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Majority of Residents Speak Out Against Oakwood Proposal

Those opposed to the developer's plans voiced their concerns at a public hearing in South Euclid

Land at the former Oakwood Country Club property would better serve the community as a park than a commercial development, said the majority of South Euclid and Cleveland Heights residents who spoke at a public hearing on the issue Thursday night.

More than 150 people, undeterred by the cold and wet conditions outside, crammed into South Euclid City Council chambers to say their piece. A few dozen were forced to stand against the back and side walls, while even more were pushed out into the hallway, leaning in toward the doorways to catch every word.

The public hearing was for the city’s Planning Commission, which now has 120 days to give its decision to City Council on whether to change the zoning at the Oakwood site in South Euclid from residential to commercial. An additional public hearing will be held before Council takes its vote.

About 60 acres of the Oakwood site , the same developers behind Legacy Village, Steelyard Commons and Willoughby Commons. The company has said it plans to build a mix of retail, residential and parkland at the site and

Those plans don’t make sense for the area, said

“We’re saturated with retail,” said Brian Zuccaro, who lives just down the street from the property. Citing the vacant storefronts around South Euclid, Cleveland Heights and University Heights, Zuccaro said the property will just be another blight in the future.

“The reality is going to speak to this 20 years from now,” he said. “(First Interstate Properties) can do what it wants to do, but we should be prepared for the fall.”

Several people said that they feared another Randall Park Mall situation, the indoor shopping mall that was forced to close in 2009 after a decline in patronage. Mark Byrne, a South Euclid Resident, called the proposal an “easy button” for city government officials hoping to bring in additional tax revenue.

“Let’s invest in the city and build assets, recreation assets, instead of whoring it out to developers,” he said. “How can we say we need more retail here? We’d be stealing from one place to give to somewhere else.”

Local business owners also spoke out against the proposal, warning that a new shopping center with big box stores like Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot would hurt the businesses already established in the area.

“It would devastate the businesses here,” said Steve Presser, . “I think the economics of the thing, if we look at this from the front end, is very short sighted. We’d be taking the neighbor out of the neighborhood.”

The big box sentiment was echoed by another Cleveland Heights resident, who said he was in favor of the Oakwood site being turned into a large park.

“I’ve never been places where I could not find a big box store, but I have been places where I could not find a place to walk,” he said.

Not everyone was opposed to the plan, however. A handful of speakers said they support the idea because it would offer a new stream of city income without an increase in taxes. Several of those in support said they hoped an IKEA home furnishing store would move in. The closest IKEA is in Pittsburgh.

“I think the developer should be able to do what he wants with his property, and the idea that it would kill other businesses is not founded — take a look at Beachwood Place,” said Hank Drake, of South Euclid.

Rocco DiLillo said he used to caddy at the golf course when he was a teenager, so he would have liked for the property to remain a golf course, but if that can’t happen, he’s happy to have a developer with First Interstate’s resume involved. He said the land becoming a park would cause the city more harm than good.

“The city doesn’t have the manpower or the funds to maintain it,” he said.

, although he did not speak. He declined comment after the meeting about anything specifically brought up Thursday night, saying only he thought it was “wonderful” that people were given the opportunity to offer an opinion.

Editor's note: In an earlier edition of this story, we reported that a majority of residents who attended the meeting opposed the plans to develop the Oakwood site. We have clarified the article, as a majority of residents who spoke at the meeting opposed the project, but it is unclear what those who did not voice their opinions thought. 

Joe Liptow March 15, 2011 at 08:41 PM
Hello Jane, We've been saying for a long time that Cedar Center was way over bid and recent financial maneuverings questionable at best. Oakwood has verified that. And now developing that 100 year old golf course to flow in as much money as possible into the SE City coffers is a way to balance some huge losses. Then again, I'm not really sure how much the big-box is going provide and I know a wonderful opportunity just got steam rolled/bulldozed by you a self proclaimed “greeny”. If I have wax in my ears then you surely have concrete or asphalt. Stick to the issues, please.
Jane Goodman March 15, 2011 at 09:25 PM
Joe, Oakwood has nothing to do with Cedar Center, which wasn't a bidding process, and I don't know what questionable financial maneuverings you speak of. Unless by "questionable" you mean something you weren't part of and therefore don't have details on. We'd be glad to answer your questions if you'd ask them. You don't seem to accept the facts that a.) we don't own that golf course, b.) we only have limited control, and that is only over the South Euclid parcel. And to say that my twenty-one years as an environmental educator, editor of books and teacher guides, trainer of trainers and current position with the RAP can possibly be denigrated to the level of "self-proclaimed greeny" is just, well, uninformed.
Joe Liptow March 15, 2011 at 10:45 PM
Jane, Cedar Center is related to the Oakwood Big-Box Proposal and to Cutter Creek and to the mess behind Alecis and to that misfit job at Liberty & Dorsh. Those were all bad decisions wrought on us by this administration and rubber stamping council. I commend you for being the only one to question the Stone Ridge proposal which eventually went bankrupt before the bulldozers showed up. I’ve read a lot about what SE City Hall has been doing. Reading and comprehending is a form of listening. Rarely are straightforward answers given to questions asked at city council meetings. Public record request are handled like they’re handled in Cleveland. Jane, one night you called me on my cell phone while I was in my front yard looking at the day’s remains of deforestation at Cutters Creek. Remember? You told me that you were glad that there were other “greenies” out there like yourself. As we talked we came to a point in the conversation where you said, “Joe, they lied to us”. Poor reception terminated our connection and I never did get an explanation. Well, I’ve cleaned the wax out and I’m ready to listen. We’re all ready to listen. Joe Liptow
Adam Horwitz March 15, 2011 at 11:11 PM
I think those are all excellent suggestions and in fact I had already started talking to people on a couple of them, especially the tax roll issue. I think those issues deserve a story.
Joe Liptow March 16, 2011 at 03:52 PM
To all those concerned about the fate of Oakwood, I didn't mean to have your attention diverted by bringing up past events that have taken place in South Euclid but it's not right to look at Cedar Center and Oakwood seperately. Community connectivity surely relates to an overall master plan, no? A couple points: 1)City officials pretty much admit that it’s about the money they THINK they are going to make off this development. Had they not spent/squandered (so far) over 20 million dollars on Cedar Center and over 2 million dollars on the Greenvale houses…the opportunity to purchase and maintain Grand Oak Park could have been an option. That is something that would have been done for the residents and NOT for the politicians. 2) There is currently NO signed contract between the Coral Company and the city of South Euclid that I know of. Maybe Mr. Ruben can shed some light on this. There has been NO formal proposal presented to the CH-UH schools. Questions have been asked and city officials refuse to answer. 3) The people who live in the surrounding neighborhood around Oakwood purchased their houses based on the property being zoned residential. Keep the property zoned residential.

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