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Letter to the Editor: Think Green When Building Oakwood

Cleveland Heights resident Joan Spoerl requests that Mitchell Schneider, president of First Interstate Properties, be environmentally conscious when developing Oakwood Commons on the former country club property

To the Editor:

As I recently drove down Warrensville Center Road, I saw dozens of felled trees. Since it now seems inevitable that the will go forward, I have a few requests for (President of First Interstate Properties Mitchell) Schneider that I think would minimize the negative impact of the loss of green space.

  • First, please preserve some real, usable green space for the community (in contrast to Legacy Village).
  • For every tree you cut down, plant two more elsewhere on the property.
  • Have green roofs and solar panels on all the buildings. Use geothermal heating and cooling systems.
  • Have your tenants use only green cleaners in the buildings — for the good of your employees, patrons and the environment.
  • Use only non-toxic building materials, glues, carpet, etc. and require incoming businesses to do the same.
  • Practice only natural, organic landscaping practices and turf care, foregoing the use of toxic chemical fertilizers and pesticides, to protect the health of the people and animals who visit and the watershed.
  • Install gray water systems in all the buildings.
  • Use pervious pavement wherever possible.
  • Install lovely and educational receptacles for recyclables, compostable materials and trash (the Cleveland Botanical Garden is doing this in its cafe as are many businesses/rest areas in Ontario and Quebec). Have an anti-litter campaign throughout the development.
  • Have your food vendors maximize the use of re-usable dishes and also work together to order compostable containers and tableware for take-out food.
  • Encourage the food vendors to create biodiesel from food waste (look to Baldwin-Wallace College and Great Lakes Brewing Company as examples).
  • Have lots of bike racks and bike paths.
  • Save space for a community garden.
  • Fund and house a small nature center (like the ) in the country club buildings and/or fund an after-school program ( in Cleveland Heights is a model program).
  • See the movie Dolphin Tale and read the book, Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.
  • Think about how you will minimize the negative impact on local businesses and how you will help those who lose business and/or have to close shop as a result.

I feel so fortunate to live within walking distance of the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes and know how such a space improves the property values and quality of life of its neighbors. I had hoped for the same for the Oakwood neighbors, but the above represents my next best hope.

