FAQs: In support of public park Issue 9

May 3 will be the only time that CH residents have been able to vote directly on a local land-use issue—it’s an opportunity to decide what kind of community we want to live in, and the future we want to create. Here are some FAQs about the [proposed] public park, Issue 9:

Will the park bring money to the city? Yes! Based on research by city planners and economists, the right-size public space, in the right place, brings feet to the street. And money follows feet. This park is the right size in the right context. Lee Road business owners told us they do their best business during the music festival. The CH Master Plan recommends more activities to attract people who will dine, shop, and attend performances. Imagine how a concert in the public park every Friday night would help Lee Road businesses!

How much will it cost? The park will be designed by a community process; the more complicated the design, the more costly. Our best estimate is that $2 million would be enough for a good foundation—a small stage, free WiFi, public restrooms, a water fountain, and a small play area for young children. Residents will work with the city on the park’s design and funding. Park supporters have experience in writing grant proposals and in fundraising.

The cost to maintain the park will be modest. In 2021, maintenance of all of its parks cost the city $241,300; extrapolating from that, the Meadowbrook-Lee park maintenance cost should be less than $40,000 a year.

Did you start the public park initiative to stop development? No. It is only about the public park. Unfortunately, the two issues became conflated. The [pro-park] petitions were originally submitted [to the county board of elections] on Nov. 29. Some signatures were invalidated; additional petitions were submitted on Dec. 24. The city signed the development agreement on Dec. 6.

Will the public square stop development? No. Issue 9 is not responsible for the decisions of the developer; it only applies to 1.07 acres of the 5-acre site. When it passes, what happens to the development is up to the developer. Neither the developer, Flaherty & Collins (F&C), nor the city has stated there will be no development when Issue 9 passes.

Will the park be legal? When Issue 9 passes, it will be a binding legal ordinance with the presumption of validity afforded all passed ballot initiatives. Opponents and some city officials have stated that the ordinance authorizing the park could potentially be “set aside” as unconstitutional due to the city’s pre-existing contract with F&C. Presumably, they are referring to the Retroactivity Clause of Article II, Section 28 of the Ohio Constitution, which prevents governments from passing laws that impair existing contracts. However, in a 2016 decision, the Ohio Supreme Court held that the Retroactivity Clause does not extend to political subdivisions. Any constitutional challenge to Issue 9 will have legal obstacles to overcome.

Why did you start the park initiative? It was our only remaining option. Petitioners submitted proposals to build the park four times, starting in 2013. In 2021, city council refused eight requests to put the park on its agenda, and made decisions in six closed-door executive sessions. We asked council to wait to vote on the development after our new form of government was in place; it refused.

Please visit clevelandheightspublicsquare.com to sign up for a yard sign, our newsletter, or to donate! It is not unusual for developers to spend $500,000 on this kind of campaign. All contributions that will help Issue 9 win are appreciated.

Fran Mentch

Fran Mentch initiated, and thanks the large grassroots effort that created, Issue 9. She is chair of the executive committee of the Northeast Ohio Sierra Club group, and is a community activist who worked to turn the former Oakwood Country Club into a Metropark, not a Walmart.

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Volume 15, Issue 4, Posted 2:18 PM, 04.01.2022