WOODMERE — Preserving the quiet streets, building a new community center and widening Chagrin Boulevard to include bike lanes were among the ideas residents shared during a meeting last week about the village’s future.

A crowd of nearly 35 people gathered on March 5 for the first of three public meetings to discuss the future of Woodmere Village and its master plan. Representatives from the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission were seeking input about the future of the village from residents who came with comments, questions and concerns.

County Manager of Planning Services Jim Sonnhalter gave a presentation to the group about the purpose of the plan and current conditions of Woodmere. Residents quickly stopped Mr. Sonnhalter, asking how this master plan even began. Several residents stated that they had not heard much about this master plan, and were not sure where the idea originated.

Mr. Sonnhalter explained that the county planning commission offers a competitive application process in which municipalities that have not created a master plan in 10 years or more are eligible to apply for in-kind services from the county to make a new master plan. This year, Woodmere was chosen for the in-kind services along with Westlake, Brooklyn and Broadview Heights, he said. Woodmere’s last master plan was created in 1999.

“Conditions are ever changing and a good [master] plan positions the community to adapt,” Mr. Sonnhalter said. “We want people to think about where they want to be in the next 10 years.”

Mr. Sonnhalter along with Interim Director Susan Infeld and Planner Rachel Novak explained that they have studied the current conditions of the village, including housing, infrastructure and land use. Ms. Novak shared several conclusions that the county team found regarding Woodmere, including that there is immense opportunity for residential development south of Chagrin Boulevard.

Lisa Walker, a resident of Irving Park Avenue, stated that she and her husband moved to Woodmere in 2014, and love the unlighted streets and the country feel of the village.

“I love the fireflies and I love that there are songbirds,” she said.

Ms. Walker emphasized that if vacant land on residential streets is developed, the birds will disappear. She said that she does not want to see more development in the village.

“The term ‘master plan’ is not synonymous with development always,” Ms. Novak said in response to Ms. Walker’s observations.

Resident Gail Sanford, who leads Woodmere’s Youth in Education program for students, agreed with Ms. Walker’s point about nature, but also pushed for a community center.

“I want a community center where children can go for the holidays,” Mrs. Sanford said. “They should have a place to come and be safe and healthy. I want the vacant land to be used for that.”

David Corney, former chairman of the Woodmere Planning and Zoning Commission, questioned if anyone would follow up on this plan after it is drafted.

“Several years ago, a plan was drawn up for widening on Chagrin Boulevard, and that was drawn up by the county. Whatever happened to that?” he asked.

County planning representatives set up display boards on various topics that are part of Woodmere’s master plan, including investment areas, community identity, connectivity and housing. Attendees at the meeting used stickers, markers and sticky notes to share their thoughts on each topic on the display boards.

The messages written on the sticky notes supported widening Chagrin Boulevard, since the residents said biking is dangerous on the road, and improving the intersection of Chagrin and Brainard Road. The residents also wrote that they would like to see community events for students, an outdoor market and a community garden.

Some of the cherished qualities of Woodmere listed on the sticky notes include the large yards and the village’s natural surroundings. Residents also wrote that Woodmere does not have a strong brand, and they have not noticed welcoming signs when they enter the village.

County planning representatives said that they will take the community’s feedback into consideration for the master plan.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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