Joan Spoerl, Cleveland Heights

Ralph Solonitz January 18, 2012 at 01:55 PM
maybe they can super glue the trees back together...I'm picturing the native american with a tear in his eye...what a shame...to sell out for a small price such priceless land. For what? Green space in a developers wallet! a shame...Ralph Solonitz
Gay Quereau January 18, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Joan, this is such an excellent piece with vitally important recommendations. Almost all of these recommendations could and should apply also to the CH-UH School Board's consideration of sustainability issues as they currently reevaluate their programs and buildings. I hope you'll pass this on to them as well. - And Ralph, I couldn't agree with you more.
Garry Kanter January 18, 2012 at 11:59 PM
The South Euclid city council could have negotiated for all these things prior to unanimously passing the rezoning. Led by "Environmentalist" Jane Goodman, they did no such thing. Then "Environmentalist" Goodman filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission regarding the $ figures that Citizen For Oakwood had painstakingly put together to refute the bold, baseless claims of the developer ("Costs Us Nothing", for example). What kind of "environmentalist" uses a developer's lawyers to sue a grass roots, civic, green organization? Only to have the commission embarrassingly rule against her 4 - 0, because all anybody's figures could be were "merely projections".
Garry Kanter January 19, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Jane Goodman - continued... And I did, in fact, fight! We were able to save 20 acres of the total 60-acre property for a nature preserve that the developer will spend almost $400K to restore and improve, and pay in perpetuity to help us maintain. It will contain a 5-acre wetland to treat stormwater. AND he is building the first-in-the-region demonstration green center, with all manner of green infrastructure, three kinds of permeable paving and the aforementioned bioswales, riparian restoration, and TREES that, over time, as trees do, will grow. And as Fran also knows, the alternative was to see ALL 60 acres become housing and roads, or a big tax-exempt entity that would have covered the land with parking lots anyway, but not worked in partnership with us to make it a demonstration green site, not given us a third of the land for nature space. Yes, I think this kind of partnership is good. And though we'd all have loved for the whole space to have become a huge stormwater management site, forest or wetland or both, we live in a world where a city's ability to demand what owners do on private property is limited. Instead of wishing for a different past, it's our job now to reforest as much of the land in the region as we can. I hope that we can see to it that the remaining 50 acres that the developer intends to gift to Cleveland Heights can be a major restoration site. But that can only happen if we work together to make it happen. [end]
Garry Kanter January 19, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Fran Mench Jane can dazzle with her spin and word torrent, but the facts are the facts. She advocated for the development of the last large greenspace in the inner ring suburbs. As a city council person she had every right to do so. But by doing so she lost all credibility as an environmentalist. When she had a chance to take a stand for the environment she crumbled. I admire her skills as a politician, but she is not an environmentalist. She is someone who works for an environmental agency. There is a big difference. [end]
Garry Kanter January 19, 2012 at 12:18 AM
This is all from Linked-In, just today... Fran Mench Please note that Jane Goodman is a city council person in South Euclid and fought tooth and nail to put a big box development on the former Oakwood Country Club. How many trees will have to be planted to make up for the 40 acres of Oakwood that was clear cut within the last 2 months to make way for big box retail? She is a skilled politician. Judge her by her deeds, not by what she says. There is less than 2 acres of pervious pavement being put on the 40 acre development. As a city councilperson she could have fought for it all to be pervious pavement, green roofs, etc. Or at least not worked in partnership with the developer (her words). It is important to hold the leadership in environmental groups accountable to protect the environment. [end] [in pieces, due to limitations]
Garry Kanter January 19, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Garry Kanter "And as Fran also knows, the alternative was to see ALL 60 acres become housing and roads, or a big tax-exempt entity that would have covered the land with parking lots anyway," - "Environmentalist", Jane Goodman 1/18/2012 No developer is going to build houses in this housing market, and there was no "tax exempt" entity interested in that parcel while it was on the market. And certainly not *after* it had been purchased by First Interstate. That is a bogus argument. Councilwoman Goodman explained at public forum on Ohio's waters that the Oakwood developer cannot cause more runoff than the golf course created. That would obviously preclude this nonsense: "...the alternative was to see ALL 60 acres become housing and roads, or a big tax-exempt entity that would have covered the land with parking lots anyway..." Councilwoman Goodman voted for, and then campaigned during the referendum season for rezoning the property from single family houses to commercial-retail. Without the rezoning *championed* by Ms. Goodman, which included her filing a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission against the citizens group that opposed the rezoning (she embarrassed lost 4 - 0, despite using the developer's own attorneys), that owner-developer would have to have done something else. The free market system, not Jane Goodman's imagination, determines what those other things might have been. continued...
Garry Kanter January 19, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Jane Goodman First of all, this was a golf course, not a 40-acre forest, and though there have been tree removals, most were hollow-core trees at the end of their life expectancy that were lined up between the fairways, not a natural complete-canopy forest. Certainly no "clearcutting" has taken place. And they will be replaced with at least 20% more trees than were removed...a whole new generation...plus, instead of sitting in a line between vast areas of toxic and barely-pervious turf grass, many of the new plantings will fill previously-unprotected riparian areas and serve as green infrastructure throughout the parking lot, in and along with, the bioswales and woodlot clusters to be installed there. As Fran knows perfectly well, but is unwilling to admit, that I first tried to help her group find money to purchase the land from the golf club. When they were unsuccessful and the developer bought the land my only recourse was to do my best to save as much of the land for nature as possible and do my best to make sure that the built area would be as green as we could get it. continued...
Garry Kanter January 19, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Garry Kanter - continued... That she now talks about "cooperation" with the Cleveland Heights folks is the height of hypocrisy. "Environmentalist" Jane Goodman should not be accorded that title. Let the Super Walmart Of Oakwood be here everlasting "environmental" and community legacy. She earned it. [end]
Garry Kanter January 19, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Somehow, when viewing from my tablet, the sequence of those posts is not right...
Michelle Simakis (Editor) January 20, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Hi, Garry. Thanks for reading and posting this comment. When you have a long response that takes multiple comments, consider sending me a letter to the editor. That way you can write as much as you want and the comments won't appear out of sequence.

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