Delay and avoid: UH and John Carroll
University Heights might be John Carroll University’s namesake, but relations between the two continue to be “stressed” at best. The university made a request to modify three parts of a 2002 agreement for the use of Shula Stadium. In essence, the request asks that the university be allowed to increase the use of the stadium for non-JCU events and for intramural sports, with a change in the restrictions for use of lights and sound.
On the surface, this appears to be a reasonable request. Today’s college students factor fitness centers and sports (varsity and intramural) into their choice of where to attend school.
Residents in the immediate area of Shula Stadium expressed concerns and objections at the June 20 city council meeting. Council deferred any decision until it had more time to study the issue – using Council of the Whole (COW) work sessions on July 11 and 18.
At these work sessions, the university presented more information in response to questions from council members. After an extensive presentation at the July 18 meeting, council came to a decision. It referred the request to the city planning commission for review and recommendation.
Council expanded the number of items for the commission to review beyond the original three presented by JCU.
The planning commission will send its own report and recommendation back to council. Council will then decide whether to support the planning commission's recommendations. At that point, one hopes that JCU will finally receive a decision on its request.
Delays like this can sometimes be beneficial to all sides when decisions will have real impact on residents. (Delays can occur when information is submitted for consideration at the last minute, as was done by JCU.) The process enables both sides to consider objections and modify plans, to be more amenable to everyone affected by the changes.
Doing only what is legal may not be doing what is best for the long-term well-being of the area. The goal should be to reach decisions that are in the best interest of the city--the whole city--the residents who are affected and the university.
For that to happen, all of the parties must develop some level of trust with one another.
Since taking office in 2010, Mayor Susan Infeld has had ongoing discussion with JCU over the needs of both the city and the university. This dialogue represents a change from prior years, when the administration and the university rarely spoke, and can lay the groundwork for a more trustful relationship between the city administration and the university. It is a start.
Council also has to do their part in this relationship. They must remember that they do not just represent the residents who are directly affected by the request; they also represent the university and the city as a whole. At the meeting on July 18, the law director advised council members to come to a decision on the JCU request and not refer it to the planning commission.
Council needs to take responsibility for a decision. The university deserves a yes or no to their request, not delay for the sake of delay.
Winifred Weizer, a former councilwoman and longtime resident of University Heights, is filling in for Anita Kazarian.