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March 2005 Archives

A debate is raging between states and the US EPA over the Clean Air Mercury Rule which is intended to limit mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. However, states and public-interest advocates point to gaps in the regulations that do not address other toxic emissions such as lead, arsenic, and chromium. Among the states, Ohio ranks fourth in arsenic emissions, tenth in lead, and fifth in chromium, due in large part to electric utilities.

(via Planetizen)

Cleveland City Council approved a $477 million budget last night that included spending for one phase of the Euclid Corridor and an amended lease extension on a downtown parking garage. The Mayor and the present leaseholder of the garage claim that the council's changes to the lease will effectively scuttle the deal.

The Council for Excellence in Government will hold a town hall-style meeting tonight where it will release the results of a survey of Northeast Ohio residents that shows support for casino gambling in Cleveland, a split of opinion over making economic development investments for a new convention center or lakefront, and overwhelming support for investments in education.

(update: a summary of the meeting's proceedings)

The Cleveland Landmark Commission continues to prepare for its assessment of the landmark status of Euclid Beach's Humphrey Mansion, which is an integral part of Northeast Shores Development Corporation's revitalization plan.

Owners of nightlife establishments in Cleveland's Warehouse District are working to maintain the neighborhood's atmosphere and avoid the fate of The Flats as an entertainment district.

Jaylin Investments's lawsuit against Moreland Hills over the village's two-acre minimum lot size has gained the attention of municipalities and developers throughout the state who want to discover the extent of the power municipalities have over directing development through zoning.

An upcoming vote by Continental Airlines' unions raises comparisons with Pittsburgh International Airport which, like Cleveland Hopkins Int'l Airport, relied on one airline for the bulk of its flights.

Construction of two culverts beneath the Ohio and Erie Canal to the Cuyahoga River has begun. The project will allow for water to drain from the eastern slope of the Cuyahoga Valley around Hathaway and Stone Roads in Valley View.

Three CIA students are lobbying for the preservation of East Cleveland's Warner and Swasey Observatory, an 85-year-old building that has been abandoned for the several years and that used to be owned by Case Western Reserve University.

As part of the Euclid Corridor project, work on creating a downtown transit zone has begun with the construction of bus-only lanes on Superior and St. Clair Avenues.

The City of Brook Park is working to become the first Ohio jurisdiction to implement railroad quiet zones. When implemented, trains will not sound their whistles at three crossings where additional safety measures will be installed. The City of Strongsville is also considering the establishment of quiet zones.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to dismiss an appeal of the settlement between Providence Baptist Church and the City of Euclid. Residents opposed to the settlement had filed the appeal, which could take up to two years to be heard by the court.

WorldChanging highlights the trend towards sustainability in colleges and universities and mentions Oberlin's Center for Environmental Studies as a notable example. There also exist local efforts to bring the benefits of high-performance buildings to primary and secondary schools.

The City of Berea is proposing a land swap for the site of a new Municipal Court after discovering that a previously investigated site was unsuitable for construction.

In a recent City Club debate, Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis continued to advocate for voluntary contributions in lieu of property taxes from local nonprofits. In response, Bill Ryan of the Center for Health Affairs argued that nonprofit hospitals throughout Northeast Ohio already provide $150 million on a yearly basis for health care to the poor.

After the passage of Fairview Park's Gemini Project tax issues, several non-profits must now vacate the Gilles-Sweet School which will be demolished in order to build a new elementary school.

(update: more information is available in this week's Sun Herald)

The Ohio Planning Conference is accepting proposals for presentations (PDF) for the 2005 State Conference, which will be held in Cleveland on September 29-30, and seeking nominations for the 2005 Ohio Planning Awards (PDF), which will be awarded at the conference.

The Summit County Department of Community and Economic Development is preparing a new General Plan, a document "that will address issues of economic development, preservation of open space and natural resources, transportation, and utility infrastructure from a countywide perspective."

This week's Cool Cleveland includes links to OneCleveland's Lev Gonick and his proposal for a downtown Science and Technology School and the agreement for Cleveland to provide water to a development in Richfield Village and Township in exchange for income-tax revenue.

