WKSU, Mark Urycki:
If you’d like to build an expressway that links Beachwood to Youngstown, you’ve had your chance to suggest it.
Groups of people have been gathering in cities around Northeast Ohio this week to make suggestions about the future growth of the region. It’s all being funded by a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The Obama Administration is handing out grant money in hopes of saving much larger sums in the long run. The Partnership for Sustainable Communities is an effort by HUD, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. EPA. They’re hoping that better designed communities will mean less waste building new roads and housing developments while the old ones just crumble.
The Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium has been asking locals how to do that this week. April 1 – May 2, sessions were held across Northeast Ohio.
The organization is made up of 33 members, all the major cities, counties and transportation or planning agencies in the 12-county region. It’s pretty clear by their projections of what Northeast Ohio would look like in 2040 that their biggest concern is that the region cannot afford to sprawl outwards while older houses, businesses and neighborhoods are abandoned. Jeff Anderle explained that NEOSCC is asking citizens where to put the resources.
“What should we be doing potentially in the future to create a more vibrant region? Given government resources being strapped, it’s very important we make wise investment with the tax dollars.
“Something like this takes some of the guesswork out of it and says, ‘What are the fiscal impacts of these choices and how governments work better and collaborate better just within the cities or counties where they are?”
So in a half dozen locations this past week, interested citizens have been hovering over maps, drawing out what they’d like to invest in or not.
A couple men in Akron objected to the word invest and said the free market should decide, that no one should tell private property owners how they can use their land. Consultant James Miner of the Boston-based Sasaki Associates planning firm suggested they imagine being a farmer who wanted to keep farming.
“Land rights are very important in this country. It’s something we do not want to violate. However, the free market has the ability to cause pressure on you as a farm owner because the growth of residential use in your community could reach your front door.“
This week the Sustainable Communities Consortium gathered about six-dozen maps that represent the land-use and transportation wishes of the people in attendance. Our ideas will be used to create alternative scenarios for the region and then presented at later town hall meetings.