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June 2011 Archives

The Cleveland Clinic and the City East Cleveland reached an agreement about the planned closing of Huron Hospital. The Clinic will pay the City more than $8 million over five years to offset lost payroll tax revenue. The Clinic will also raze the hospital and turn its land over to the City. The City of Cleveland, however, filed a federal lawsuit against the Clinic, saying that the closure would create a gap in trauma service.

By a vote of 25-8, the Ohio Senate passed a Great Lakes Compact implementation bill. The Ohio House approved the legislation last week. Its protections are the weakest of any Great Lakes state.

Update: editorials in the Plain Dealer and Akron Beacon Journal editorial encourage Governor Kasich to veto the bill. The Ohio Environmental Council and Andy Buchsbaum of the National Wildlife Federation are also critical of the bill. Governor Kasich is expected to sign the bill in the next two weeks.

Update 2: Great Lakes Echo analyzed the situation, while a Detroit Free Press editorial objects to the bill and a Plain Dealer editorial says it could lead to an increase in toxic blue-green algae.

South Euclid City Council unanimously voted to rezone 40.7 acres of the former Oakwood Club for developer Mitchell Schneider's proposed Oakwood Commons shopping center. Schneider hopes to break ground in September. Opponents want to to place a referendum on the November ballot.

The Plain Dealer took a closer look at the idea of merging Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike, and Woodmere, and the Chagrin Valley Times and Cleveland Jewish News got reactions from municipal officials. The mayors of the four communities discussed the concept on Monday's Sound of Ideas program, and a Plain Dealer editorial said that the "communities are establishing a valuable template others can -- and should -- follow."

Update: the Chagrin Solon Sun gathered additional reactions.

Update 2: a Chagrin Solon Sun editorial supports the process.

Two banks will donate vacant foreclosed properties to the Cuyahoga County Land Bank for demolition or rehabilitation. Wells Fargo has donated 26 properties so far and Bank of America will donate up to 100 properties. The banks will contribute $3,500 or $7,500 per property to cover demolition costs.

Cleveland Heights City Council adopted the final version of its new strategic development plan (PDF). In the Cedar Lee district, officials and businesses are working to advance the streetscape plan (PDF, 71.2 MB) prepared in 2008.

Developer Andrew Brickman wants to build a 19-unit townhouse development on the west side of Sloane Avenue in Lakewood. The City will hold a community forum on July 6 to discuss the proposed riverfront project.

The Cleveland Foundation announced $18 million in grants, including $3 million to economic development organizations.

Operators of the I-X Center in Cleveland plan to invest $25 million to $30 million in the facility over the next several years. The exterior and interior improvements are scheduled to be completed in 2014.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial says that the news is encouraging.

The Ohio Department of Transportation hired Richland Engineering Limited of Mansfield to design the second new Innerbelt Bridge in Cleveland. Michael Baker Jr., Inc. will be a subconsultant.

The City of Lakewood is using GIS to make its housing inspections and other municipal services more efficient.

County Executive FitzGerald and the mayors of Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike, and Woodmere announced that they will begin to study the possibility of merging their communities. The mayors are looking for ways to increase efficiency and reduce costs. If the communities decide to proceed with the merger, voter approval would be required to establish a study commission and later for a merger plan.

Avon City Council approved the issuance of $23.1 million in bonds for the construction of the planned I-90 interchange at Nagel Road. The financing package does not include assessments against property owners. City Council also approved a funding agreement with the Richard E. Jacobs Group.

Update: Avon City Council passed the final pieces of legislation for the project.

NOACA uploaded more videos from its annual summit, in addition to its coverage of Jerry Wray's talk. Part one includes introductory remarks, part two features commentary from Commissioner Hambley of Medina County, and parts three, four, five, and six are a panel discussion about the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium.

ParkWorks posted the report from Cleveland's new Group Plan Commission. It presents a vision for "a central district woven throughout with dynamic places teeming with energy and people."

A new study from the Union of Concerned Scientists identified Ohio as one of ten states likely to see significant increases in respiratory problems from rising ozone levels associated with global warming. Meanwhile, Jeff Opperman of the Nature Conservancy expanded upon his earlier premise that ranked Cleveland as the city least vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Rust Wire's Kate Giammarise interviewed Al Douglas of the Ontario Centre for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Resources about its effects on the Great Lakes.

In a party-line vote, the Ohio House passed the Republican-backed Great Lakes Compact implementation bill. The Ohio Senate is now considering the legislation, and former Governor Bob Taft testified against it in a committee hearing.

Update: George Voinovich and Sam Speck also oppose the bill. Editorials in the Plain Dealer, Blade, Akron Beacon Journal, Repository, Dayton Daily News, and Morning Journal urge Ohio senators to vote no.

