facility wins close rezoning vote
By Kevin Kelley
Published Oct. 22, 2008
one member’s name left for clerk Susan Prehoda to call, council
was locked in a rare 3-3 tie.
Ed Hack, Jim Connole and Dennis Sullivan, who represent
wards 1, 2 and 3, respectively, had each voted Thursday against
a rezoning ordinance that would allow the Hospice of the Western
Reserve to build a new branch on Crocker Road. Council President
Michael Killeen, Ward 6 representative Nan Baker and Ward 5 Councilman
Ken Brady had voted in favor of the ordinance.
Michael O’Donnell, who represents ward 4, paused for
about 15 seconds when Prehoda called his name, adding a little more
suspense to the vote.
Finally, he said, “Yes.”
His vote cleared the way for Hospice of the Western
Reserve, which has its headquarters and a 42-bed facility on East
185th Street in Cleveland, to build a planned 32-bed facility adjacent
to Bonnie Bell’s current manufacturing site on Crocker Road.
Hospice of the Western Reserve has an option to purchase
30 acres there, according to David Simpson, CEO of the organization.
The wooded running and hiking trails now on the property
will be preserved, Simpson said.
Resistance on council to allowing a hospice to build
on the Crocker Road property comes from the fact that the land had
been zoned for industrial use only. The ordinance, which passed
by the 4-3 vote, changes the zoning of several parcels to health
Hack called the rezoning ordinance part of “a continued
assault” on the city’s exclusive industrial zone.
In July, by an identical 4-3 vote, council approved
a zoning ordinance that will allow Cuyahoga Community College to
build a 32.9-acre Westshore campus at the corner of Bradley and
Clemens roads. The property on which the college intends to construct
three buildings had been zoned exclusively for industrial uses.
Like Tri-C, the hospice, as a nonprofit organization,
will not pay property taxes on the land it purchases.
The city’s exclusive industrial zone sets Westlake
apart from other communities in terms of economic planning and “is
and should be the backbone of our long-term strategy for a sound
economic base for the city,” Hack said before the vote.
Hack acknowledged that the city’s industrial zone
has not developed as fast as had been anticipated. But he said it
should be preserved for future development from which the city will
collect property tax.
Hack said approval of the rezoning amounted to a future
tax increase on Westlake’s residents. He noted that the Westlake
Board of Education had written council asking that it weigh the
loss of property tax income when deliberating the matter.
“By allowing this rezoning on the 30-acre industrial
site, we will never receive a share of tax assistance for schools
and lose potential tax relief for our citizens,” said the letter,
signed by school board President Andrea Rocco on behalf of the board.
Hack and Connole suggested that the hospice be located
at the campus of St. John West Shore Hospital, which is already
zoned as a health campus district and therefore not liable for property
“I would think there should be a very, very high standard
of requirement on applicant before we would even consider a rezoning
anywhere, much less in our exclusive industrial,” Hack said.
“We’re essentially, through the back door, saying
we’re changing our policy for that area,” Hack said.
Hack said that the city was so weakening its criteria
for building in the exclusive industrial zone that it should now
consider whether there should be any limitations at all on building
Killeen agreed, saying the city should consider modifying
its zoning criteria for the area.
“You’re not going to get what people think ‘industrial’
is anymore,” Killeen said. “It’s distribution and it’s offices.”
Connole agreed with Hack that it would be better for
the hospice to build at St. John West Shore Hospital. He acknowledged
that Hospice of the Western Reserve does good work in its ministry
to the dying but urged council members to keep emotions out of the
Connole acknowledged that manufacturing jobs have
largely left the country. However, he said good, high-paying research
and development jobs could be lured to Westlake’s industrial zone.
Mayor Dennis Clough, who has been in favor of the
rezoning, said the hospice will create about 800 jobs, which will
bring income taxes.
“I do believe that this is a good project, in fact,
that it’s going to sustain our economic vitality with bringing additional
jobs and additional people into the community,” the mayor said.
“I think it’s a plus, and I think the plus outweighs the minuses
at this point in time.”
Clough rejected the suggestion that the hospice be
built at St. John West Shore Hospital, noting that the hospice will
draw patients from other hospitals.
Despite his hesitation before voting, O’Donnell told
West Life that he was firmly behind the hospice rezoning. Although
he said he considered the letter from school board members, he said
he believed the Crocker Road site was a good location for the hospice.
He also said the concern about losing tax-generating
industrial land was overstated.
“There’s still a lot of industrial land left,” O’Donnell
said. “We’re not giving it all away.”
According to Hospice of the Western Reserve, completion
of the new Westlake Hospice House is slated for late 2009.
On the Web: