Proposed Cedar Coventry development threatens historic neighborhood character

To the Editor:

The Cedar Coventry neighborhood sits at the intersection of three of the great Cleveland Heights historic districts—Calhoun’s Euclid Heights, Grant Deming’s Forest Hill and the Euclid Golf District—and is punctuated by the tower of the historic landmark, St. Ann Church. Property on southwest corner, at one of the most visible and memorable intersections in the city, is in danger of being rezoned to accommodate a four-plex. 

Variances requested are not minor. If granted by the CH Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) at its meeting on Wednesday, April 23, at the CH Community Center, variances will allow building, drives and walkways to cover more than 57 percent of the site and accommodate 11 parking spaces.

Developers are asking for a density of nearly 12 units per acre at a site where nearby properties are built at 5 units per acre, and where 6.7 units per acre is the maximum permitted by zoning.

Variances requested reach far beyond the character intended through the original deed restrictions established for the surrounding historic districts and properties. Rather than match the setback held by adjacent homes, and required by zoning, a developer is seeking to reduce the setback by almost 50 percent. Remaining open space on the site would consist mainly of a narrow frontage strip along Cedar Road, and a 27-foot setback area along Coventry Road, where a 50-foot setback is currently required.

The developer claims that it is not feasible to develop less than 4 units on this site. This may be true for a private developer, but not for a builder who could construct a single- or double-unit on this property, similar to the adjacent single-family homes on Coventry Road, or the homes recently constructed on the corner of South Overlook and Cedar roads. 

The BZA application and letter of intent between the city and the developer anticipates a five-year 100 percent tax abatement for this project. 

This prominent and historic corner of the city deserves a solution consistent with the great architecture and planning of these historic districts. The variances requested are in opposition to the garden city principles with which these districts were designed. On land controlled and owned by the city, the planning department can and should support a plan that celebrates and preserves the unique character of this predominately single-family [home] neighborhood. 

[Note: The city changed the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting location, where these variances will be considered, to the Cleveland Heights Community Center, 1 Monticello Blvd. The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on April 23.] 

Kathleen Tark

Kathleen Tark
Cleveland Heights
[Tark is an architect and urban designer with Metropolitan Architecture Studio, and a member of the CNU (Congress of the New Urbanism)]

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Volume 7, Issue 5, Posted 9:02 AM, 04.22.2014