The City of Cleveland is in the process of revising its Statistical Planning Areas. Unlike the current boundaries, the new SPAs may not be based on census tracts.

Developer Mitchell Schneider told South Euclid City Council that he intends to increase the amount of permeable pavement at his proposed Oakwood Commons retail development and that he would pay the City $12,000 per year for maintenance of the undeveloped portion of the property. He also shared two conceptual designs (PDFs) for the project.

After two years of ridership decreases, RTA ridership figures are stabilizing in 2011. Through May, bus ridership fell by 2.9% and rapid ridership grew by 9%. Officials attribute the changes to the improving economy and high gas prices.

Charter school operator White Hat Management acquired five closed churches in Cleveland from the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. The company paid a total of $2.6 million for the properties.

Update: another charter school operator is buying four closed schools from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

The City of Cuyahoga Falls is studying the possibility of removing two Cuyahoga River dams. Removal probably would not begin until next year.

NPR's All Things Considered reported on the plans to erect wind turbines in Lake Erie. The project north of Cleveland could be the first offshore wind farm in the nation. Developers now hope to have it in place by 2013.

GreenCityBlueLake's Marc Lefkowitz considered ideas for altering plans for South Taylor Road in Cleveland Heights to make it a complete street.

The Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority dedicated (PDF) its new headquarters and the second phase of its Heritage View Homes in Kinsman. The new construction adds 40 apartment units and 17 single-family houses to the 81 townhouse units opened last year.

The Plain Dealer interviewed John McGovern of the Earth Day Coalition about bicycling in Cleveland.

Cuyahoga County received a $500,000 grant for community-wide brownfield remediation from the U.S. EPA. It was part of the $76 million the agency awarded for cleanup projects (PDF) in 40 states.

The State of Ohio and Rock Ohio Caesars reached an agreement covering taxes and fees for the casinos in Cleveland and Cincinnati. Rock Ohio Caesars will pay an additional $110 million in fees over the next 10 years, and the state agreed to drop its proposal to apply the Commercial Activity Tax against total betting. The agreement (PDF) also says that the phase one and phase two casinos in Cleveland will be considered one casino, and authorizes slot machines at racetracks. Construction is expected to resume soon.

A Plain Dealer editorial said the agreement "appears to be a true win-win for Ohioans", while an Akron Beacon Journal editorial said it "must be seen as a limited victory over gambling interests." An anti-gambling group said that it will challenge the deal in court. Steven Litt reflected on the recent Cleveland Landmarks Commission decision, and said that Rock Gaming needs to improve its casino planning efforts.

The City of Cleveland's Downtown Design Review Committee and City Planning Commission reviewed and approved the latest designs for the Medical Mart and new convention center. They include concepts for incorporating the current site of the Cuyahoga County Administration Building into future phases. Marc Lefkowitz has concerns about the plans for Malls B and C.

Architect Miguel Rosales is continuing to refine designs for three pedestrian bridges in Cleveland. The City of Cleveland plans to begin construction of a bridge at North Coast Harbor next summer, Cuyahoga County officials started evaluating three options for a bridge to Whiskey Island, and Case Western Reserve University made public a proposal for a bridge that would link the Cleveland Museum of Art to the Temple Tifereth Israel.

Democratic lawmakers introduced alternative bills for implementing the Great Lakes Compact in Ohio. The legislation sets lower limits on the amount of water that can be extracted from Lake Erie than the bills introduced last month by Republican legislators. Environmental groups support the lower limits and business groups back the higher limits (PDF). An editorial in Toledo's Blade says that the Republican-backed bills "would threaten surface and ground water affecting Lake Erie."

Meanwhile, an Akron Beacon Journal editorial calls for bipartisan congressional support of full funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Update: the Blade published more information about the fast-tracked Republican bill. An Akron Beacon Journal editorial encourages a bipartisan approach.

Governor Kasich said that he and legislative leaders intend to appoint a commission that will study governmental consolidations. The budget bill approved by the Ohio House included $250,000 to encourage collaborations, but the Ohio Senate did not include the funding in its bill. In a Plain Dealer op-ed, Tom Bier calls for Cuyahoga County communities to adopt a new principle of shared responsibility.

Update: the Plain Dealer's Joe Frolik says that collaborations and consolidations should be an important issue in municipal elections.

Fairview Park City Council is considering legislation that would repeal a requirement to obtain input from a professional planner in rezoning decisions.

Cuyahoga Community College held a grand opening ceremony on Thursday for its new Westshore campus in Westlake.

Update: West Life has more details.