Also included is the second part of an interview with Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis who provides his insight into how regional collaboration can take place and the implications of the state's drive to eliminate the personal property tax on business machinery and equipment.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau's new arts and culture director has begun working on strategies to attract visitors and locals to Cleveland's cultural attractions.

Steelyard Commons developer Mitch Schneider released the results of a public opinion poll he commissioned that supports Wal-Mart. Opponents of the center characterized the five-question, 400-person poll as misleading.

The Ohio EPA has given approval to the construction of City View Center atop an abandoned landfill in Garfield Heights and will monitor the project throughout construction.

The City of Solon is considering ordinance updates that would address several zoning-related issues such as large-vehicle parking, home-based businesses, and residential living arrangements.

Cleveland has fared very poorly in recent walkability reports. The American Podiatric Medical Association ranked Cleveland 171st (out of 200 cities) in its 2005 Best Walking City Competition, and a study appearing in the American Journal of Health Promotion listed the city in the bottom ten for recreational walking and bicycling, utilitarian walking and bicycling, and parkland as a percentage of city acreage.

(via Planning Livable Communities and Cool Cleveland)

Steven Litt of the Plain Dealer critiques ODOT's Innerbelt plans, and calls the majority of the ideas "uninspired". He also urges the state to seriously consider a proposal for replacing the aging Innerbelt Bridge.

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Convention Facilities Authority is trying to increase the appeal of a new convention center by incorporating multiple civic uses into the design. Chairman William Reidy says he would like the CFA to make site and financing recommendations by May or June.

MetroHealth's new Buckeye Health Center opened today. The $3.5 million, 25,000 square foot health clinic will provide some of the services the neighborhood lost when St. Luke's Medical Center closed in 1999.

Cleveland port officials say that the top issue facing Royal Wagenborg's operation of a Cleveland to Port Stanley ferry is the Canadian Coasting Trade Act, which restricts foreign companies to one year licenses.

Instead of selling their 33 acre site on Chagrin Boulevard in Beachwood, the First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association will demolish their closed nursing home and expand the office building that houses their headquarters.

The results of a survey completed by Brooklyn residents have been tabulated, analyzed, and made available online (PDF). Work on the Brooklyn Master Plan will continue over the coming months.

Citing the Ohio EPA's long approval process, Garfield Heights Mayor Thomas Longo says the opening of City View Center will be delayed until spring 2006. The 640,000 square foot shopping center is being constructed atop the closed R&B Landfill.

The Chagrin River Watershed Partners, the Ohio Planning Conference, and other local nonprofits and governments have filed or supported briefs siding with the City of Moreland Hills in the zoning lawsuit brought by Jaylin Investments. The developer is challenging the City's two acre minimum lot size in the Ohio Supreme Court.

Solon councilman Robert Pelunis is not happy with the City's land use plans, calling them "parts of a disturbing trend." However, many of his City Council colleagues do not agree with his assessments of plans for sites near the Bainbridge border, at the intersection of Bainbridge and SOM Center Roads, and along Aurora Road.

The Bay Village Board of Zoning Appeals approved a special-use permit for independent living suites at Bradley Bay Health Center. The suites are part of a proposed expansion, which was approved with a number of restrictions and over the objections of the nursing home's neighbors.

The City of Berea continues to see vacant homes, and recently identified 41 empty houses, though the actual number may be higher.

On April 14, the Cleveland Landmarks Commission will decide whether to remove landmark status from the Humphrey Mansion, once the home of Euclid Beach Park's owners. Euclid Beach Mobile Home Park wants to demolish the building to make room for more trailers.

Plain Dealer columnist Sam Fulwood looks at downtown Cleveland's dropping property values and wonders if anything is being done to correct the situation.

As Ohio shifts towards a service-based economy, state governments (though not Ohio) are studying the overall economic impact of Wal-Marts and other similar retailers amidst assertions that they increase the number of working poor and increase the burden on government to provide low-income assistance to retail employees. This evidence counters arguments that attracting big box development, such as Steelyard Commons, would be economically beneficial.

