Cuyahoga County selects CH and UH for master planning process

Cuyahoga County Council set aside $150,000 of general funds for a Community Planning Grant program to enable the county to work with cities to replace outdated master plans. Cities that never had a master plan, or had one that was at least 10 years old, were eligible to apply.

Of 14 applicants, two West Side cities—Parma Heights and Olmsted Falls—and two East Side cities—Cleveland Heights and University Heights—were selected.  

“We are very happy to have received the grant for a new master plan from the Cuyahoga County Department of Development,” said UH Mayor Susan Infeld. “I was happy to hear that Cleveland Heights also received the grant.”

Infeld said that the city of Beachwood is also developing a master plan in cooperation with the county, and that she is hopeful that this will “give the County Planning Commission a regional viewpoint of trends as they help us develop the University Heights Master Plan.”

CH Planning Director Richard Wong said that, although his staff has “looked at strategic development citywide in 1985, 1993 and 2011, and studied citywide sustainability by auditing and rewriting much of our zoning code in 2012, I am not aware of a past master plan for Cleveland Heights.”

Glenn Coyne, executive director of the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission, said the program has three primary goals: “to bring older plans up to date, encourage regional collaboration and focus on action plans that have a strong potential for implementation.”

Coyne said that the county is interested in assisting with master plans because each community can use the planning process to establish priorities for investments in transportation, land use, recreation, infrastructure and other facilities. The plans also provide a wealth of information and maps that help guide future development and redevelopment.

“Having an up-to-date master plan is an important criteria when a community is considering rezoning decisions and development proposals,” said Coyne. “When projects cross boundaries of two or more communities, having a consistent set of recently updated master plans will encourage regional collaboration and increase the likelihood of implementation.”

Wong said that Cleveland Heights has been working on increasing connections with University Circle, and that the fact that University Heights was selected provided an “interesting opportunity,” particularly with areas such as the Cedar Taylor Business District, Cedar Road, and Washington Boulevard. Wong noted that the master plan would look at the entire city, and that sustainability will be inherent in all aspects of the plan.

County planners will lead the preparation of the master plans, working with staff and leadership in each city. “We recommend—but do not require—a local steering committee to help guide the development of the master plan,” said Coyne.

County staff will meet with each steering committee at key points throughout the process to provide interim results and recommendations. “Once the plan is completed, the steering committee can serve as advocates for the implementation of the master plan,” said Coyne.  

While University Heights has not yet determined the makeup of its steering committee, CH City Council passed a resolution on March 16 authorizing the creation of an 11-member committee to oversee the process. All members must be city residents and will be appointed by council.

The CH committee will comprise three residents at large; one member each of the Planning Commission, Transportation Advisory Committee, Citizens Advisory Committee, Recreation Advisory Board and Commission on Aging; a member of the FutureHeights Board of Directors; one representative of the interests of the educational community; and one representative of the business community.

Committee members will serve for the duration of the process of drafting the master plan, which is expected to take 8–12 months, and all members will serve as volunteers. Tanisha Briley, CH city manager, said the city would use its normal application process to solicit candidates for the three at-large positions.

While city staff will be charged with the plan’s implementation, Wong said, “It also is important to include residents and businesspeople. It is likely that specific target areas will need more information from the people in those particular areas since they know more about their neighborhood than we [do]. Residents’ and businesses’ participation and support will result in a plan that is broad-based, too.” 

CH Mayor Dennis Wilcox said, “Council is looking forward to this opportunity to take some of the major planning accomplishments, such as the Strategic Development Plan and the Sustainable Zoning Code, and apply them in a more comprehensive fashion to connect the city with Northeast Ohio’s growth and development and make us a more attractive place in which to live, work and play.”

“We are especially looking forward to working with Cleveland Heights and University Heights simultaneously,” said Coyne, “since they share their school system and are collaborating on the Cedar Taylor Commercial District, among other joint efforts. Hopefully, some of the recommendations will be shared in both plans and assist in advancing this collaboration.”

Deanna Bremer Fisher

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

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Volume 8, Issue 4, Posted 10:58 AM, 03.24.2015