The Ohio Department of Transportation did not apply for federal reimbursement for $1.4 million spent on planning studies for the canceled 3C Corridor passenger rail line. The U.S. Department of Transportation withdrew $385 million of its $400 million grant for the project in December when it became clear that Governor Kasich would not support its construction.

Cleveland Heights City Council approved an expanded agreement with the Cuyahoga County Land Bank. It's intended to help the City deal with distressed properties.

In late May, McDonald's informed the City of Lakewood that it was interested in building on the site of the closed Detroit Theater. More than 150 people attended a public forum on Wednesday evening, where City officials described the issues and the process. The residents in attendance overwhelmingly opposed demolition of the theater.

Brook Park leaders decided to not pursue the proposed water main maintenance and no poaching agreement with the City of Cleveland. Brook Park's law director recommended against the pact, saying it could hurt the City's ability to attract companies.

RTA held a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday for its redesigned Buckeye-Woodhill Rapid Transit Station in Cleveland. Construction of the $3.3 million project is scheduled to take 15 months.

In its attempt to keep American Greetings from leaving, the City of Brooklyn offered the company up to $10 million in incentives.

Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jerry Wray advocated for leasing the Ohio Turnpike, an idea opposed by NOACA leaders. State Representative Mike Dovilla of Berea was recently appointed as a non-voting member of the Ohio Turnpike Commission.

Update: Jerry Wray also spoke at NOACA's annual summit on June 10 (part 1, part 2, part 3).

Update 2: Jerry Wray promoted the idea to AMATS leaders, as well. Gary Suhadolnik, the former executive director of the Ohio Turnpike Commission, presented his objections to the proposal in a Plain Dealer op-ed.

Lincoln Electric erected a 2.5-megawatt wind turbine at its Euclid headquarters. Engineers are continuing to prepare the turbine, which is expected to be operating full-time in three or four weeks. Bill Callahan wonders how the company's neighbors will feel about the turbine.

On June 23, Olympic Steel plans to unveil a smaller wind turbine at its headquarters in Bedford Heights.

The Cleveland Clinic announced on Monday that it intends to close the 137-year-old Huron Hospital in East Cleveland within 90 days, citing a decline in patient use, population decreases, and maintenance expenses. The Clinic plans to continue outpatient care at the health center currently under construction. The New York Times said that the decision "reflects a stark new reality that is likely to play out across the country at hundreds of other hospitals that can no longer afford empty beds or wings and unused medical services."

Frank Jackson feels he was misled by the Clinic, and said that it "has left the City with little choice but to resume legal action in an effort to protect the public health and safety interest of our community." The City of East Cleveland is also considering a lawsuit. Congresswoman Fudge met with Clinic officials, and said she wants to mitigate the harm to the local community. Members of Cuyahoga County Council expressed their concerns, as well. Community groups rallied in opposition to the closure. A Plain Dealer editorial said that the Clinic should have handled the announcement better, while a Sun News editorial said that the Clinic made the right decision.

On Thursday, the Cleveland Landmarks Commission voted 4-3 to allow the demolition of the landmark Columbia Building in downtown Cleveland, despite organized opposition to the proposal. Rock Ohio Caesars intends to use its site as part of a casino welcome center and parking garage. The Landmarks Commission will not authorize razing the Columbia Building until the casino developers resolve their dispute with state officials. Richey Piiparinen of Rust Wire railed against the decision, while Marc Lefkowitz of GreenCityBlueLake placed it in a historical context.

Prior to the meeting, Cleveland City Council approved the sale of the Gateway North Garage to Rock Ohio Caesars. The National Trust for Historic Preservation presented its case for retaining the Columbia Building, Steven Litt of the Plain Dealer criticized the handling of an alternative concept, and Erick Trickey of Cleveland Magazine looked at the surrounding political circumstances. A Plain Dealer editorial said that the demolition is necessary.

A new report from the Brookings Institution used American Community Survey data to determine the educational attainment of immigrants in the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas. It says that highly skilled foreign-born workers now outnumber lower-skilled ones, and that the five-county Cleveland (PDF) metropolitan area has a very high concentration of high-skilled immigrants.

The budget bills passed by the Ohio House and Senate include an extension of the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit program. Proponents of the program want the $25 million annual ceiling to be increased. A new study from Cleveland State University (PDF) says that the "program is producing a multitude of benefits across the state of Ohio."

The Baldwin-Wallace College Board of Trustees approved a new 10-year campus master plan. It calls for unifying the three sections of the campus.

A short paper from the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club urges Ohio governments to adopt a fix-it-first approach to infrastructure investments. It says that repairs of distressed roads and bridges should be prioritized ahead of new construction.