The City of Independence is interested in redeveloping a section of its downtown along Brecksville Road as a mixed-use area with senior housing, cluster homes, stores, and offices. City officials will ask developers to submit proposals for developments which match the area's historic character.

Case has begun pursuing developers for its 2 million square foot West Quad medical research campus. The university will create a short list of developers by late spring and make its final selection by autumn.

Environmental cleanup enterprises throughout Northeast Ohio have expanded their business models. While brownfield remediation remains a focus of these companies and is actively funded through the Clean Ohio Fund, waste reuse and reduction services, such as those promoted in the Cuyahoga Valley Initiative's Regeneration Zone, are becoming increasingly prominent.

The US House of Representatives yesterday enacted legislation authorizing a $250,000 federal study to decide if 14 Northeast Ohio counties should be designated the Western Reserve Heritage Area. Sponsor Tim Ryan is working with Ohio's senators to pass the legislation in the Senate. The creation of a heritage area could lead to up to $10 million in historic preservation funding over a ten year period.

Downtown property owners continue to win rulings that reduce the valuations of their holdings, which results in lower tax revenues for the Cleveland schools. County Treasurer Jim Rokakis estimates that revaluations led to a $25 million decrease in downtown building market values in 2004. For example, a state board recently cut the value of the Jacobs Group's Public Square parking lot by 52%, reducing the valuation of $12.8 million set in 2000 to $6.1 million. The company paid $20.3 million for the site in 1988.

Bay Village residents opposed to a proposed expansion of Bradley Bay Health Center have formed Save Our Neighborhood, a group that has picketed the nursing home and is threatening legal action.

Mayfield Heights' first new housing development in decades will break ground this autumn. Hidden Woods, a 65 home single-family development geared towards young families and empty nesters, will be located off of SOM Center Road and Ridgebury Boulevard.

The RTA Red Line rapid will turn 50 years old this Tuesday. Improvements to stations along the line, including the Brookpark Road station, are still in store or have been completed.

John Kuehner and the Plain Dealer answer questions about E-check and ground level ozone in light of recent actions by the US EPA to limit air pollutants that contribute to high ozone levels.

Associated with the new ozone rules, the Bush Administration will propose new federal controls on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants which diverge from the US EPA's original plans for more stringent controls on power plants and instead favors credit-trading programs similar to those set forward in the "Clear Skies" bill.

Steven Litt encourages the Museum of Art to fully undertake both phases of its expansion in his Plain Dealer column, while in a long article for ARTnews Online, he charts the recent movement in art museum architecture towards restraint and a stronger emphasis on building galleries that highlight the art inside.

Meanwhile, an editorial by Eric Gibson of the Wall Street Journal warns that the boom in art museum expansions presages a bust in museum attendance.

Channel 5 is reporting that the Cuyahoga County Commissioners have agreed to sell Whiskey Island to the Port Authority for the same price they paid for it in December. They also say that the undeveloped area will remain a park, but the marina could be eliminated in favor of port operations, and that a deal could be struck within a week.

Shaker Heights City Council will hold a public hearing on Monday at 6:00 p.m. to again discuss the proposed Walgreens at Shaker Plaza. The Planning Commission approved the plans last month. Officials caution that the meeting is solely about the proposed cut-though, and not about the drugstore, which conforms to the City's zoning code.

Another natural gas well has been proposed in a residential area of Mayfield Heights, this time at Our Savior Lutheran Church on SOM Center Road. Ohio Valley Energy has offered neighboring homeowners $150 as compensation. Residents have gathered 200 signatures for a petition opposing the well.

A Cleveland building official says that the zoning for the site of a proposed vermiculture facility would not permit its operation at that location. Councilman Michael Polensek has been a vocal opponent of the development.

Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell continues to promote Steelyard Commons and says she will lobby Wal-Mart to reconsider their decision not to build at the proposed shopping center.

