Taylor Road Construction Lawsuit Dismissed
A judge ruled that a public hearing about the environmental impact of the construction project was not required.
A lawsuit that Cleveland Heights residents Doug Whipple and Susan Tuck-Whipple filed against the City of Cleveland Heights over the Taylor Road construction project was dismissed Monday.
Doug Whipple said the city was required to have an environmental hearing before the Ohio Department of Transportation, which is managing the project, could work on the road and finalize the plans. His concern is the portion from Mayfield Road to Euclid Heights Boulevard, and he sued the city in November 2011, hoping that the project would be delayed or begin on another section until it came to a resolution.
"We have some real concerns about flooding because of the way they designed the narrowing of the road. We think that the city should have asked for public input on the environmental impact, whether it was required or not," Whipple said. "We are very disturbed that it was in writing years ago that there was supposed to be an environmental public hearing."
Taylor from Euclid Heights Boulevard to Bayreuth Road will be resurfaced, broken curbs will be repaired and drains will get an upgrade. The road will also be narrowed from seven lanes to five from Euclid Heights to Mayfield Road. The extra space will be allocated to the east side, where Severance Town Center sits.
He, like other residents on that portion of Taylor Road, also want the extra greenspace gained from removing the lanes to be allocated to the residential side.
City officials had originally envisioned grass medians, benches and specialized lighting in its initial proposal, said City Manager Robert Downey, but officials had to revise it when no one would help pay for the more than $7 million project. Taylor Road is not a city street, so money to repair it comes from the federal, state and county governments
Cleveland Heights Law Director John Gibbon said because the scope of the plans changed and it is now primarily a resurfacing project, an environmental hearing is not required. Gibbon filed a motion for partial summary judgment to ask that the case be dismissed without going through a trial, and Cuyahoga County Court Judge Peter J. Corrigan granted it Monday.
Corrigan wrote that the city held informal public meetings in 2002 and 2011 to discuss the Taylor Road project, and that the city had "multiple council meetings (open to the public) where the Taylor Road project was discussed." In addition, City Council has regular meetings twice a month where the public is invited to comment, so "the public had ample opportunity to weigh in on the Taylor Road project."
And according to Timothy Hill, the administrator of the Office of Environmental Services, a public meeting specifically to discuss the environmental impact of the project was not required, and the Whipple's did not provide sufficient evidence to argue that. The judge provided other reasons he chose to dismiss the case in his 10-page opinion.
"The law makes it difficult for any person to obtain an injunction. We were not able to meet the high burden of proof in this case to the satisfaction of the judge necessary to halt the construction," Whipple wrote in an e-mail. "The judge's ruling does not establish that the city acted openly or competently through the life of this project. The city breached its trust as to the residents of South Taylor Road and others who value people-friendly designs. If the city administration believes that it is committed to preserving green space and enhancing residential neighborhoods, the misallocation of tree lawn space on South Taylor Road is a shameful failure of these objectives."
Whipple said that he will continue to pursue another complaint he has against the city.
"I can tell you that regardless of the outcome of that motion, we have every intention of continuing to press for this city to become more responsible with its public records request activities. And we do not plan to abandon that aspect of the case," Whipple said. "I have repeatedly asked for copies of internal email communications about this project ... The city has failed to produce emails that I have every reason to believe exist."