Chagrin Highlands: Could it happen to Avon?

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a deliberate end-run around the sunshine law
The days of plantation rule are over
My misgivings were not assuaged
the Ohio EPA should deny this 401 permit
The proposed mitigation ratio ... is indefensible
This place ... still supports high-quality plant and animal communities

NEWS ARTICLE from THE PLAIN DEALER, 1-30-01, By MARK VOSBURGH and CHRISTOPHER QUINN, PLAIN DEALER REPORTERS

[PROMISES, PROMISES]

``Jacobs seeks city OK to build large stores

Developer Richard E. Jacobs wants the city of Cleveland to let him build big stores at Chagrin Highlands ...

At Jacobs request, City Council last night [1-29-01] introduced legislation that would allow four stores on 46 acres in Warrensville Heights ...

The Westlake-based Jacobs Group is the lead partner developing the site, which also sits in Beachwood, Highland Hills and Orange. The other partner is Scott Technologies, the former Figgie International Inc.

Jacobs settled a lawsuit with the city [of Cleveland] in 1996 by agreeing to limit stores at the site to 50,000 square feet ...

If approved, the legislation would allow Jacobs to use the site for any retail development that complies with zoning rules of the suburbs.

According to [Cleveland City Council President] Polensek, the change would affect only Warrensville Heights because zoning in the other suburbs limits big stores. Polensek said those suburbs could change the zoning if they want stores.

The next step for legislation is discussion in a series of Cleveland City Council committees.

Jacobs was not available for comment last night. Drawings obtained by The Plain Dealer show Jacobs proposing four stores ranging in size from 61,000 square feet to 158,000 square feet south and west of I-271 and Harvard Rd.

Those plans surprised Warrensville Heights officials.

Former Warrensville Heights Council President Donald Bolden said yesterday that he had not been told of plans beyond three restaurants the city approved last month. Nate Harris, the city's building official, said Jacobs has filed no plans with the city.

Warrensville Heights City Council already has given the Jacobs Group and Outback Steakhouse Inc. approval to build three Outback-affiliated restaurants on six acres of the site along Harvard Rd.

But both Mayor Marcia Fudge and Bolden said last month that they wanted the remaining 40 acres to be used for offices and hotels, which would bring in more income taxes than restaurants and stores ...

Fudge said Jacobs officials had PROMISED not to use the property for retail. ''

Plain Dealer reporter Patrick O'Donnell contributed to this article.

E-mail: mvosburgh@plaind.com

E-mail: cquinn@plaind.com

NEWS ARTICLE from THE PLAIN DEALER, 2-3-01, By APRIL McCLELLAN-COPELAND, PLAIN DEALER REPORTER

"Mayor to developer: Shop elsewhere

WARRENSVILLE HEIGHTS - Mayor Marcia Fudge says it is an insult to Warrensville Heights that developer Richard E. Jacobs wants to build "big box" stores on the part of the Chagrin Highlands complex that is within the city ...

"They want to use Warrensville as the service end of the project," Fudge said. "There was an agreement that there would be no retail outlet exceeding 50,000 square feet. Now, the Jacobses want to revisit that, and our city would be the only one affected. This is not appropriate or fair to ask us to do this, and we're not going to do this."

As of yesterday, the Jacobs Group had not filed a plan with the city of Warrensville Heights, Fudge said.

Jacobs settled a lawsuit with Cleveland in 1996 by agreeing to limit stores at the 630-acre Chagrin Highlands site to 50,000 square feet. The Jacobs Group of Westlake is the lead partner with Scott Technologies - the former Figgie International Inc. - in developing the property along Harvard Rd. at Interstate 271.

Now, Jacobs is proposing four stores ranging from 61,000 square feet to 158,000 square feet at the southwest quadrant of Harvard and I-271. But Fudge said recently that Warrensville Heights wants hotels and offices built on the remaining 40 acres because they would bring in more income taxes than stores would ...

The retail proposal was a surprise to Fudge, who said the recent discussions have been "misleading on the part of the Jacobs Group."

"After the fact, they contacted our economic development people to have a discussion," Fudge said. "Nothing of merit came out of it."

She vowed to fight Jacobs plan.