The impending Dillard's closing at Westgate Mall could lead to increased friction between the cities of Fairview Park and Rocky River. While the majority of the complex is in Fairview Park, it is within the Rocky River school district, and Rocky River officials worry that a redevelopment of the mall could lead to a decrease in income for the schools.

The Lakewood Public Library is hosting Lakewood Future Tools, a five part lecture series aimed at stimulating ideas and discussions with residents. The next event will be a panel discussion titled "Articulating Lakewood's Future: Generation X and Generation Y" on Sunday, March 13 at 4:00 p.m. in the Lakewood Public Library Main Auditorium.

Although they failed in their bid to block the construction of an apartment building at Runn Street and Bagley Road in Berea, residents say they will work with the developer and provide input on upcoming issues related to the building.

Strongsville officials are exploring the possibility of creating of railroad quiet zones at the City's five crossings, but estimate it would cost up to $800,000 to make the necessary improvements.

Veterans upset with the planned closing of the Veterans Administration Brecksville medical center were vocal at a public information session about future plans for the site. The VA will begin soliciting for bids from developers this spring.

Solon City Council will hold a public hearing on April 4th to discuss a proposed land swap at Bainbridge and SOM Center Roads. Mayor Kevin Patton favors moving slowly on the issue, which could result in the corner seeing new retail construction, a new park, and demolition and replacement of the fire station.

The Clean Ohio Trails Fund announced its latest round of grants, which include funding for a Cleveland Metroparks trail in Middleburg Heights and a 2.4 mile Akron segment of the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail.

The Bainbridge Board of Zoning Appeals approved a variance for the construction of the McGill Property Group's Marketplace North shopping center, contingent upon the developer purchasing and preserving eight adjacent acres in Solon. The 585,000 square foot development will feature three anchors, rumored to be Home Depot, J.C. Penney, and Target. Construction could begin this summer.

A Plain Dealer editorial addresses the US EPA's insistence on a 20-year timeframe for improvements to the sewer system, asserting that the 30-year timetable set forth by NEORSD is reasonable, given the complexity of the work ahead.

There is disagreement in the local philanthropic community over whether the Museum of Art will be able to fund its expansion and what effect it will have on other local institutions that woo the same sources.

Ohio coal-fired power plants will have to drastically decrease sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions under the US EPA's new Clean Air Interstate Rule, which aims to reduce air pollution that moves across state boundaries. The Clean Air Interstate Rule is the latest in a series of actions enacted by the EPA.

Senator Voinovich vows to fight against legalizing casino gambling in Ohio, and a recent forum on the issue shed light on Detroit's experience with casinos, finding that while there was a slight increase in revenues and employment, that it did not provide the economic boom that city leaders had hoped for.

A longstanding dispute between the City of Akron and surrounding jurisdictions over Cuyahoga River water rights culminated in a 60 minute oral argument in front of the Ohio Supreme Court yesterday.

Municipalities throughout Northeast Ohio are improving services to senior citizens, including expanding transportation options, as the population of Northeast Ohio ages. Included in the article was a reference to the County Planning Commission's role in the Cleveland Foundation's Successful Aging Initiative.

A Plain Dealer editorial praises the Cleveland Museum of Art's trustees for approving the museum's expansion.

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority has hired Deb Janik as the new vice president of regional development. Janik, who was Mayor Campbell's former chief of staff, will focus on creating the port's regional economic development strategy, including the revitalization of the Flats.

The Bush Administration's "Clear Skies" bill appears indefinitely stuck in committee.

The nation's bridges, roads, and sewers continue to decay, according to the ASCE's 2005 Report Card for America's Infrastructure. The organization gave Ohio a grade of D, and Cleveland's infrastructure needs were highlighted in the group's announcement.

Howeowners taking action against builders has become a more frequent occurance throughout the country and Cuyahoga County specifically, including recent actions in Creekside Reserve and Woodgate Farms.

Roldo Bartimole accuses the Convention Facilities Authority of having already made the decision that a new convention center is necessary and that it "meets merely as a pretense of doing the public's business in public." He also says the Plain Dealer showed its bias in the recent editorial about Wal-Mart and Steelyard Commons.

