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Oakwood big box is not the end; urban land conservancy forms; gravel drives and climate change two years later

Marc Lefkowitz  |  07/01/11 @ 1:10pm

·Dave Linchek, Executive Director, Greater Cleveland Urban Land Conservancy program will address the new group's mission and impact on regional / urban land use at tonight's Severance Neighborhood Organization meeting (7 p.m. Noble Road Presbyterian Church, 2780 Noble Rd.). Linchek was part of the West Creek Preservation Committee which conserved vast tracts of open space as a recreation corridor in the West Creek watershed (south west suburbs). The Severance group has been fighting to preserve the Oakwood golf course in South Euclid / Cleveland Heights as a similar green space / community asset.

·Many great ideas flowered from local residents who wanted to see Oakwood land converted into more creative and local uses than big box stores. Members of the Severance group and hundreds of citizens urged the developer to try community based retail and supportive land uses, like a local food distribution center and urban farm. Buffalo, NY provides a living example: Our rust belt twin city had residents buying several abandoned lots and converting them into a thriving garden center and bakery. They did it by forming the West Side Community Collaborative (WSCC); more than 700 members invested $100 each. "We've eliminated blight and created our own real estate market," Harvey Garrett, the group's volunteer executive director, told Preservation Magazine.

·Sometimes individual battles are lost, and it feels like we take a step back. But in the long view, are we making progress toward becoming a more sustainable city / region? Recent examples have illustrated how much sway developers have-they can ignore even the well-reasoned arguments of environmentalists, locavores, preservationists, downtown residents in the case of a casino parking garage instead of reusing the Columbia Building or big box instead of a park / community asset at Oakwood. Property owners alone decided the agenda for three cities without a referendum or recourse. At times like those, historic footnotes like the one pictured right provide some small comfort.

We found this 1978 Cleveland Press article about a battle to save the Art Deco 'Gods of Transportation' pylon sculptures on the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge in 1978. Imagine how little the campaign to design a better bridge waged by the Access for All group that eventually won a $6 million investment from ODOT to make it multi-modal would matter if preservationists at that time didn't make a winning case to save the 1932 sandstone gods? The plan then called for widening the bridge from four to six lanes and destroying the sculptures. Instead ODOT saved hundreds of thousands perhaps millions and the city saved these iconic, priceless figures. If the city hadn't stood up then, it would be that much harder to imagine a more intimate and bike-ped friendly bridge now. With the new Lorain-Carnegie Bridge providing a multi-use path that will reduce car lane widths overall, the benefit, like saving the pylons in 1978 again goes to the public in the long run.

·In March 2009, GreenCityBlueLake Institute made the case for NOACA and AMATs-our region's transportation planners-to start accounting for climate change in road projects. After some arm twisting, the agency which controls a huge pot of federal transportation funds, agreed. They included language in their long-range plan that underscores their role in meeting climate change. At the time, we wrote: "The next step is for NOACA to better integrate specific climate change planning activities into their (long-range) plan." Since then, climate change planning at NOACA has not moved from this square one. Meanwhile, this week in Washington, the District's Department of Transportation held a major conference with federal transportation officials and the road building industry (AASHTO) to start planning for a climate change implementation plan.

This full one-day workshop provided a comprehensive overview of global climate change and the transportation-related contributions. Topics covered will include the science, sources and trends relating to climate change; emerging policies and Federal legislation, including NEPA requirements; planning and strategies for greenhouse gas reductions, including land use, freight, and operational strategies; use of innovative technologies for potential reductions; and approaches and initiatives for climate change adaptation.

DDOT hopes to engage DDOT personnel and DDOT partners in discussing the implications of climate change on the regional transportation sector, with specific focus on the District of Columbia, in order to establish a foundation for the development of a DDOT Climate Change Adaptation Plan.

For more information regarding DDOT planning efforts for climate change and the DDOT Climate Change Adaptation Plan, please contact Austina Casey at austina.casey@dc.gov.

·Two years ago, I found out firsthand what it means to pilot sustainability in my own backyard when it intersects with a municipal building code. In retrospect, my fight for a gravel driveway doesn't seem all that hard (compared to raising a child, it falls way down the list). The real encouraging part is how many others want to do the same thing and reach out to me via Google searches. Just today, I was contacted by a resident in another Northeast Ohio suburb who wants to replace a lousy old asphalt drive with a beautiful gravel drive ? and his city officials are on his side. He feels confident that they'll let him go back to the future with a nicely designed gravel drive. My advice to him: I think the key for us was trying to collect the information that supports a gravel drive and then finding a good qualified contractor. You can get a better sense of how we approached the Building department and how we met their concerns from my blog post.

As I mention, my wife's uncle who is a concrete contractor did the work for us and did a great job. He said it's essentially the same sub-base preparation as a concrete drive, but he put the small gravel on top of the sub-base instead of concrete. It cost about 1/3 less than doing it in concrete. If you get the approvals and want to go ahead, I can see if he's interested in doing another gravel drive.

We love our gravel drive by the way. It's been a real quality of life addition; a place where we like to spend time rather than a place to avoid like most driveways. The biggest question we get is how about snow shovelling? I found doing it by hand is not a problem (a big snow blower takes a little bit of skill but it can be done).

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