By Kevin Kelley
Low taxes, financial stability and good municipal services continue to attract residents and businesses to Westlake, Mayor Dennis Clough said in his annual state of the city address March 12 to the Westshore Chamber of Commerce.
Seventy-three businesses either opened in, relocated to or expanded in Westlake last year, the mayor reported. While some were larger corporations, such as Hyland Software, many were small businesses, he said.
“As we all know, the key to economic growth is often the result of the expansion of small businesses,” said Clough, who is running unopposed for his eighth term in November.
More businesses are coming, the mayor said. Nordstrom Rack, a discount women’s clothing store, is due to open in the vacant Borders store at the Promenade at Crocker Park, something Clough said his wife, Virginia, is happy about. Clough joked that husbands may have to work a little harder for money if their wives spend a lot of money there, but they can invest their money with Equity Trust, another firm scheduled to move to Westlake in 2013.
A recreational facility, Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park, is also opening this year, Clough reported.
“At my age, I wouldn’t recommend that,” he said as a photo of kids bouncing on a trampoline apparatus appeared on a screen next to him. The mayor added that he sprained his knees while joining his grandchildren on a trampoline recently.
The city is still awaiting definite word from American Greetings that it will proceed with plans to move its headquarters to Crocker Park, Clough said. The company put those plans on hold when its management announced a plan to take the publicly traded company private. The planned American Greeting headquarters and the rest of the final phase of Crocker Park’s development will result in one million square feet of retail and office space, he said.
Good planning has been central to Westlake’s success, said the mayor, who saluted the city’s director of planning and economic development, Bob Parry, who will retire next month. Clough also called for applause for police Chief Richard Walling, who also plans on retiring this year.
Westlake’s residential and commercial tax millage rates are among the lowest in the region, Clough said in remarks made at LaCentre Conference and Banquet Facility.
“It’s been over 20 years since the income tax rate has increased in the city of Westlake,” the mayor said.
The city’s total property tax valuation, now around $1.366 billion, declined only 0.36 percent in 2011 and rebounded by 0.10 percent in 2012, the mayor reported.
The city won’t spend more than it takes in in 2013, and the debt burden is extremely low, Clough said.
Westlake leaders continue to pursue a switch of water suppliers from the city of Cleveland’s Division of Water to Avon Lake Municipal Utilities, Clough said, but the matter has become tied up in court. Clough continues to strongly believe a switch is in the city’s best interest.
“It gives us more control over our maintenance, as well as it gives us the opportunity to use resources generated from the sale of water to replace water lines,” he said.
Along with Bay Village, Fairview Park and Rocky River, Westlake continues to study the possibility of establishing a regional fire district, the mayor reported.
Clough encouraged residents to sign up for the Nixle Community Information Service alert service that sends emergency information and traffic detour notices to people’s cellphones. Such alerts can prove beneficial during situations like the power blackout and numerous road closures that occurred following Superstorm Sandy, he said. Residents can sign up for the service online at www.nixle.com.
Fifteen years after its opening, the city’s recreation center remains popular with its more than 12,300 members, Clough said.
“The construction of the recreation center is one of the proudest things that I feel has happened under my administration,” said the mayor, who regularly uses the center himself. “Everyone can use it, no matter what your age.”