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May 17

Community letter from Mayor Ray DeGraw regarding Northwest Boulevard

Posted on May 17, 2016 at 7:56 PM by Laura Oldham

degrawlogoDear Neighbors,

In the past few days, I have received some inquires about the work that is occurring on Northwest Boulevard, especially the removal of some trees. While the work can seem jarring, it was done with much thought for the community, citizens, and trees and with years of planning and citizen input. I have heard a lot of information and some misinformation about the trees, the project, and why the trees were removed. Below is an overview where I will try my best explain some of the factors and the input that led us to this point:
 
  • 1997The City of Grandview Heights Community Plan identifies the former Big Bear industrial area as a future redevelopment site and names it the Grandview Commerce District, today known as the Grandview Yard. 
  • 2009 - Joint Development Agreement – Improvements to Northwest Boulevard were part of the original Joint Development Agreement between the City and NRI, first approved by City Council in 2009. It was recognized then that the Grandview Commerce District (now the Yard) was important for our community. To achieve the level of economic development within the district, it was important that Northwest Boulevard function as it was originally designed, to be a thoroughfare street. 
  • 2010 - Southeast Area PlanThis plan was a study of the existing residential areas that would be most impacted by development. At that time, the plan for the Yard included a retail development north, and more of a mixed use area south of Burrell. Using several months of input from the community, along with the long-term vision and consultants’ studies, we maintained the existing residential land uses along Northwest Boulevard, keeping parking on this street. The Boulevard had to be able to continue to carry traffic efficiently through the City. If the street does not function as designed, drivers would likely look for alternative routes by cutting through our residential neighborhoods. We made plans to protect our neighborhoods from this cut-through traffic and also add left turn lanes to allow adequate safety for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. 
  • 2010 - Community Connectivity - Community discussions during this time also identified the importance of having a visible connection between the Yard and the rest of our community. It was important that the Yard not be its own area, but rather to integrate it into the fabric of our community in a variety of ways. From these discussions and a Community Enhancement Study, the potential for an additional community park along a better connected First Avenue was introduced. The enhanced First Avenue connection also presented the opportunity to include a multipurpose/bicycle path and a park-like street, increasing walkability and safety. 
  • Public Input in the Design of Northwest Boulevard – The City conducted a series of public meetings in the summer of 2014 before the Planning Commission. The Commission heard many comments at these meetings. From these meetings came the public’s input that centered around 1) maintaining parking on Northwest Boulevard, 2) discouraging cut-through traffic in residential neighborhoods, 3) enhancing pedestrian and bicycle safety, 4) preserving trees and 5) discouraging large increases of traffic on West First Avenue. The Commission listened to and made a number of updates to the plans to incorporate this feedback as much as possible. After considering all aspects, the Commission found it had to balance traffic and pedestrian safety and functionality against the removal of some trees. With these factors in mind, the initial plan was altered in the following ways: The width of First Avenue adjacent to Pierce Field was reduced by one lane to save two mature trees as well as to help slow traffic. A northbound left turn lane from Northwest to Burr was eliminated, saving two mature trees, and a turn lane at Northwest and Goodale was shortened to save another mature tree. A multipurpose path along Pierce Field was added to the plan to increase the safety of people who walk and bike, providing an off-road travel path that goes from Oxley Road to the Olentangy Bikeway, pending the completion of the Third Avenue bridge widening. Brick crosswalks were added at Northwest and First for safer crossing for pedestrians. These changes increased the safety for people who walk and bike while also saving five large trees that were initially identified for removal. 
  • Northwest Boulevard is a City Project that is necessary to promote critical economic development within the Grandview Commerce District– The city determined the scope of the project, solicited bids, and is overseeing the construction. The two most important design goals are enhancing connectivity across Northwest Boulevard and the need to efficiently move traffic through Northwest Boulevard while preserving parking. The city received a $2.1 million Ohio Public Works Grant that primarily consists of the street work, including the turn lanes. We also received a federal grant for the traffic lights along the street improvements and took advantage of the size of the project to include bids for new waterlines on Northwest Boulevard and Hilo Lane, and also relining a sanitary sewer on Hilo Lane. These were separately funded by city council. There will also be safety and street improvements at all the intersections along the entire length of Northwest up to Virginia Avenue and First Avenue up to Virginia Avenue. 
  • Our Urban Forest - We take our urban forest designation very seriously and employ an arborist to maintain and care for our trees. Grandview Heights has been recognized for 32 straight years as a Tree City U.S.A. However, for the safety and welfare of our residents and visitors, the removal of the nine mature trees on Northwest Boulevard and three mature trees in the park was determined to be necessary by the City. Eleven elm trees were past the prime of their lives. According to our arborist, approximately ten of these Elm trees were removed from the boulevard over the past 15 years, most recently three mature Elm trees from the islands at First and Northwest. The trees are susceptible to diseases, Botryodiplodia canker and Elm dieback, that kill the branches and are exacerbated by drought. The sprinkler system being installed along Northwest Boulevard will help preserve the remaining ten Elm trees with the intent of prolonging their lives. The sprinkler will also help ensure that the more than 100 new trees being planted along this corridor will mature and be healthy. To save additional trees, the city temporarily removed 28 trees from the islands and park to transplant to other locations in the city. We have already replanted one of the trees as part of a Cub Scout project. The nine Armstrong Maples along the park were removed by the City because the trees were already declining. The replacement trees were selected by the city’s Landscape Advisory Board; a mixture of five different varieties of oak, two types of American Elms, Hackberry, Hardy Rubber, and Maple trees.
I am pleased that so many residents participated in planning to address the visual, environmental, and functional aspects of Northwest Boulevard. Residents’ input makes for a much more robust plan and will result in a superior product that will serve the City for generations to come.

We are a small, close-knit community. Like most small cities, economic development is extremely important to the health of Grandview Heights. In the past few years we have positioned this community to be strong and financially secure for years to come. I am confident that it will make Grandview Heights a better place for our children and grandchildren. With a positive outlook, our city leaders have a vision and are working together to achieve a stable and bright future. I believe the most important aspect of our accomplishments are those that allow us to celebrate our strengths, and continue to provide the very best for our great community.

Sincerely,

Mayor Ray E. DeGraw
1016 Grandview Avenue
Grandview Heights, OH 43212
rdegraw@grandviewheights.org
Phone: 614.488.3159
Fax: 614.488.7746