differ on I-90 agreement
By Jeff Gallatin
Published Oct. 17, 2007
area mayors are on different paths when it comes to describing the
agreement on a joint economic development zone plan for the Avon
I-90 interchange plan announced at last Friday’s meeting of the
Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency.
Bay Village Mayor Debbie Sutherland said the long,
hard road to an agreement on the I-90 interchange by Avon can lead
to a better future for not only her city, but the entire area.
Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough said the agreement does
his city no good because it does not cover the major economic player
The Cleveland Clinic. The agreement exempts the Clinic’s
already announced health care center to be located near the interchange.
In addition, Clough remains concerned about the potential impact
of the project on roadways in his city.
Avon Mayor Jim Smith said he still believes the Cuyahoga
County governments pushed their interests too much at the expense
of his city but said he agreed to a final proposal because he is
committed to getting an interchange.
After a group of officials from Cuyahoga and Lorain
counties announced the joint economic development zone on the Avon
I-90 interchange at last Friday’s meeting of the Northeast Ohio
Areawide Coordinating Agency, Sutherland said her city will utilize
aspects of the agreement which provide for roadway improvements
in Bay Village and Westlake. Officials in both communities have
been expressing concern for months about the potential impact of
the project on roadways in their communities.
The agreement ends months of wrangling and conflict
between different governmental bodies about the interchange. Cuyahoga
County officials had indicated earlier this month they were likely
to block approval of the interchange unless their concerns about
loss of businesses and potential road problems were dealt with.
Sutherland said from Bay’s perspective, the primary
concern remains keeping good roadways after the work is done.
“We will be looking to NOACA and other agencies to
help obtain the funds for dealing with any potential problems on
our roads,” Sutherland said. “The agreement can help us seek those
other sources of funding.”
She said studies indicating anticipated heavier traffic
problems in the Bradley Road area indicate where some of the potential
problems can develop.
“We just want to make sure that we have means of fixing
any problems which develop,” she said.
Smith said the Cuyahoga County governmental agencies
were too focused on their needs and were ignoring Avon’s.
“It’s still pretty frustrating,” Smith said. “I don’t
believe that it was the best deal
for us. But I’m committed to getting an interchange, so this
is a deal I can live with. If we didn’t do an interchange, nobody
will remember in five years who did what to who. They’ll only remember
we didn’t get the interchange.”
Sutherland, who has been heavily involved in the talks
as the current president of the Cuyahoga County Mayors and Managers
Association, said the proposed agreement affects more than just
Bay Village and Avon. She said the joint economic development zone
set up by the agreement should benefit many different communities.
“There have been a number of concerns throughout all
of this from loss of business, income to communities, dealing with
road issues and working with neighboring communities,” she said.
“However, the revenue sharing aspects should help all of them deal
with potential problems.”
Clough, however, said he doesn’t see Westlake as benefiting
at all from the agreement.
“It doesn’t cover the only announced project which
has the payroll figure of more than $750,000 – the Clinic project,”
Clough said. “It doesn’t consider our community and how the Clinic
affects us with what it has here now. That clinic project out in
Avon will be taking jobs from the Clinic in Westlake.”
He said the provisions for roadway improvement also
don’t offer assistance to Westlake and the roadways it is concerned
about being affected by the project.
NOACA officials voted to approve the interchange subject
to confirmation of all terms by Avon’s City Council within 30 days.
Councils in the designated cities along the I-90 corridor will need
to approve the economic development agreement for those cities to
share in the benefits of the tax sharing plan.
Under terms of the proposed agreement, for any businesses
with an annual gross payroll exceeding $700,000 that relocates from
one of the participating cities, Avon would share half of the income
tax with the affected city for five years, unless the property was
refilled with another business. The overall economic development
agreement would be in effect for the next 30 years.
Avon further agreed to place limits on its use of
tax incentives to lure existing regional businesses to locate in
the interchange zone. Real estate tax abatement would not exceed
75 percent and for no more than 10 years, and income tax abatements
would be prohibited.
Specifically exempted from the agreement is the already
announced Cleveland Clinic healthcare center project and the first
500 jobs at that center. The Clinic has stated that building this
facility is not contingent on the interchange and that the facility
represents an expansion of service and not relocation.
said city of Cleveland officials, the Cuyahoga County Commissioners
and officials from the Cleveland Clinic all played an important
role in getting the work done. She said officials tried to be as
fair as possible in the deal. She said other aspects of the deal,
such as making the deal reciprocal if any Lorain County businesses
moved to Cuyahoga County, could still be dealt with.
“We would be willing to go back and include something
like that in any agreement,” she said.
Smith said the entire process has been tough for all
parties, particularly Avon and Lorain County.
“It’s strained our relations with other communities,”
Smith said. “But we wanted the interchange, so we got something
done to do it.”
Clough said Westlake’s interests just weren’t taken
“It doesn’t take us into account,” he said.
Sutherland said officials tried to make the deal as
complete as possible but noted that not everybody will be completely
“This affects a large number of people and communities,”
she said. “It’s a compromise. You don’t get all that you want in