Lincoln Heights Block Club weighs in on proposed Urban Form Overlay along Scranton, W. 25 & Barber

by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, May 2018)        In an 11-2 vote at its March 12thmeeting, the Lincoln Heights Block Club soundly rejected a proposal presented by Tremont West Development Corporation Housing and Economic Development Director Matt Moss and the City of Cleveland Planning Department to place an Urban Form Overlay along portions of Scranton, W. 25thand Barber Avenue in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood.

Much of the discussion about the Urban Form Overlay, centered around the parking reductions allowed for businesses and new developments. Residents, who already have trouble finding parking places near their homes that they attribute to development in the neighborhood, spoke out against reducing parking requirements for new construction by 35%.

Proponents of the Urban Form Overlay say requirements to place parking lots in the rear of facilities and requiring fewer parking spaces will make the neighborhood more pedestrian friendly. The hope is that some residents of new developments and customers of new businesses, will choose to go car free and walk, cycle or take the bus thus reducing the need for the current parking requirements. The city’s plan calls for more dense developments along major corridors such as W. 25thand Scranton and less density on side streets. Planners maintain that increasing population density will help attract businesses that residents can walk to.

At the April 9thmeeting of the Lincoln Heights Block Club, Block Club President Henry Senyak expressed disappointment that the Economic Development Committee of Tremont West Development Corporation(TWDC), after a back and forth discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of the Urban Form Overlay, decided to postpone a vote on the issue. Senyak said, “I would hope the Economic Development Committee of TWDC would support the wishes of the block club.”

Ward 3 City Council Representative Kerry McCormack and TWDC Executive Director Cory Riordan both attended the April 9thmeeting of the Lincoln Heights Block Club and were asked to weigh in on the proposed Urban Form Overlay proposal.

Council Representative McCormack said a letter he received from the Lincoln Heights Block Club expressing their concerns “seems very reasonable.”  The letter said, “We support the idea from TWDC Executive Director Cory Riordan to make the Urban Form Overlay neighborhood centric with flexibility for parking requirements, so specifically in Tremont that they remain a minimum of a 1 off-street parking space per unit proposed.”  McCormack went on to say that the City of Cleveland’s current Zoning Code is “really messed up.” McCormack said feedback from residents would be used to make changes in the proposal for the neighborhood.

One resident said the neighborhood wants to be allowed to give feedback on huge dense projects before the project starts. McCormack said, “We don’t entertain projects until they come to block clubs.”

TWDC Executive Director Riordan said, “I don’t disagree with Henry’s (Block Club Chair Henry Senyak) assessment.” He also said Urban Form Overlay would give good design to the neighborhood.

One resident felt that the proposed Urban Form Overlay would allow developers to go ahead with a project without the need to request a variance, thus taking away power from residents to weigh in on the proposal. Cory Riordan then asked the question, “If we give up control, do we get better projects?”

Riordan said the city’s proposals to increase density along major corridors was about finding the best locations for dense development based on existing infrastructure.

One resident asked for research on where new people coming into the neighborhood are going to park.

Riordan described the balancing act that is involved in meeting the needs of businesses and residents. He said noting some businesses can’t exist without outsiders coming in. Also, without increased population density, the residents can’t get the businesses they want to walk to. He also noted that increasing parking requirements could mean businesses would buy up additional lots for parking.

“There is no perfect answer”, Riordan said. He urged residents to think of zoning on a higher area wide level and not let it get muddied by dwelling on individual projects. He called zoning a “tool” to use to influence the built environment.

One resident called for an effort to restore public transit service by the Regional Transit Authority that has been cut back in the neighborhood so more people could take the bus.

Riordan responded asking the question, “How do we get the neighborhood we want?” He said one strategy would be to assure the neighborhood has good public transit. He said he has made a request to RTA to divert one of the W. 25thbuses to go down Scranton from Metro Health Medical Center to Downtown.

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