30 January 2004

Lakewood Ohio

Q: Did Issue 47 end the West End Issue?

A: Unfortunately, NO.

Issue 47 did away with the development contract between the City and the
developers, CenterPoint Properties and Jeffery R. Anderson, LLC. At
this point, CenterPoint has conceded defeat and has sent any property
owners they had options to buy with (and some they didn't have options
with) letters stating that they no longer had any interest in purchasing
their property.

However, the Scenic Park area is still designated a "urban renewal" area
and is labeled "blighted". Before they adopted the development
contract, City Council adopted the Community Development Plan which made
the urban renewal and blight designation.

Urban Renewal and Redevelopment: there was some confusion over what
this meant with Issue 48. Let me try to clear this up. This is a legal
phrase in the codes with a whole set of procedures to go with it. This
is the ordinance that allows the City to take private property from one
individual and give it to another individual, or eminent domain for
private gain. The ordinance very clearly states that the area must be
"blighted" and goes on to list what the conditions of blight are. The
conditions are very serious and are designed to protect people from
horrid living conditions and spread of disease. Please follow this link
to read the Lakewood code for yourself.
http://www.lkwdpl.org/city/code/ch153.htm

So, how did the City manage to apply this to the West End? They hired
D.B. Hartt to write a study specifically to find the West End "blighted"
after the former mayor had already entered into a memorandum of
understanding with the developer that she would use eminent domain if
necessary. (Remember, the area must be blighted for her to do this.)
This document cost us $45,000 and is not only ridiculous but is full of
flaws.

I'm sure all of you have heard about the homes being blighted for having
one bathroom, a one car detached garage, no central air conditioning or
less than three bedrooms. Did you hear about the weeds? Yes, weeds.
Homes were blighted for weeds in the sidewalks, weeds in the driveways,
landscaping, tree-lawns and, the ultimate in absurdity, the Detroit
Ave.Bridge. Yes, the neighborhood is blighted because there are weeds
growing in the bridge. The Saleets make everyone who visits see their
2nd bathroom that, according to the Hartt study, doesn't exist.

And then there is Sloane Ave. As if it isn't bad enough that the Hartt
study standards of blight are so broad that they apply to 93% of all
houses in Lakewood, the blighting of Sloane sets a new low. A section
of Sloane that wasn't even supposed to be part of the development
project got "blighted" in all of this. This part is on the river side
where there are single family houses. These houses, like most houses in
Lakewood, have been here for at least 80 years. The area had been zoned
single family. Recently, City Council voted to change the zoning to
multi-family. The Hartt study "blighted" this area because it didn't
conform to current codes. The implications of this are ridiculously
scary. If we allow this to stand, next time the City wants to do a
project, all they have to do is change the zoning code and poof!,
wammo!, presto!- your house/ mansion/ business, etc. is blighted! If you
live north of Clifton and think you are immune, think again. The City
loves those Goldcoast high rises.

Anyhow, there are other flaws with the Hartt study too numerous to
mention here. We are working on a new version of the Truth and Lies and
I will send it out as soon as it is done.

Q: The mayor says he needs the "blight" for financing. What does that
mean?


A: The "blight" label allows the City to do two things: use eminent
domain to give the land to a private developer and to exceed the City's
state mandated debt limit. Tom George seems to want to do a smaller
project that only takes the businesses. That is still eminent domain
abuse. Also, the state puts a debt limit on the City for a reason.
It's what we can reasonably afford. We can only exceed it if it is an
emergency, like babies are dying. It's just like a personal debt limit
the bank imposes when you go to buy a house. It's very risky to exceed
it for a project that may or may not deliver the benefits it promises.
Shaker Square was financed like this and it is a failure. It was handed
over to the bank a couple of weeks ago.

The other problem is, that this still leaves the houses vulnerable to
eminent domain and it is difficult to sell or get a home equity loan on
a blighted house. No one is sure if they should put money into home
remodeling if the future of the area is still uncertain. The previous
project was ten years in the planning. Meanwhile, the West End is still
being held hostage by the blight designation.

Q: Doesn't the City use "blight" to get money to fix the streets. I
heard they blighted Belle.


A: Oh what a myth! This is the biggest piece of misinformation out
there. City Council does not vote to declare streets "blighted" to get
federal or state funds to pave them despite what they might say. One of
our senators was even misinformed. We've been doing a lot of research
on federal and state funding and how the streets did get paved. Often
those in power really don't know what is going on. Every year the City
of Lakewood gets a certain amount of funds called Community Development
Block Grants. We get this money just because we have over 50,000
residents. This money is supposed to go to help areas with low to
moderate incomes. Sometimes it is used to fix sewers or pave streets.
Belle qualified for the money because the Westerly is located there.
Removing the bogus blight from the West End won't effect these grants.
The two are unrelated.

Q: So what is the issue this time?

A: Issue 10! We still don't have the ballot language but we need a
'yes' vote or a 'for' vote this time. It will be 'yes' to repeal the
Community Development Plan that blighted the West End.

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