CH Clerk of Council certifies ballot initiative on park

A citizen-led proposal to designate the city-owned site at Lee Road and Meadowbrook Boulevard as a public park is one step closer to appearing on the May 3 primary ballot.

At the Jan. 10 meeting of Cleveland Heights City Council, CH Finance Director and Clerk of Council Amy Himmelein certified that an initiative petition for an ordinance to require a public activity park be created on 1.07 acres of city-owned land at the corner of Lee Road, Tullamore Road and Meadowbrook Boulevard had obtained sufficient signatures for inclusion on the ballot.

A group of Cleveland Heights residents, led by Ralph Solonitz, Garry Kanter, Lee Barbee, Albert Oberst and Frances Mentch, had submitted the petition to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections on Nov. 29, but had been told to collect additional signatures by Dec. 27. The group submitted additional signatures, and, on Jan. 9, the board determined that the initiative had met the 10 percent requirement for inclusion on the ballot.

The city’s charter required the certification. The next step is for CH City Council to refer the matter to a council committee—Council of the Whole or another committee—in order to decide whether to approve, disprove or amend the initiative. The committee may hold public hearings on the matter, and must make recommendations to the full city council no later than council’s second regular meeting, on Feb. 7.

At its Dec. 6 meeting, CH City Council unanimously approved an agreement with Flaherty & Collins (F&C), for a mixed-use development at Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook, which includes the site in question. The $50-million project is anticipated to comprise 200 to 225 market-rate apartments, 5,000 to 9,000 square feet of non-residential (commercial, retail and/or restaurant) space, and public gathering and green spaces.

The city has been working to redevelop the city-owned parcels in the Cedar Lee Business District for 18 years, beginning with the construction of a parking garage in 2007 to accommodate new residential and commercial parking. The city’s 2011 citywide strategic development plan identified the site as a critical focus area for new, complementary mixed-use development. The city’s 2017 Master Plan also recommended that development focus on target areas, including the Cedar Lee Business District.

On its face, the ballot initiative, if passed as written, would require the city to construct an activity park on the site, and suspend all construction activities associated with it. However, CH Law Director William Hanna advised that, in his opinion, passage of the initiative ordinance either by council or by the city’s voters would not negate the city’s development agreement with F&C, because the ordinance, in his opinion, would run afoul of state and federal constitutional provisions barring laws that result in the “retroactive impairment of a contract.” Nevertheless, the city is required to follow the process outlined in the city charter. 

Deanna Bremer Fisher

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

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Volume 15, Issue 2, Posted 10:25 AM, 01.11.2022