On Thursday morning, County Executive FitzGerald met with representatives of about 20 Cuyahoga County communities to present a draft of a new anti-poaching protocol (PDF). Under the agreement, communities would not actively recruit businesses located in another Cuyahoga County community. He hopes to finalize the agreement by the end of September. Communities that sign on would be given an advantage when seeking support from the County's planned $100 million economic development fund.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial says that cities should sign the pact.

The Ohio Department of Development awarded $25.6 million in the second round of the Ohio New Markets Tax Credits, including $2 million to the Cleveland New Markets Investment Fund II. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources awarded $300,033 in Coastal Management Assistance Grants, including $13,545 for Rocky River sub-watershed protection and restoration plans and $21,000 for the Tinkers Creek Watershed Community Engagement Project.

On Monday, developer Mitchell Schneider spoke with South Euclid City Council's Planning and Zoning Committee about his proposed Oakwood Commons retail development.

The SmartHome, the first passive house in Northeast Ohio, opened to the public on Monday. It will be on display at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History until September, when it will be moved to a permanent lot on Wade Park Avenue. The 2,500-square-foot house is designed to have a monthly heating or cooling cost of $20. Participants on Thursday's Sound of Ideas program discussed the house, and it will be the subject of a June 15 panel discussion at the City Club.

Update: audio (MP3, 53.7 MB) and video of the City Club event are now available.

Update 2: McClatchy Newspapers also reported on the SmartHome.

The U.S. EPA's research vessel Mudpuppy will return to Northeast Ohio in July to conduct tests on Cuyahoga River sediment behind the dam in Summit County's Gorge Metro Park and in the old channel of the Cuyahoga River near its mouth in Cleveland.

The Plain Dealer scrutinized Judge Anthony Russo's role in determining whether the Cleveland Metroparks expands its scope to include lakefront parks.

By a vote of 4-2, the board of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District approved a series of sewer rate increases over the next five years. Mayors Starr and DePiero dissented. The largest factor in the rate hike is the work to address combined sewer overflows identified in the consent decree with the U.S. EPA. Tuesday's Sound of Ideas program was devoted to a discussion of the rate increases in Cleveland and Akron.

Cleveland State University's trustees approved plans for the 6.8-acre Campus Village development along Chester Avenue between East 21st and East 24th streets. The $50 million mixed-use development will include 308 housing units in nine three- and four-story buildings. The university owns the property, and will lease it to developer Polaris Real Estate Equities of Gates Mills for at least 50 years. Construction is scheduled to begin early this summer.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial supports the decision.

Mayor Cervenik of Euclid said that the Great Lakes Expo Center on Babbit Road is closing. The 215,000-square-foot facility opened in January 2010.

Kent State University's Center for Public Administration and Public Policy compiled an inventory of more than 240 intergovernmental collaboration projects in 16 Northeast Ohio counties, and published a list of 105 initiatives. The most popular areas for partnerships were in public safety, public works, and economic development.

Meanwhile, in a Plain Dealer op-ed, Brad Whitehead and Joe Roman describe a regional approach to economic competitiveness. Ohio's proposed budget bill would provide funds to encourage government collaborations. An Akron Beacon Journal editorial says that the final budget should include the incentives, while a Plain Dealer editorial says that the budget asks too much of local governments.

Update: the Plain Dealer has more information about the Kent State study.

Repair Priorities is a new report from Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense. It says that despite decades of underfunding road repair projects, most states continue to inadequately fund road repair, spending a disproportionate amount on constructing new roads. It adds that "while Ohio has invested heavily in repair and maintenance in recent years, insufficient investment over the long-term has led to a backlog of roads and bridges in 'poor' and 'deficient' condition requiring $194 million annually in major rehabilitation costs over the next twenty years."

At its annual meeting on Thursday, MidTown Cleveland revealed plans for the second phase of the Midtown Tech Park. The plans include renovating a vacant 40,000-square-foot building located across Euclid Avenue from phase one.

A disagreement between the Ohio Department of Transportation and Norfolk Southern Railway over land for the new Innerbelt Bridge threatens to delay and add costs to the construction project.

Update: ODOT will purchase 50 acres from Norfolk Southern for $29.8 million. It's more land than the agency needs and more money than it wanted to spend.

Members of the Solon Master Plan Citizens Commission has been working to identify issues that should be addressed in the master plan. They recently developed a list of the City's strengths and weaknesses.

Strongsville City Council is expected to approve the plans for the Cedar Creek Estates subdivision on Monday. The City's Planning Commission approved the development (PDF) in February.

The Plain Dealer provided updates on the experimental wind turbine initiative at Cleveland State University and the status of trail planning for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

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