Zoning Meeting of 10 Years Ago Still Fair Game
Fairview Park residents, especially those near the former Coffinberry Elementary School, are getting involved in the planning of a new home development going in possibly later this year or early next year. Some news articles in the West Life and Sun Herald have been keeping people up to date, which is great. This is an extremely important issue for people in our area.
In 2005, a public meeting at Coffinberry School took place, prior to voting, on the issue of zoning this property to be residential. At this meeting, assurances were made by city officials that some green space would be a part of the land's future. Fairview Park Director of Development Jim Kennedy stated, “I can sit here and look you in the eye and tell you our intent is to fully put green space in there.” An audio link, provided by Kevin Kelley of the West Life—easily found by googling the two words “soundcloud coffinberry”, contains the entire audio of that meeting, which was attended by the mayor of Fairview Park.
During that 2005 meeting, plenty of questions were asked by Coffinberry residents, many of whom still live here. Kennedy goes on to state that residents will have a voice in the development process. At 4:38, Part 4 of the recording, he says, “everyone who lives in this area is welcome to attend planning commission meetings and have an opportunity to make comments on plans as they are submitted.” In another statement, Kennedy says, “the public continues to have a voice in this process once a developer is selected.” After hearing all this in 2005, we voted yes to rezone - barely. It passed by only 20 votes in Ward 1.
Our school district auctioned the property to the highest bidder on February 17 of this year. The highest bidder, Garland Homes, had no knowledge of the promises made with the 2005 Master Plan; they had no knowledge about the green space. The highest bidder learned of the auction only two days prior to the event.
There have been lots of reasons offered about why this development should be built without allocating meaningful public green space:
"We have the Metroparks nearby."
"There are already other parks in Fairview and Rocky River."
"You had 10 years to make your point."
"Where are you going to put the green space and who is going to maintain it?"
"It's up to the developer, since he now owns it."
"Not every neighborhood has a park in it, so why are you special?"
"The people who made those promises are gone."
"The vote passed, get over it."
These are all good points - the vote did pass, we have the valley, not everyone has a park in walking distance. It's all true.
What is also true is that promises were made about green space in order to have the vote passed. Specific promises were made to include neighborhood involvement in the development. Right now we have the opportunity to do just that, whether it's one year later or 10 years later. As Kennedy stated, “You will all have the opportunity to further comment on that when the time comes.”
Adding new houses will bring some excitement to our neighborhood, and no doubt some families that today live in Coffinberry will be buying some of those homes.
If the issue is about money, there are solutions and we are looking for ways to address that. At the State of the City address, Mayor Patton closed by saying that the state of the city is good financially. Other funding sources are being explored outside of the city.
To summarize, 10 years ago a school in our neighborhood was closed. Our city leaders wanted to build houses on the property and also put in green space. To make this happen, our leaders said we needed to vote yes on the zoning ordinance, which we did. We trusted and we voted.
We all know politicians on TV tell lies to get elected and to push legislation through. I wasn't expecting it at the local level, in person, right here in my neighborhood. Maybe it is a misunderstanding, or maybe our city wasn't fully on board with Mr. Kennedy's statements. All I can say is, lesson learned. I will continue to follow Mr. Kennedy's directives about being involved in the development.
Matt Gibel grew up in Rocky River and is currently a resident of Fairview Park.