As an alternative to pursuing tribal gaming, an advisor to Mayor Campbell is proposing two statewide referendums to allow local votes over the development of casinos and the placement of slot machines at racetracks.

Despite the planned purchase of property in Twinsburg, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church asserts a commitment to retain its existing presence in the Fairfax neighborhood, including its services at the church on Quincy Avenue and East 87th Street as well as its health clinic and other social services. There is presently no budget or timetable for the development of its Twinsburg campus.

The drop of enrollment in the Cleveland School District will cause the scaling back of the district's $1.5 billion school construction project.

Cleveland Museum of Art trustees voted to launch its $258 million expansion project that has been planned for the last three years.

The construction timeline extends through 2008 for Phase I, with full completion of the project in 2011. Other art museums around the country are in the midst of similar expansions.

Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, which had earlier contemplated a move to a site that included Cleveland's Kerruish Park, has approved the purchase of 54 acres in Twinsburg and are planning to move out of the Fairfax neighborhood.

Parking fees will be instituted all state parks, including Edgewater Park and other state-run Cleveland lakefront parks, as a part of ODNR's strategy to compensate for state budget cuts.

The Cuyahoga Valley Initiative will host a discussion with Frederick Steiner, Dean of the University of Texas at Austin's School of Architecture on Wednesday, March 16 at 7:00 p.m. in the Louis Stokes Wing Auditorium of the Cleveland Public Library Main Library.

Mayor Campbell is pushing for providing income tax rebates to businesses that relocate to Downtown Cleveland or expand downtown employment as a way to reverse increasing office vacancy rates and increase overall income tax revenue. The proposed program would be similar to Columbus's Office Incentive Program.

The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Main Library has temporarily moved to the Taylor Academy building in anticipation of the expansion of its existing building on Lee Road, including the renovation of the old Heights YMCA across the street, which will house the library's computer labs as well as three community groups. The return to the renovated building should take place by May 2006.

Legacy Village has fallen far short of producing the amount of revenue that project supporters promised to Lyndhurst. Fliers distributed during the 2000 referendum asserted that rezoning the property would produce $2.5 million in property taxes for the city. Last year's income tax revenues totaled $500,000.

Also, the proposed hotel development adjacent to Legacy Village has been put on hold, according to First Interstate Properties chief executive Mitch Schneider.

Robert Stark, the developer of Crocker Park, is talking to community leaders about redeveloping Downtown Cleveland with 1 million square feet of retail space with the intent of using it as a catalyst for future office and residential development. Stark mentioned working with other entities such as Developers Diversified Realty and Forest City, although no discussions have yet taken place.

Collinwood residents recently voiced their opinions about their neighborhood at a Visioning Collinwood salon. Participants identified community assets, desired enhancements, next steps, and potential roadblocks. A followup session is scheduled for March 29th.

Negotiators from the City of North Olmsted and RTA have reached an agreement that would allow the North Olmsted Municipal Bus Line to be absorbed into RTA's system. Conditions of the agreement include guarantees that RTA will not reduce services in the next three years, establish a community circulator, and look into an expansion of the park and ride lot.

The former Marathon station at Dover Center and Oviatt Roads in Bay Village has been demolished and will be replaced by an expansion of the Dover Junction shopping center. Construction is scheduled to begin in May, and tenants are expected to include a dry cleaner and a restaurant.

Objections from residents led Royal Manor Health Care to reconsider their plans to purchase the former Marycrest School in Independence. The company now hopes to build their 100 bed facility in a non-residential area off of Lombardo Centre.

Brecksville leaders continue to consider the options for new development on the site of the current Veterans Administration Medical Center, scheduled to close in several years as part of a local consolidation. VA officials will attend a public meeting on Monday at 7:00 p.m. Monday in Brecksville City Hall, where they will explain their enhanced-use lease process.

