Gloria Ferris

one woman’s view from a place by the zoo in the city

Archive for June, 2011

South Euclid Council says :Big Box Retail-It’s a Good Thing

without comments

 

oakwood cfo image

may just have something to say about all that.

As more people opt for walkable bikeable communities with boutique commercial districts, South Euclid’s elected officials buy into an outmoded business model with the promise of it  “being green”.  You tell me how taking 144/54 acres of green space and replacing it with much less is  “being green”.  Obviously, someone is keeping South Euclid’s government occupied so they don’t see all the studies showing that those communities with parks for walking and biking are the ones where people are now settling.  I haven’t seen any studies lately on the hordes of people moving to be close to “big box retail”. I have seen a lot of news articles about the eyesores and blight left behind when “the big box” moves to the next community willing to sell its soul.

I am thankful for my friends Susan and Carla and so many others  willing to devote precious free time to combating Mitch Schneider’s latest venture to make his investors and himself rich and to make South Euclid/Cleveland Heights poorer.  Here is the link to their face book page:

 https://www.facebook.com/#!/citizensforoakwood

Here is an email I received from Susan earlier today.  I asked her if I could post it on my blog because I want her reasons for standing up against this development known.  Please sign her petition asking for sustainable land use and take the time to read what she has to say. It’s good stuff. Oh and those of you talking about “class warfare” shame on you.  We are into this together and when we allow what makes us all “rich”- the beauty of our land to be plundered- those “selling out”  for the short term are the ones who are waging class warfare. You are taking what made our area prosperous and selling us all into poverty.  

If you feel that we have enough big box retail in the Heights Hillcrest area and need not destroy precious green space to build more, you may wish to add your name to the petition linked here:

http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-ripping-up-green-space-to-build-shopping-centers-support-sustainable-land-use?utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=email

Here’s the long story of why I’ve directed so much time and attention to this:

You may or may not know that I have been involved with a group called Citizens for Oakwood. We’re trying to save 144/54 acres of green space – the former Oakwood Country Club. We’d like to see it become a public park (and improve it’s ability to be a sponge for stormwater by allowing it to be a passive park). First Interstate/Legacy Capital Partners would like it to be big box retail. Of course, Jane Goodman, city council person in South Euclid where he’s begun the rezoning for big box process, promises that this will be a green infrastructure exemplar. Since South Euclid is in such a fiscally dire situation, it is clear to most that it is not a lack of retail, but rather downward (economic) pressure that is driving this. I think most adults know that we can’t buy our way to prosperity. Some are still fooled I guess. What was that Bush said about fool me once, keep right on foolin’ me – I’m feelin’ foolish?

It has raised three issues for me and for many of us.

1) Golf clubs are dying – Landerhaven was first, Oakwood is now, Acacia is next (now that it’s out of litigation). Then which golf/country club private course will fall to a developer? Seneca just sold to Metroparks. Hmmm… Which golf course will go next? While the focus will undoubtedly be on our poor relation, the City of Cleveland, you are aware, I’m sure, that poverty is creeping outward, just as population has. Now it’s also the inner ring that’s feeling the pressure. Please consider the golf courses and work with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy to help these clubs to stay green space. By the time all the planners have finished their studies and identified the "value" of green swathes to our Lake, big box retail may have ruled the day and the tiny municipal governments in South Euclid and Cleveland Heights despite our efforts. I have tried to make the argument that this is more valuable to South Euclid and Cleveland Heights as open green space from a water quality and quality of life standpoint, but I don’t have the metrics. Tacit knowledge is much harder to convey in a world where everything is a transaction. South Euclid just rewrote their entire comprehensive plan to accommodate this development. They did it in two weeks with two people. For golf courses, the WRLC exemplar is Orchard Hills – admittedly "out there", but still a good example of what could be "in here".

2) The downward pressure might be lessened if these balkanized municipalities had merged years ago. I’m going to keep exploring this for our future. It would be good to fold in the value of water absorbing green space when that muni mapping becomes a part of that discussion. The idea? What if Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights, University Heights and South Euclid were one suburb? What white collar efficiencies might be gained? And could those efficiencies result in some greater resiliency and redundancy in our shared green space?

3) At a forum sponsored by Future Heights on land use and Oakwood, Terry Schwarz mentioned that the metric for jobs and parkland is 1 job per acre. I realized that agricultural land has no metric. Why is this important? Because, growing food, farming in the city has no value. It may not now, but it will shortly. The day will come (sooner than later in my estimation) when refrigerated trucks from the valleys of California will not arrive in NEO. We will need to be reliant on what can be grown and raised locally. We may tear down buildings just to be able to farm. Impending doom – energy crisis? Yes. It is upon us. We may look back and say, "Boy! We sure wish we’d saved this land for growing food!" 154 acres is a substantial bit-o-farmland. I’ll be meeting with farmland and farming experts to discuss how to discover per-acre metrics for ag land so that local food can enter these planning discussions.

In an article in Ecowatch Journal, it is noted that new project efforts at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens will include this issue: "Based on existing work being done in the region and success stories in other cities, identify barriers to implementation of green infrastructure as targets for future action and develop strategies to overcome them." Funny. I asked NEORSD if there might be a land use aspect to their big stormwater plan. You know like, residents of municipalities that have retained green space would get a tiny automatic  credit. They said – no, NEORSD doesn’t get into land use. I guess NEORSD will be in these discussions though. Land use and such best management practices as downspout disconnects where appropriate (most places in NEO) are the low hanging fruit of addressing our water quality issues. Mother earth is a filter. We have abused her mightily, no doubt, but she is still there, still willing like any mother to help her children.

It may be too late for Oakwood unless we all come together to stop this madness. We’re not giving up, but South Euclid’s government seems to have. They’re in a deep hole at Cedar Center – $19 million deep. What could be another piece of Ginny Aveni’s County Greenprint – the Emerald Lace that connects our Emerald Necklace, the Cuyahoga River Valley and Lake Erie, may be paved to put up a parking lot. No pink hotel, no boutique – big box retail. We don’t plan to stop our arguments now and we hope you’ll raise your voice as well and participate in this democratic practice. We need to do everything we can to keep the bulldozers from rolling over Oakwood. At rallies for SB5 I heard the now familiar chant, "This is what democracy looks like!" Letting our elected officials know how we feel is democracy. Democracy isn’t just voting; it’s a state of being, a way of life.

My son has graduated from college and moved away to Seattle for work. There he can take public transportation, ride his bike, pay his college loan instead of a car loan and visit the wonderful parks that the city has protected. How I hope that someday he can move back to Cleveland Heights and appreciate similar amenities here – NEO – the region that woke up and got busy turning what seemed like a burden into a blessing! This  would be an even better story of how Cleveland beat Wall Street. That’s the story I want to hear when I’m passing into another world.

Currently we’re all feeling the downward pressure. It’s palpable in Cleveland and the region, in the state, in the nation. We just want our fellow citizens to look farther, longer and with an eye to water quality, air quality, quality of life. We want them to see that there is a world water crisis that will not bypass the Great Lakes. We want them to think not so much about the hardship they’re enduring, which will increase in the near term, but to consider the outcomes in the long term, however difficult that may be. We’d like to make a gift to future generations. As Ellie Strong said speaking of the "little old ladies in tennis shoes" who saved the Shaker Lakes, "to each generation there is something to save."

Susan