An open letter to 'People for the Park' petition signers
To anyone who signed the “People for the Park” petition—I want to make sure you understand what you signed.
I believe this effort, championed by a small group of Cleveland Heights activists, is not really about trying to create another park on a commercially zoned piece of city-owned property in the middle of a business district located on a major traffic thoroughfare. I believe this is actually about trying to stop economic development and progress in our city. Here are some reasons why I believe this:
- There is NO funding in city budgets for the creation, nor the maintenance, of a new park within the Cedar Lee district. It is relevant to note that FutureHeights has been seeking outside grants for years to bring a sustainable activity park to the city-owned Cedar-Lee Mini Park in the district. This new park the activists say they want would be a very expensive project—when you signed the petition, were you told how this park would be funded and maintained?
- If these activists truly want an activity park in our business district, why haven’t they been vocal and engaged in bringing the existing and already partially completed Cedar-Lee Mini Park project, located just one block north of the Lee-Meadowbrook lot, to fruition?
- Some of these same activists also have protested other development efforts in our city, including Top of the Hill and the Cleveland Heights Community Center projects. Both are transformative projects for our city, our small-business community, and our citizens.
If you signed the petition, did you know that your duly elected city council representatives already voted UNANIMOUSLY in December to proceed with the Cedar Lee Meadowbrook (CLM) development partnership with Flaherty & Collins? Did you know that the city is under contract with Flaherty & Collins for this project? Did you know that this reputable and proven development partner plans to invest $30-plus million into the Cedar Lee Business District? Did you know that Flaherty & Collins, as an integral part of its project, will create a green space/activity park on a sizeable portion of the same Lee-Meadowbrook lot in question? The developer will maintain this park at its expense, rather than at taxpayer expense. If a new park at Lee-Meadowbrook is the true objective of these activists, why is this already planned and funded park in that same location not sufficient?
I believe a large, but less vocal, number of citizens want our city to grow, progress, and compete for residents, tax dollars, new businesses, school funding, parking improvements, jobs, and housing options that new economic development projects generate.
To survive and thrive as a city, we NEED this investment and development now. The CLM development project enables our city and our business district to compete with nearby communities that already are aggressively making investments like this, and luring potential residents and customers with modern amenities and offerings. Every small-business owner in the district is struggling to recover from the impacts of the pandemic, and the CLM project is as much of a lifeline to us as it is to our entire city.
I am strongly in favor of the CLM project. I own a home in the Cedar Lee district, and am a small business owner in the same district. Everything I have is literally on the line here, and I believe this is worth fighting for. I pledge to do everything in my power to convince my fellow citizens that the CLM project currently under contract must come to fruition as planned—without delay. Please continue to educate yourself on the facts about this important development project, and its many benefits to our community. #BuildCLM!
[Editor's note: After this opinion was published, Fran Mentch, a leader of the People for the Park ballot initiative, notified the Heights Observer that she was "not involved in the Community Center."]
Destiny Burns is a Cleveland Heights resident and owner of CLE Urban Winery.