By Sue Botos
When Joe’s Deli owners Joe and Jeanette Kanaan submitted plans for a new restaurant to the city planning commission about three years ago, they included a driveway off of Rockcliff Drive at the rear of their property. At that time, it was stated that additional access was needed for the popular Rocky River restaurant, at the corner of Hilliard and Wooster roads, aside from the existing drive that caused many customers, when leaving, to make a left turn onto busy Hilliard.
The driveway idea was turned down by the planning commission on the basis that Rockcliff, a two-lane road leading to the Metroparks, already served enough traffic. Members stated that, in addition, the proposed drive would add to the congestion at the intersection of Wooster and Rockcliff.
Residents of Rockcliff were relieved, but the feeling didn’t last long, as the Kanaans have brought the issue to the city again, represented by attorneys David Matty, former city law director, and Bruce Rinker, who is also mayor of Mayfield Village.
“We know Joe and Jeanette take the best interest of their customers to heart. They listen to their customers,” said Rockcliff resident Andy Calladine, who, with his wife Carole, lives across the street from the proposed driveway site and next to the parking lot for Ferris Steak House.
“Older people feel safer turning right. We understand the concept and theory,” continued Calladine. However, he said that the “bottom line” was that traffic at the intersection of Hilliard and Wooster was already backed up at peak hours. With cars and pedestrians coming up the hill from the Metroparks, plus the driveway from Ferris (off of Rockcliff), the addition of another drive could be a recipe for disaster.
“This would add to the mess. Wooster is the only access at this end of the city for semis making deliveries. It’s scary to sit in the (left) turn lane and have a beast of a truck coming at you,” Calladine stated.
The Kanaans would not speak with West Life regarding their renewed campaign for the driveway, but building Commissioner Kevin Beirne speculated that their customers, many of whom are elderly, encouraged them to do so. “The customers have been complaining about the driveway, and the paramedics would also like another (access point),” he stated.
Councilman at Large Mike Harvey, who headed the planning commission during Joe’s first request for an additional driveway, noted that at that time, “Ferris was not in the picture.” He said that what is now the steakhouse was formerly O’Malley’s Rockcliff, which drew a smaller crowd than Ferris. “Parking was not an issue,” Harvey said, pointing out that during busy times, Ferris diners park on Rockcliff, adding to the congestion.
Harvey added that residents living on Rockciff are concerned over a “chain reaction” of businesses pressuring homeowners to sell. Calladine said that when he and his wife bought their home, which overlooks the Metroparks, they were unaware that the area had been zoned commercial in the 1970s. He stated that Matty, representing Joe’s, had approached them about buying their property for parking, but Calladine was not interested. “We wanted $180,000 and they offered $150,000 to $160,000,”
he recalled. When Ferris was O’Malley’s, owner Mike O’Malley also visited the Calladines with the plan of tearing down their home and the restaurant to make way for a condominium complex. “We were offered a suite in the condominium in return, but Mike O’Malley died, and we never heard anything else,” he said.
In addition, Calladine noted that Joe’s owners had already purchased and torn down a home directly across Rockcliff when they built their new restaurant, replacing an older building that had sat on the eastern end of their property for many years.
Regardless of the outcome, Harvey predicted that round two of the driveway dispute would not be easily resolved. “The neighbors will continue to come out (to protest). I don’t know (what) their (Joe’s) rationale is for trying again, but they decided they are going to war,” he noted.