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Friday, November 15, 2013

Cleveland Planning Commission Denies McDonald's Permit for Ohio City Location

Posted By on Fri, Nov 15, 2013 at 12:27 PM

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The Cleveland Planning Commission voted unanimously (5-0) to deny McDonald's a conditional use permit which would have let the fast-food giant set up shop on Lorain and W. 38th in Ohio City. The meeting this morning featured an extensive public comments portion in which residents and small-business owners argued that a McDonald's posed a serious safety threat for the pedestrian-friendly neighborhood and that a busy two-lane drive-thru would affect quality of life.

The proposed McDonald's would have been a relocation of a current franchise on Detroit and W. 70th in Detroit-Shoreway. As such, Councilman Joe Cimperman said that no new jobs would be created.

McDonald's attorney Bruce Rinker touted his client's compliance with zoning regulations. And despite public comments which Rinker acknowledged were "sincere," he said that ultimately, the city was dealing with "legal criteria" and that McDonald's would do everything in its power to make the site safe. (Rinker moonlights as the Mayor of Mayfield Village, where there are zero McDonald's, and a commissioner of the Cleveland Metroparks).

Not safe enough for Ohio City residents, evidently. The public opposition centered on children walking to school, cyclists who utilize Lorain and the exacerbation of an already unwieldy intersection. Cimperman said that 80 percent of fast food patrons ignore "No Left Turn" signs.

Some Cleveland.com commenters suspected that the opposition was much more philosophical, that McDonald's simply doesn't fit "liberal" residents' vision for the neighborhood which emphasizes local food and indie retail. In an earlier story, Cimperman told Scene that McDonald's wasn't all that "Ohio-City-istic."

That may be true, but residents came out in force this morning to assert their opposition and the planning commission took heed. The plus side for Ohio City, according to Cimperman — via text message immediately following the meeting — was that the city's law department now becomes the neighborhood's lawyer if McDonald's chooses to pursue (which Cimperman thinks is likely).

It's good to see public comments registered and acted upon by a governing body. But it'd be nice to see the same sort of response in neighborhoods other than Ohio City. At a public meeting for the Opportunity Corridor last month, the pronounced opposition from residents on Cleveland's east side — many of whom were scheduled to have their homes demolished — were uniformly ignored. The comments questioning that project hasn't seemed to deter developers or alter their pre-determined schedule and plan of action in any appreciable way.

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