July 30, 2014

Elyria
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Cuyahoga officials voice opposition to I-90 interchange

ELYRIA — City officials from Cuyahoga County said Wednesday that a proposed Interstate 90 highway interchange at Avon’s Lear-Nagle Road has the potential to rob their communities of existing business and future growth.

More than 150 people turned out at Lorain County Community College’s Spitzer Conference Center for a public forum hosted by the

Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, the organization heading up a study to measure the project’s potential economic impact.

NOACA consultant Steve Weitzner said early results from the economic-impact study — designed to predict the project’s likely impact over the next 23 years — show that the interchange will have a “significant positive impact on Avon.”

And while Weitzner also said the project will have no “material impact” on the region’s overall economy during the same 23-year period, officials from areas outside Lorain County aren’t so sure.

“I don’t agree at all with your statement that there will be no material cost to the surrounding communities,” said Bob Perry, Westlake’s director of economic development.

Perry and Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough said Weitzner’s claims that the project won’t be a detriment to areas on Avon’s periphery, such as Westlake and Cleveland, didn’t match the reality.

Clough, Perry and Cleveland Councilman Tony Brancatelli said growth in Avon will mean existing and future development will be siphoned away from their areas.

Clough said five Westlake companies recently left his town and moved to Lorain County to cash in on handsome tax breaks.

The result for Westlake, Clough said, has been 500,000 square feet of vacant office space.

Weitzner said results from the project’s economic-impact study are reliable.

The study is designed to measure the economic and other development the interchange could trigger, and compare two scenarios — life with an interchange and life without an interchange.

Weitzner said the interchange’s construction could result in an additional 1.4 million square feet of office space and 680,000 square feet of industrial space in Avon over the next 23 years — all within a 1,400-acre area near the proposed interchange. 

It could also create more than 9,000 new jobs in Avon over that 23-year period, and more than $4 million a year in tax revenue, Weitzner said.

Many local officials at the meeting, including North Ridgeville Mayor David Gillock, lauded the interchange project as being good for Lorain County.

Gillock fired back at Cuyahoga County officials who opposed the project, saying the interchange’s financial rewards shouldn’t be shared with Cuyahoga County cities because they never shared money from their developments — such as Westlake’s Crocker Park — with Lorain County communities.

NOACA consultant David Hartt said the finalized study will be released Sept. 7. The NOACA board’s 38 members — made up of officials from Lorain, Cuyahoga, Lake, Medina and Geauga counties — will review the study on Sept. 14.

Contact Shawn Foucher at 329-7197 or sfoucher@chroniclet.com.