March Mayor’s Report as printed in The Willoughby Times:
This month we have exciting news to share with our residents. We are very close to protecting a significant part of the Chagrin River through the efforts of multiple organizations and agencies. Over the past two years, a local developer has attempted to rezone properties currently owned by the Andrews Osborne Academy for single-family homes. AOA is releasing the property to create an operations fund for campus improvements. The developer’s initial proposal called for 102 lots on nearly 50 acres of the property while preserving and protecting about 13 acres. Our Planning Commission expressed its concern over the scale of the development. Over the months, the project was reduced to 91 homes and eventually to 51 homes while preserving over 26 acres of wetlands. While this is an excellent solution for AOA and the developer, it is also a great victory for conservation in Willoughby. It proves that thoughtful development can occur with careful attention to the environment. But the story does not end here.
Andrews Osborne has other property along the Chagrin River. We are now working with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and the Chagrin River Watershed Partners to secure nearly 75 acres of additional property along the river. Control of this land provides a link from Daniels Park to Todd Field, and all the properties will be protected by conservation easements, meaning they will remain a natural asset forever. Also, Chagrin River Watershed Partners were recently awarded a $2.2 million H2Ohio grant to improve the east tributary of the Chagrin River west of the Rte. 84 bridge near Daniels Park. This will also be a conservation area. With these efforts, Willoughby will gain about 200 acres of protected property along the Chagrin River.
Interestingly, of the 16,500 lineal feet of riverfront meandering through our city, we will have control of about 10,700 linear feet on at least one of the river edges. In short, our residents will have access to about 63% of the Chagrin River in Willoughby. This is noteworthy when it creates a potential future connection to Lake Metroparks Reeves Road Park. Of course, we will need to secure or gain easements for a few other properties along the river, and we would need to identify ways to cross the river, move around bridge abutments and deal with other walking obstructions.
The value of access to the Chagrin River cannot be underestimated. The location of our original settlement, Abbot’s Mill, was on the river just north of our historic downtown, and the Chagrin River provides key cultural and economic development opportunities. In addition, we will soon call our riverfront an important environmental asset.