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Planners, Residents Weigh in on Future Development in Merriman Valley

At Todaro's Party Center, strong opinions are being offered at the design charrette focused on the Merriman Valley.
Kabir Bhatia
At Todaro's Party Center, strong opinions are being offered about future development in the Merriman Valley.

The Merriman Valley straddles Akron and Cuyahoga Falls -- the two largest cities in Summit County. Residents are at a design forum this week weighing-in on how the area should be developed in the future.

The public forum at Todaro’s Party Center is organized as an open house, and is focused on the area at the southern edge of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Gina Burk is a co-founder of the group “Preserve the Valley,” which has been critical of proposals to develop the area and is focused on protecting the environment.

"Recognizing the tree canopies and air quality [issues], light pollution, and other forms of pollution -- these are all things that we cannot allow to happen," Burk said.

"We want to have it put in the code that if you're anywhere around the watershed of the Cuyahoga Valley that you will build correctly and you will not build the density that's happening that is destroying the park."

Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters says he is in favor of development, but with a rural feel. He's also hoping to hear ideas from residents on what sort of amenities -- such as bike rentals -- would make the valley even more of a gateway to the national park.

Doug Farr is president of the sustainable urban design firm which is running the forum. He says their plan is not focused on population growth for Akron and Cuyahoga Falls – but they do not have to be at-odds, either.

“Most all the land in the valley that we're talking about is privately owned," Farr noted. "Those landowners have the right to develop their land in some way, shape or form. The opportunity that this plan presents is to do so in a way that's environmentally responsible and consistent with the ethos of the valley, which is nature-focused, vegetation-focused and so on."

In a statement, officials from both cities say they want to make the area more walkable, healthy, and beautiful.

The ideas generated by the forum will be presented when the event ends on Thursday night. Here is the schedule for the design charrette:

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.