Develop parking lots instead of Millikin forest

This view could be anywhere people go to see scenery. Surprise—it's taken from Severance Circle, looking toward the Millikin property.

People plan travel on weekends to see this type of view. 

This photo was taken from Severance Circle, looking at the urban forest of the Millikin School property—the section some call the Severance Woods. These acres of wooded land clean our air, reduce stormwater runoff, protect the community against noise and light pollution, and provide beauty and tranquility. If this were a public park, no one would dare suggest these woods should be destroyed. 

Stand on the same spot, and tilt the camera down. The foreground is one of the barren, sunbaked, windswept parking lots surrounding Severance Town Center.

These vast parking lots are a poor use of land. They provide no clean air. They are impermeable, so they contribute to stormwater-runoff problems. They contribute to noise and light pollution. They are ugly. 

In the 21st century, with the world struggling against climate change, with our city struggling to attract new people and business, we need a fresh approach to planning and to using tax policy to incentivize positive developments.

Instead, the city of Cleveland Heights has a plan which would destroy the woods and build new houses with a view of the barren parking lot. The city wants to buy the school property, including this large woodland, for $1, and then let a developer build private homes with 15-year, 100-percent tax abatements.  We must demand better of our city. Proper incentives could turn this barren parking lot into a private development, with the added benefit of having the woods as an amenity right next door. 

A sane land-use policy would incentivize the use of these parking lots for new construction, while preserving this rare urban forest. Because these parking lots are right next to the woods where the city wants to build, and walking paths are already a feature of the woods, homes built on a redeveloped parking lot would be just as close to the residential communities on Severn and Crest roads, and just as close to the religious institutions and shops on South Taylor Road.

Destroying an urban forest for more low-density housing, in a city where there is already a surplus of vacant land and houses, makes no sense. City planning, tax policy, and tax incentives should be directed at the better use of land already cleared. Sure, the city will say it does not own this parking lot; but the city does not own the school property, either.

A better policy toward land use would be a winner for the current property owner, the developer, the people who want the new houses, and the city, which could get increased income-tax revenue. 

Let’s take an enlightened approach to our future. Preserve, protect and improve our urban forest. Convert the parking lots into something positive for our community and our environment.  Use tax policy to create, not destroy. If we lose the Earth, we lose everything.

Michael Morse

Michael Morse is a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 13, Issue 12, Posted 9:13 AM, 12.01.2020