"It still has to go before our Planning Commission, and it still gives us leeway about what goes there," Fudge said. "There are ordinances that must be met with our city. We will exercise our rights as a city to approve or disapprove of this plan." ... ''

E-mail: amcclellan@plaind.com

NEWS ARTICLE from THE PLAIN DEALER, 2-4-01, By MARK VOSBURGH and EBONY REED, PLAIN DEALER REPORTERS

"[Cleveland] may force Jacobs to return lots near Galleria

When Cleveland sold two prime downtown lots to Richard E. Jacobs in 1987, the developer promised to build office buildings on them.

Nearly 14 years later, the parcels straddling St. Clair Ave. on the east side of E. 12th St. are still parking lots across the street from Jacobs Galleria at Erieview.

Now the city wants them back.

Two top aides to Mayor Michael R. White said yesterday that they will ask City Council tomorrow to set aside about $1 million to buy back the land this spring unless Jacobs breaks ground by April 1 [2001] on the 16-story office building he promised for one of the lots.

The developer has already missed several interim deadlines and has not responded to repeated city letters inquiring about his plans, the administration officials said yesterday.

"Our intent is to see the development we bargained for," said Ken Silliman, White s executive assistant for development. "If that isn t coming from the current developer, then we would want to see it from someone else.

"We do have a public trust to protect," he added.

Chris Warren, White's economic-development director, guessed the two lots, totaling about 1.6 acres, are worth at least "five to six times the repurchase price" of $970,380.

He and Silliman said they knew of no specific development interest outside Jacobs unrealized plans, but they predicted other developers could jump at the properties.

Jacobs has recently sold many of his business holdings, including the Cleveland Indians and several shopping malls. He reportedly has also been marketing the Galleria.

He and other officials who work for him at the Jacobs Group in Westlake could not be reached yesterday. Said Jeff Linton, a spokesman for Jacobs at the Dix & Eaton public relations firm: "It sounds like you have the facts right, but the Jacobs Group will not comment." ...

[Chris Warren, White's economic-development director,] wouldn't characterize White s feelings for Jacobs but insisted the city's plans have "nothing to do with the mayor's personal relationship with Mr. Jacobs." ...

"We would hope [council] would agree that protecting an asset of the city is important and that giving early enough notice to the developer and to council to work this out without litigation would be in everybody's interests," he said ...

Warren estimated they contain about 300 parking spaces and generate between $500,000 and $1 million a year in parking fees. If the city notifies Jacobs on April 1 that he has defaulted on his construction agreement, it will also bar Jacobs from using the parking lots or collecting revenues, Warren said.

City documents show Jacobs paid $483,350 for the larger lot and $583,700 for the smaller one. The city s original 1987 deal with Jacobs called for him to start building a 16-story office building and 100-space underground parking garage on the smaller lot by April 1989. The pact also called for starting a 20-story office building or office-and-retail complex, plus a parking garage, on the bigger plot by January 1994.

At Jacobs request, the city twice pushed back those deadlines, in 1989 and 1991. The amended agreement set the April 1 groundbreaking deadline and called for Jacobs to submit plans for the first building to the city by last Sept. 1. The groundbreaking deadline for the other building falls in January 2005.

The city retained the right to buy back both properties for about $97,000 less than Jacobs paid if he failed to meet the agreement's milestones for the first project.

Warren provided a copy of a letter the city sent last Aug. 11, reminding Jacobs of the Sept. 1 deadline for submitting building plans, and another letter on Oct. 17 warning that he risked defaulting on the deal.

"They didn't call or respond in any way," Warren said. "We're concerned, because the reaction to our prior notices was a resounding silence." ...

Jacobs has allies on council. At his request, council introduced legislation last week that would let him build big stores at Chagrin Highlands, which is city-controlled land along Interstate 271 in the eastern suburbs. Jacobs previously PROMISED an office campus there but has been SLOW to develop them ... ''

E-mail: mvosburg@plaind.com

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FEATURE ARTICLE from THE FREE TIMES, 2-15-01, by Roldo Bartimole

"... In the last two weeks, legislative moves by [Cleveland] Council President Michael Polensek - fronting for Jacobs interests ... showed that the temperature has risen a degree or two ...

First, Polensek introduced legislation to change the deal made between the city and Jacobs, in order to ease limitations on the use of land under the Figgie project called Chagrin Highlands. That could help Jacobs make some quick moves to profit from the deal ...

A little background history: When the original Figgie project was approved by council in 1989 under former Mayor George Voinovich and Council President George Forbes, Dick Jacobs' name never entered the discussions.

