Town Center: Residents, West U Elementary Students Speak Out Against Proposal
Numerous residents and West University Elementary School students spoke out against the proposed town center zoning ordinance during Monday’s city council meeting.
Council was expected to vote on the second reading of the town center zoning ordinance, but Mayor Bob Fry asked City Manager Michael Ross to remove it from the agenda.
The decision to remove the proposal from the agenda came after the city council received more than 200 petition letters through a new website called “StopWestUGalleria.com.”
Fry said he received many thoughtful comments from residents last week and knew that there needed to be more education about the changes.
“I still think it’s a good piece of work,” Fry said about the zoning ordinance.
While a vote was not taken on the town center zoning ordinance Monday night, council was treated to an almost full council chamber and heard from several residents who had concerns about the proposal.
Applause often filled the room after each person spoke.
“When I read the proposal that was circulated last week I almost fell out of my chair,” Sunset resident Anne Burke said. “You’re giving those property owners everything.”
Burke is a real estate lawyer and deals with buying and selling shopping centers.
In her experience, she said she has never had a shopping center go through a catastrophe. When you have a catastrophe, then you rezone, she said.
“This has nothing to do with a catastrophe,” Burke said. “This is about development.”
Oberlin resident Herbert Cull told council that he was concerned to read about city funding of a parking garage and several members on council responded saying, “So were we.”
Dr. Edwin Wood, a Tangley resident, has an office on University and said that it’s peaceful except at 8 a.m., noon and 3:15 p.m. At those times the traffic is “indescribable,” he said.
Wood told council he would hate to see more commercial businesses moved into the area, but could understand why developers would want to develop it.
Council also heard from two fifth graders at West U Elementary School who were joined by five of their classmates.
Abby Boyce and Audrey Mills told council that they had gotten their classmates and teachers to sign a petition when they found out that Edloe Street was going to be torn down and a shopping center was going to take its place.
“Ninety-nine point nine percent of the people I know don’t want a giant shopping center,” Boyce said. “West U needs an Edloe Street not a galleria.”
Boyce also said that bringing a shopping center into “our little town” would increase traffic.
Mills told council that if a shopping center was built in West U a lot of people they didn’t know would come into the neighborhood.
“If Edloe was gone, it just wouldn’t be right,” Mills said.
Janine Schueppert, a Riley Street resident and member of the West U Elementary PTO, told council that she has read the report and questioned why some of the plats will lose square footage and some will get more than they have now.
“I’m really concerned about this development,” she said. “We’ll lose the small town feel that we all moved here for.”
Schueppert said the enrollment at WUES is at a record high, which already increases traffic. She said teachers have to drive around and around the block because they can’t find a spot to park and the tardy line is out the door because parents can’t find a place to park when they drop their kids off at school.
“We have a parking problem,” she said. “Let’s not make it worse.”
Steve McGough, a Robinhood resident, thanked council for taking the time to have a consultation about the proposal.
“You certainly should put this to a public vote,” he said. “The last thing we need is more shops … and more chaos.”
Vernon Tyger, who owns property on Wroxton Street and created the Website “StopWestUGalleria.com,” recognized the students who started their own petition and thanked all the council members who took the time to listen to the resident’s concerns.
Councilwoman Joan Johnson addressed the city subsidized parking lot and said that it was in the ad hoc committee’s report but it was never discussed by council and it was not included in the zoning ordinance.
Mayor Pro Tem Susan Sample and Councilman Ed Heathcott both thanked everyone who came out and voiced their concerns.
“I think we’ll have an improved ordinance at the end of the day,” Heathcott said.
Council directed city staff in September to budget $60,000 for a non-residential zoning study for the commercial areas in the city and asked that the town center be rolled into the project.
After hearing positive feedback from residents and property owners during a public hearing on Nov. 7, council decided to move forward with the proposal.
Council is now expected to consider the town center zoning proposal with the non-residential zoning study later this year.