The Ohio Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from the City of Strongsville in a zoning case brought by the Visconsi Companies. The developer wants to build big box stores on a 14 acre site along Route 82, currently zoned for single-family housing. Strongsville voters soundly defeated the rezoning in 2000, and the company responded by suing the City. A common pleas judge upheld the City's zoning, but was later overturned by a court of appeals. The Supreme Court's decision sends the case back to the trial court.

RTA's Board of Trustees approved a letter of intent with a Beachwood developer for the construction of a new Brookpark Road rapid station and surrounding commercial development, which will include a 1000 space parking garage, hotels, restaurants, and retail.

The area surrounding Ashbury Towers in Cleveland's Stockyards neighborhood may soon gain 30 scattered-site single family homes built for low- and moderate-income homeowners. The project is contingent upon receiving state tax credits and a grant from the City's Housing Trust Fund. If the funding is obtained, construction could begin in the fall.

The City of Shaker Heights purchased the former Zalud Oldsmobile property on Lee Road in a sheriff's sale on Monday. While the City currently has no plans for the site, they will soon begin exploring redevelopment options.

This week's Bruce Blog covers Cleveland's selection as a Bicycle Magazine "BikeTown", commentary on Forest City's disenchantment with the Northeast Ohio retail market, news of the McGill Property Group's present inaction and Case's own development moves at University Circle's campus crossroads, and support for establishing a statewide land-use panel.

It also offers more commentary on Wal-Mart's pullout from Steelyard Commons, including a link to Callahan's Cleveland Diary, which provides Wal-Mart's letter to Council President Jackson and a letter from Brian Cummins of Old Brooklyn CDC in response to the Plain Dealer's editorial.

The announced closing of the Dillard's department store at Westgate Mall moves the potential redevelopment of the site another step closer to reality, though no formal plans have yet been presented.

Maple Heights City Council approved merging its bus service with RTA after lengthy negotiations. North Olmsted is expected to follow suit.

Sewer rates are expected to rise dramatically over the next several years for NEORSD customers due to US EPA mandates for the sewer system to complete its $1.6 billion project to reduce combined sewer discharges within 20 years. The district is asking for an additional 10 years to make the infrastructure changes that will potentially improve water quality.

Ohio's Attorney General asserts that state and federal laws and regulations pose lengthy delays to casino development plans, and some casino backers counter that these hurdles are not insurmountable.

Roldo Bartimole challenges Steven Litt's assertion that Gateway was a good civic investment, saying that Litt "failed to take into account the public cost."

Despite indications from Wal-Mart that their decision not to build at Steelyard Commons was not the result of proposed ordinances that would delay the development of a supercenter, a Plain Dealer editorial blames the questionable future of the project on Councilman Cimperman and labor organizers. On the other hand, some view the pullout as an opportunity for increased civic input in the development process.

The City of Painesville believes that a bike path and transit station could spur economic development in their downtown. The City, Fairport Harbor, Laketran, Lake Metroparks, Lake County Commissioners, and the Western Reserve Railroad Association are working together to seek a grant from NOACA for initial planning.

Wal-Mart executives sent a letter to city leaders stating their intent to pull out of the Steelyard Commons development, attributing their decision to business reasons rather than the proposed bill to prevent a supercenter from opening on the site before 2013. Nevertheless, the developer blames Cleveland City Council for the retailer's decision, and Mayor Campbell stated that subsidies may be needed to bring another anchor tenant to the proposed center.

The Plain Dealer's Joe Frolik argues that planners should consider the views of a convention organizers. He profiles one who vehemently asserts that Cleveland needs a modern convention center.

However, an article in Forbes provides a national overview of trade show attendance versus available exhibit space and reports that convention center experts and consultants will almost always advocate for the construction of new and larger convention facilities and that show managers have a vested interest in having a surplus of space on the market.

The Fund for Our Economic Future will undertake a large-scale project to elicit public opinion on what is needed to make Northeast Ohio succeed. Yesterday, the group was presented with the results of an economic outlook survey of citizens throughout the region.

Governor Taft and Senator Voinovich will fight to nullify a September ruling by the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that found unconstitutional a state program to give manufacturers tax credits for new machinery and equipment.

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