However, Jacobs secretly became the prime developer of this city land, labeled one of the richest commercial sites between New York City and Chicago. [Cleveland Mayor Michael] White called Jacobs' involvement with Figgie a "sordid little deal."

White tried to force Jacobs out, precipitating a lawsuit as White tried to remove Jacobs because of Jacobs' secret involvement. White also complained that Jacobs wanted to use the prime site for quick development that wouldn't satisfy the city's desire for office buildings and thus higher income tax revenue.

The legal settlement limited Jacobs from using the city-owned land for most retail use, the fastest route to the profits Jacobs sought. (In a deposition, Jacobs summed up his greedy outlook: "I believe in the quantum theory of profit to the nth power.") ...

Jacobs, during the Voinovich-Forbes era, got hold of two well-sited city properties at E.12th St. and St. Clair Avenue, and has held them speculatively for more than 10 years ... [They] could play a role in this year's reelection plans of Mayor White ...

The two properties [were] sold to Jacobs with the condition that they would be developed as 16- and 17-story office buildings. Jacobs has missed various deadlines ...

One might remember that Jacobs made some anti-White comments last year concerning a Voinovich return as mayor.

It also presents a problem for council leadership. How far can [Cleveland City] Council go in fronting for Jacobs without calling attention to its motivations?

Polensek, in trying to legislate a break at Chagrin Highlands for Jacobs, already puts himself in a position to be called on whether he might be doing Jacobs' work for him ... "

NEWS ARTICLE from THE PLAIN DEALER, 2-24-01, By MARK NAYMIK and MARK VOSBURGH, PLAIN DEALER REPORTERS

[Cleveland Councilman Jay Westbrook says Jacobs meetings dodge state law]

"Members of Cleveland City Council sidestepped open-meetings law yesterday and Thursday by allowing developer Richard E. Jacobs to lobby them in small groups about adding stores to the controversial Chagrin Highlands office development.

Between hearings on the city's 2001 budget - in one of council's busiest times of the year - council members gathered at Jacobs' office in Key Tower in two small, separate groups. Neither meeting was large enough to constitute a quorum of council and trigger a public meeting. In all, approximately 12 council members met with Jacobs and his lawyer George Forbes.

"I think it was a deliberate end-run around the sunshine law," said Councilman Jay Westbrook, who attended yesterday's meeting. "Whenever there is specific legislation, it should be discussed in open session, especially with this type of potential impact on the city."

Council President Michael D. Polensek ... refused yesterday morning to discuss the specifics of Thursday's meeting, and he did not acknowledge that yesterday's second meeting took place.

Polensek and some council members are friendly with Jacobs. At Jacobs' request, council introduced legislation in January that would let him build large retail stores at Chagrin Highlands, which is city-controlled land along Interstate 271 in the eastern suburbs. Jacobs had previously PROMISED to build an office campus ..."

E-mail: mnaymik@plaind.com

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE PLAIN DEALER, 3-2-01, By CHRISTOPHER QUINN and MARK VOSBURGH, PLAIN DEALER REPORTERS

``Three suburban mayors tell Cleveland to back off

... Three suburban mayors vowed yesterday to fight Cleveland City Council legislation that would let the Richard E. Jacobs Group put four large stores on 46 city-owned acres along Interstate 271 in Warrensville Heights.

"It may be Cleveland's land, but Warrensville Heights controls the zoning," Warrensville Heights Mayor Marcia Fudge said in a news release. "We also control our own destiny and our own vision for the future. The days of plantation rule are over." ...

Chagrin Highlands is planned as an office and research park on 630 acres in Beachwood, Highland Hills, Orange and Warrensville Heights. Cleveland owns most of the land and has a contract with Jacobs and Scott Technologies Inc. to develop 3.5 million square feet of offices ...

In 1996, Jacobs settled a legal dispute with the city over the Chagrin Highlands development pact by agreeing to limit [total] retail development to 250,000 square feet. AN I-271 INTERCHANGE OPENED in Chagrin Highlands last summer, and Jacobs now wants Cleveland council to let him build warehouse-sized stores.

Cleveland City Council President Michael Polensek, who sponsored the legislation, has said he supports the plan. He organized private meetings between Jacobs and council members last week to discuss it. But yesterday he said he is undecided about the proposal ...

Mayor Michael R. White agrees with mayors in Warrensville Heights, Highland Hills and North Randall that Jacobs proposal is a bad idea. So does former Cleveland City Council President Jay Westbrook.

