By Kevin Kelley
The job of updating the city’s master plan for development began for real as members of the city’s master plan steering committee met for the first time Feb. 23 at the Gemini Center.
Jim Kennedy, the city’s planning director, gave members of the 19-person committee their first homework assignment: Evaluate and rank the seven firms that applied to serve as consultant for the planning process.
Representatives of the top two or three companies will be invited to make presentations to the committee at its next meeting, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. March 15 at the Gemini Center. Following that, regular meetings of the committee will take place at 5:30 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month for the next eight or nine months.
Seven firms submitted bids to provide professional planning services for the master plan update. The firms are the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission, Environmental Design Group, City Architecture, Reveille, URS Corp., Bird Houk and MSI/KKG.
All the firms’ proposed fees for their services were at, or just below, $30,000 – the amount of money the city received from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in a Community Development Block Grant. The firms’ proposals, each about 30 pages long, include information about each company and past projects each has been involved with.
Selection of the firm will be made by the committee. Kennedy suggested members consider each company’s experience, references, familiarity with Fairview Park and past association with the city.
The Cuyahoga County Planning Commission issued the city’s first master plan in 1999. Environmental Design Group, then known as the Floyd Browne Group, developed a streetscape improvement plan for the western end of Lorain Road in 2007. Although the city received a grant to proceed with the plan, cumbersome government regulations involved with implementation led the city to drop the project, Kennedy said.
Committee members also discussed the pros and cons of choosing firms in northern Ohio versus those located farther away.
Fairview Park City Schools Superintendent Brion Deitsch warned against selecting a firm with a reputation for proposing pie-in-the-sky projects that neither the city nor anyone else can afford. He metaphorically suggested the city strive for a Buick over a Cadillac.
Kennedy said the original 1999 master plan and an update in 2005 led to several positive changes in the city, including the elimination of dilapidated motels and construction of the city’s recreation center.
“Much of what you see today in Fairview Park is the result of those past master plans,” Kennedy said.
The 2012 project, Kennedy said, should look at everything in the community, including housing, recreational needs and schools.
“What is the next step this city should be taking?” Kennedy asked, referring to questions the committee should attempt to answer. “What should our goals be in the next five to 10 years?”
Ward 2 Councilman Bill Minek, who serves on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, said addressing the empty storefronts along Lorain Road should be among the project’s top priorities.
New Hope Church Pastor Dan Sewell suggested the committee challenge the status quo in the city, particularly over zoning and signage ordinances that businesses might find cumbersome. Fairview Park is the only area city that requires voter approval for zoning changes, he noted.