WOODMERE — Village Council unanimously voted to table the master plan last week after a number of residents voiced concerns that their feedback was not included in the draft document. The master plan draft was completed in January by the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission in collaboration with the Steering Committee, which included Woodmere stakeholders.
In 2018, Woodmere received a grant for $50,000 worth of in-kind services from the county planning commission for a master plan. The village’s last master plan was completed in 1999. The new steering committee included five residents and other people with a vested interest in Woodmere such as John Goodman, owner of Village Square, and Beth Wilson-Fish, president of the Orange City School District’s Board of Education.
Mayor Ben Holbert said that the county has been waiting for six months to present the draft document to council, but he could not get it on the agenda. Chairman of Woodmere’s Planning and Zoning Commission Seth Young agreed to allow the county commission and steering committee to make a presentation at his meeting, which took place on Tuesday. Councilman Craig Wade made the motion to table the master plan at the council meeting on July 8 because the residents did not have an opportunity to give feedback on the draft.
“I told the mayor I wasn’t comfortable not giving residents the opportunity to voice their concerns and opinions. It was only the responsible thing to do to give them another opportunity to air their concerns,” Mr. Wade said after the meeting. “None of that took place, so I had no choice.”
Mr. Wade said that the council should ideally hold a public hearing to gather feedback from the residents on the master plan. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, restricts the village from holding an in-person meeting at this time, he said.
“As far as I’m concerned, the county does not run Woodmere,” Mr. Wade said of the county’s pressure to finish the master plan. “I will let this ship sail if need be. I would love to wait until after this next phase of COVID-19 is supposed to hit.”
Following the meeting, Mayor Holbert said that the master plan may not get enough votes from council members to return for a second reading.
“He killed it,” the mayor said, referring to Mr. Wade’s motion to table the master plan. “Unless someone tells me otherwise, our master plan is dead.”
Former Councilwoman Shelley Ross said that the residents’ feedback from other meetings was not included in the master plan. The county planning commission held three public meetings between March and October of 2019 to gather feedback.
Former Mayor Yolanda Brody said that the people who wrote the master plan draft are mostly not residents. People who live in the village, she said, know how to plan for its future. Fifteen people were on the steering committee and five are residents.
In a newsletter titled “The Master Plan: Yours of Someone Else’s?” Council President Jennifer Mitchell Earley said that the master plan does not represent the vision that residents see for the village.
“Yet these aspirations were initiated, guided and advanced by individuals outside of the village rather than those who live in, contribute to and will be affected by such aspirations,” she wrote in the newsletter dated July 8, the same day as the council meeting. “Woodmere residents vehemently disagreed that the master plan accurately ‘memorialized their hopes’ for their community.”
Maplecrest Road resident William Franklin asked why it was necessary for the county planning commission to present the master plan draft at this time, in the middle of a pandemic. Mayor Holbert said that the county has new projects that it is working on this year and is in a hurry to wrap up this master plan.
“Who wanted sidewalks? That’s why we moved out here. We don’t want sidewalks,” Mr. Franklin said. “I’m just so disappointed with our government.”
The master plan draft is available on the website countyplanning.us and gives a series of recommendations for the future of Woodmere Village. If adopted, the master plan is not legally binding, and the village is not required to adhere to the recommendations.
For housing, recommendations include modernizing the village’s zoning code, consolidating adjacent properties south of Chagrin and considering a small lot overlay zoning district. Mobility suggestions include installing pedestrian scale lighting and working with regional neighbors for a complete transportation network. To promote wellness, the master plan suggests a neighborhood trail and relocating village administrative operations to a combined community center.
Recommendations for branding include establishing a revolving business renovation fund, creating a tax increment financing district and maintaining consistent landscaping. The master plan also gives marketing solutions, such as reducing the amount of required parking space, using electronic message centers and installing a village-wide wireless network.
The county planning commission and the steering committee gave a presentation on the master plan draft on Tuesday night.