"As far as I m concerned, their opposition should be reason enough to table the legislation," Westbrook said.

The opposition is partly about income taxes. Cleveland splits income taxes collected in Chagrin Highlands with the suburbs, and lower-paying jobs in stores would yield less in tax revenue than office jobs.

"The city of Warrensville Heights will not sit idly by and have Dick Jacobs and the Jacobs-friendly Cleveland City Council dictate the economic destiny of this municipality," Fudge said ...

Jacobs officials said yesterday [3-1-01] ... Warrensville zoning allows stores at the highway interchange ... Fudge said Warrensville officials might change the zoning to keep stores out.

North Randall Mayor Shelton T. Richardson said yesterday that any stores in Chagrin Highlands would imperil the economic future of his village. Westbrook said such stores also would siphon shoppers away from Cleveland.

"There is not one single shred of justification for the city of Cleveland to use its own land to further the out-migration of retail from the city," he said. ''

E-mail: cquinn@plaind.com

E-mail: mvosburg@plaind.com

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FEATURE ARTICLE from FRIENDS OF WETLANDS NEWSLETTER, December, 2000, By JOHN KATKO, President of Friends of Wetlands

"Last October 25 [2000] I and several other[s] ... met with representatives of the Jacobs Group and the Chagrin Highland Project at the latter's request at the corporate headquarters already erected on the site.

The purpose of this meeting, as I perceived it, was so that the developers could assuage any misgivings we might have about the impact of the Chagrin Highlands project on the community and the environment and so obviate the hearing we are now attending. My misgivings were not assuaged.

When we entered the corporate headquarters I was awed by the majestic and cathedral-like aspect of the facility, with its very high ceilings, very big doors, huge thick tables and comfortable seats, the vast spaces that challenged my grasp of how they could all be used.

When I considered the energy needed to heat and light such lofty halls, the land needed for so extensive, comfortable, and sprawling a facility, the luxuriance of materials needed to construct such rarefied, spacious precincts with their refulgent accoutrements, I couldn't help but contrast the copious resources dedicated to that place with the one where I work: a public middle school.

And I must admit I feel a surge of resentment that the developers want more and more and more. More land, more destroyed environments, more resources, more of the money pie and every other pie. They already have salaries ranging from 10 to 100 times that of the average teacher.

From the looks of that facility they have so much already they don't really know what to do with it, and have taken to erecting gigantic monuments commensurate with some corporate sense of power and ego ...

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And I think the Ohio EPA should deny this 401 permit on several grounds.

Wetland H contains a well-established community that includes Glyceria striata, Scirpus cyperinus, Carex tribuloides, possible Carex stricta, Epilobium sp., Viburnum recognitum, and other hydrophytes (those that were still in evident on October 25) that support the conclusions that I saw no evidence that anyone who was competent to identify grasses and sedges was contracted to participate in the delineation of the wetland habitats on this site. The best hope for adequate floral surveys may have been the presence of OEPA or ACOE personnel on the site.

Adequate floral and faunal surveys necessitate revisitations throughout the year, and I am not sure that this was done even though the consultant assured us that Corps personnel walked the property ``ad nauseam.''

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The proposed mitigation ratio of 1:1.5 is indefensible for the following reasons:

The questionable existing mosaic of C1 and C2 wetlands is even currently inadequately mitigated for in a 1:1.5 ratio, and this is especially true when one considers that half the currently proposed mitigation will take place as restoration of previously restored or created wetlands (replacing an abrogated dike on an already previously altered wetland habitat site at the Hess mitigation bank) that are not only not even on-site but are not even within the same watershed!

In considering mitigation for the habitat loss on the Chagrin Highlands site the OEPA and the ACOE should consider the original quality of these wetlands and their role in the natural ecological mosaic as well.

Destruction and degradation of the associated upland habitat has degraded the wetland function beyond what is currently measurable, and whether or not all this degradation is due to the activities of the current development plan (and some of it undoubtedly is) the public should be compensated for this loss of function.

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This place once and recently (and to some extent still does, even though it has not been adequately measured) supported high-quality plant and animal communities (as evinced by what survives in the surviving C3 wetland communities), and, as an element of increasingly rare areas that have good restoration potential, should be directed to that end by denying 401 and 404 permits to emplace needless and profligate schemes to create more unbelievably sumptuous office space.

But if the permits are approved, the public agencies that do so should assure that more than token and totally inadequate replacement of the lost functions and values takes place through the mitigation process ..."

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