Oakwood Redevelopment Plans Challenged

[sound of:car horns]

Two hours `before' the scheduled meeting, 30 people hauled signs of protests through the rain, walking the sidewalks in front of City Hall.... the occasional car horns of support lifting their spirits.

Their signs carried pithy comments such as 'LEAVE IT ALONE, DON'T RE-ZONE', and 'PRESERVE OUR GREENSPACE', --- directed at city council members, soon to vote on permitting developer First Interstate Properties to convert 65 acres of a former country club... into a new retail development.

25 year resident Christina Elswick was one of the marchers.

"Why destroy parkland when we need green space in South Euclid... why put a big box development when in another 20 years it'll be another Randall Mall?"

The former Oakwood Country Club was purchased last year by First Interstate for about $10 million. The property sits on land shared by South Euclid and Cleveland Heights, and some angry residents of both communities want governmental control over what is built.

For more than two hours, the citizens pleaded their case to council,
with a slight majority of comments weighted against the plan, including environmentalists who espoused keeping the green spaceā€¦ and other residents who say the proposed stores would be similar to what's already available at nearby Severance Center and Legacy Village, and who clearly fear that the word `retail', translates to Big Box stores...

"How is this going to benefit the quality of life in South Euclid, more asphalt, more water runoff, more light pollution, more car traffic, more truck traffic, more garbage dumpsters, more rats.... I don't feel its going to improve the quality of my life."
"Commercial development is unnecessary, there will be an irreparable degradation of the character and the beauty of the city."
"The tax revenues may not be as great as we like, certainly will produce more than other possibilities we've heard so far."
"Having more retail is really pretty silly, and we're really just taking it from Severance and moving it over to South Euclid, which is great if you just want to stick a knife in the eye of Cleveland Heights."
"It's not green space; it's an overgrown golf course that nobody wants... If somebody wanted to turn it into a golf course, somebody would have bought it and done that..."

The voices of Laura Luxemborg, Michael Klein, James Maronah, Alan Bracado and Carole Sisson - all long time residents of South Euclid.

City Councilman Edward Icove repeatedly reminded attendees that even if council chooses NOT to rezone the property for retail development, the land will still be built out... as homes, apartments, churches, government offices and other uses... already approved for the area.

Council will deliberate and include the comments from last night - but no date has been set for a vote.

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