By Kevin Kelley
While most Westlake residents view American Greeting’s move of its corporate headquarters to Crocker Park as an economic boon for the city, residents of Wyndgate Club, a townhouse development directly south of Crocker Park, see the greeting card company as a giant that will hover over their homes.
On Feb. 16, Westlake City Council approved a revised preliminary development plan for Crocker Park that includes the new American Greetings headquarters in an office building that will be up to six floors tall. A nearby parking garage will be up to four stories tall.
The building will be 120 feet from the property line of the Wyndgate development. But that 120 feet will include a road that will exit onto Crocker Road at a new traffic light.
While planned landscaping and a mound will be installed to help screen Wyndgate from Crocker Park, residents don’t like that a six-floor office building will be a stone’s throw away from some of their homes.
What’s more, Wyndgate residents say the revised Crocker Park development plan is a marked difference from what they, and the city, have been told would be built there.
The original plan for Crocker Park had townhouses, like the ones located at the western end of the mixed-use development, also going in at the southern end.
“They’ve changed what Crocker Park’s development close to us was supposed to be,” said Nancy Strickland, a Wyndgate resident who has lobbied against the American Greetings office building going so close to her development.
Strickland made clear she’s not against American Greetings coming to the city, and that she realizes the economic benefits of the card maker’s move to the city.
“Our only concerns are the close proximity to our townhouses,” said Strickland, who has lived on Wyndgate Court for 12 years. “We were always told there would be townhouses or other residences that would butt up to our residences.”
The city’s Planning Commission had approved the new plan, with 29 conditions and modifications, by a 4-0 vote
Council’s vote to approve the new Crocker Park plan was not unanimous. Ken Brady, whose Ward 5 includes Wyndgate, was the only councilman to vote against the revised plan. He said he still has concerns about the proposed buffering between Crocker Park and Wyndgate and wants a 120-foot setback from buildings and roads all the way around Crocker Park’s perimeter.
Council President Michael Killeen acknowledged that the revised plan involves conflicting interests between American Greetings and Wyndgate residents. In its work on the issue since the fall, the Planning Commission attempted to balance those competing interests, he said.
“I realize that no one’s going to be 100 percent happy with this,” the council president said before voting in favor of the revise plan.
Killeen said the approved plan is but one step along the way toward construction of American Greetings’ new headquarters. He urged Wyndgate residents to stay involved and continue to lobby for their interests as the process goes on.
Ward 4 Councilman Michael O’Donnell, who is employed by American Greetings, abstained from the vote, as he has on all votes related to the company and its move to Westlake.
Mayor Dennis Clough acknowledged that the new plan is different from the original plan for Crocker Park. But, he added, the Planning Department, Planning Commission and Crocker Park worked hard to come up with the best plan possible given conflicting interests. The new plan fit the needs of the American Greetings development and meets some of Wyndgate’s needs, the mayor said. It’s time to move forward on the project, Clough said.
“As a city we have to be able to change when circumstances determine or dictate that it may be best to take another look at the overall plan that’s been put in place,” Clough said. “I think most people would agree that Crocker Park has been a success and are pretty proud of what has occurred in that particular area.”