October 22, 2014

Elyria
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Nagel Road interchange vote on hold

CLEVELAND — Despite a consultant’s report that says a proposed new Interstate 90 interchange in Avon won’t have a significant impact on development in the region, Elyria Mayor Bill Grace continues to oppose the interchange plan.

“The clear losers in this scenario are the city of Elyria, which I represent,” Grace said. “I would also say the city of Westlake is a loser.”

Grace isn’t alone in his opposition to the $19 million interchange — which would be built with money from the city of Avon, private business and a tax agreement and could be open for traffic as early as 2009. Many Cuyahoga County officials also oppose the plan, saying it would steal business from their communities and increase urban sprawl.

A planned vote on the interchange by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency set for Friday was delayed until next month at the request of Avon.

Avon Mayor Jim Smith said he and businesses that plan to build in the area, including the Cleveland Clinic and the Richard Jacobs Group, wanted to give NOACA members time to review the plan.

Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove urged NOACA to approve the interchange when the vote does come, saying it would help with the proposed 170,000-square-foot medical facility off Nagel Road, near the proposed interchange.

Lorain County Commissioner Ted Kalo said negotiations are under way to cut a deal with opponents of the plan — including the Cuyahoga County commissioners — to change their minds.

Avon Planning Coordinator Jim Piazza said the city is willing to work with surrounding communities, but it’s not going to be just Avon giving other cities money.

“We are certainly willing to sit down and discuss revenue sharing within the region,” he said.

Grace, one of the few Lorain County officials who opposes the plan, said he believes that the creation of a new interchange would draw retail and other businesses that do well at highway access points away from Elyria and other communities. Some of that business could come from Midway Mall, which has already lost one anchor store this year.

J.C. Penney, which has a location at the mall, recently announced plans to open another store on state Route 83 in Avon. Grace said he doubts the Midway Mall location will survive for long with another store so near.

Grace also told his fellow NOACA members that since the consultant didn’t believe there would be any real impact on development once the interchange opens, there was no reason to build it. The effect on Midway Mall is obvious, he said.

“Absent of it helping, it’s going to hurt,” he said.

Smith scoffed at the notion that a new interchange will kill business in other communities.

“It’s just another interchange,” Smith said. “It’s not going to make or break Elyria or Cleveland.”

Kalo said he’s hopeful that the interchange will be approved, although if a deal can’t be worked out and Cuyahoga County commissioners invoke their power of a weighted vote — which would allow them to count each of their votes as four votes — it could spell the end of the plan.

But whether the Cuyahoga County commissioners will be able to use a weighted vote is up in the air.

Geauga County Commissioner Craig Albert said that since not every member of the 35-member NOACA board is elected, the law allowing weighted votes might not apply and each member’s vote should count only once. A legal opinion is expected by the time the NOACA board meets again Oct. 12 to decide the issue.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.