaker Lakes.” Schaefer's reference is to the late 1960s effort by government – eventually put down by grassroots protest – to build a highway corridor through the Shaker lakes system to connect I-271 with what is now I-490.

The May 25 meeting was the second of two public hearings held by South Euclid. Its city council will now consider actions on the rezoning issue.

Fran Mentch, president of Citizens for Oakwood, says the group will work to put the issue on the ballot in November.

Deanna Bremer Fisher

Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.

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Volume 4, Issue 6, Posted 10:11 AM, 05.26.2011