In a sometimes-heated meeting Monday, July 21, Grandview Heights City Council unanimously passed several pieces of legislation, including approval of revisions to the original development agreement from 2009, that will allow the next phases of the Grandview Yard development to proceed -- and at a faster pace.
Nationwide Insurance will move its corporate campus and 3,000 jobs to the Yard. First Avenue will be extended across Northwest Boulevard and onto what is now Burrell Avenue. It will dead-end at a new 2.5-acre park.
The main structure of Nationwide's three-building campus will overlook the park.
A group of residents attended this week's meeting to express their dismay with what they believe is a lack of public input in the revision of the development agreement's terms and other actions that have been proposed and enacted since the June 30 council meeting, when Nationwide Realty Investors presented details of the Yard's next phases.
Among those residents was former council President Steve Reynolds, who was in office and led council when the original development agreement was negotiated and approved in 2009.
When he and two other retiring council members were presented with a resolution of appreciation for their years of service in May, the document noted the development agreement as the crowning achievement -- an assessment he shares, Reynolds said.
During his tenure, "Our residents felt good about city government at a time when they loathed and despised state and federal government," he said. "The economic development agreement was a great achievement for a city our size. It protected the interests of the schools, library and city."
The original agreement was "well-vetted" and residents had easy access to related documents, the chance to ask questions and the ability to place a referendum on the ballot, Reynolds said.
Less than two months after he and his colleagues were honored, the goodwill council had earned "is on the fast track of being eliminated," he said.
"I hope history does not erroneously link me to this revised agreement," Reynolds said.
He said he no longer wanted his framed resolution of appreciation hanging on his office wall to remind him of the revisions made to the agreement and how they have been made.
With that, he gave back the resolution and walked angrily out of the meeting.
All opinions are welcome, worthy and listened to, council President Anthony Panzera said, adding that he wanted to rebut "the rumors and lies that are traveling through our community."
When the original development agreement and related legislation were approved in 2009, the public process took 28 days, Panzera said. The public process this time took 21 days.
There may be a difference of opinion about whether the extra week would have been significant, he said, but "you can't disagree when I say there's been no substantial difference" in the process.
Terry Eisele wondered how much of what is being planned or already done in the Yard and in the area of First and Northwest Boulevard resulted from public input and how much was "handed to us" by NRI.
Nothing was "handed to us," Panzera said.
The city does not agree to anything it does not approve of, he said.
"The first version of any piece of legislation or agreement is not the final one approved," Panzera said. "It goes through negotiations. Once the public process begins, we (do) take input."
What's being lost in the debate is that the revised development agreement provides "the economic vehicle" needed to jump-start the Yard and carry the city forward for the next few decades, council member Ed Hastie said.
The east-west access that the First Avenue extension will bring has been included in every design of the development since the project began, Hastie said.
He said he shares many residents' concerns about safety on First Avenue, and that has been a concern even before Nationwide's plans were announced. The city and schools are working to address safety concerns.
Council has to make decisions based on the substantiated facts, not rumors, Panzera said.
Input from the public is valued, but council has input from 6,600 residents it must support, "and we can't support it all," he said.
The city is limited to deciding zoning and land-use issues, council member Steve Gladman said. NRI owns the property and it brings its concepts forward. Those proposals are reviewed by the city, as with any property, he said.
All council is doing is revising the development agreement and, as someone else described it, "putting it on steroids," council member Steve Papineau said.
The revised development agreement will bring the Yard and its infrastructure improvements -- and revenue to the city and school district -- sooner rather than later, he said.
"Tonight is not about whether we're going to have an agreement," Papineau said. "It's whether we are going to speed it up and have what any community would want to have: 3,000 jobs."
The legislation approved by council included a measure to amend the code relating to the Grandview Commerce Mixed Use District, which includes the Yard.
City Attorney Joelle Khouzam noted that a number of changes have been made to the ordinance reflecting input the city has received, including a provision to maintain a public process regarding any improvements within a 100-foot boundary of Northwest Boulevard and specific language banning any residential development that is more than 2 miles from a school.
That provision will ensure the school district will not have to worry about the potential need for buses to transport students to school, she said.