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Early plans for outdoor stage raise questions
Early plans for outdoor stage raise questions
By SUE REID
A Solon resident expressed opposition to City Council Monday regarding a recent proposal for an outdoor stage and seating area at the Solon Center for the Arts.
Bainbridge Road resident Robert Phillips said that, while he believes it's a good idea, he opposes the location. He also has concerns for the loss of parking spaces due to the plan and the discussion of using the lot across the street on Bainbridge Road, he said. "This makes no sense to me."
The art center presented a proposal to City Council's safety and public properties committee earlier this month for a patio area. Art center Director Karen Prasser told the committee the purpose is to create more of an entrance to the center and to provide a larger space for outdoor concerts and other events. She said it will not cost the city any money, as she will undertake a fund-raising campaign.
Mr. Phillips said he is concerned about expecting people to park across the street and cross a four-lane road.
Councilman William I. Russo, who chairs the safety and public properties committee, said he has the same concerns.
The committee is to continue discussion on the matter at its next meeting.
"I do think it's a legitimate concern," Mr. Russo said. "We are in the process of doing Bainbridge Road, and we widened the number of lanes at that crossing.
"It will be far more dangerous than before, because we'll have more traffic," he said.
Mr. Russo said the committee also needs to look at whether the handicap parking spots are moved across the street.
"Should we be expanding on that corner at all, and what are the long-range plans for the facility?" Mr. Russo asked.
Councilman Edward H. Kraus said the issue remains on the "active agenda" of the safety committee. "We have to make sure we satisfy all the safety concerns," he said.
Mr. Phillips said it also creates a safety issue in that people driving by may be paying attention to the concert on the outdoor stage and not the road.
"What happens when the art center outgrows this?" he asked. "If this takes off, they will want bigger and better, and there's no bigger and better with this drawing," he said. "I don't agree with paying money for this and in a year it will be outdated."
Ms. Prasser said Tuesday that the project is in preliminary stages. "Nothing is set in stone," she said. "None of it has gone before planning, and we don't have the final set of designs. This is a conceptual look to give me an idea of what the cost of the project would be."
Ms. Prasser said she understands the concerns about parking. According to the conceptual plans, five parking spaces that are adjacent to the patio would be eliminated, and two handicap spots would be adjusted. "We will adjust the two handicap places to a safe area for handicap parking," she said.
"The city already knows we're short parking spaces," Ms. Prasser said. "What we wanted to look at was the crosswalk and parking across the street and is there a very smart and safe way to get people used to using parking across the street? We are still talking about the best way to do this."
Mayor Susan A. Drucker said the safety committee instructed Solon Planning Director Robert S. Frankland to provide information regarding the parking. She said Ms. Prasser went before the committee for its blessing to move forward with fund-raising efforts. She discussion regarding parking will take place at its next meeting.
"These are not final designs," Mrs. Drucker said. "It's just a conceptual design. It was only done so she can have an idea to move forward with this capital campaign."
Mr. Phillips said that, as a neighbor, he would expect to be notified of those plans, as would be expected when businesses are seeking variances. He said he hopes the city would hold itself to the same standards as expected for others in applying for variances.
Councilman Lon D. Stolarksy said it is the practice of city departments to apply for variances when necessary.
Law Director David J. Matty said all city and school projects are subject to Solon's own code. "That's the way it has been applied in the past and will be in the future," he said.
"For far too long, the city had a different standard for themselves vs. businesses and residents," Mr. Russo said. "That has changed over the last couple of years." He said Mrs. Drucker "has been adamant that the city not hold itself to different standards."
Mr. Russo said something else that needs to be considered by the art center is that it has to be "100 percent self-funded through fund-raising."
He said, "The city will not pitch in. There is no money for capital items such as this."
Ms. Prasser said she stands by the fact that the city won't be expected to fund it. "The mayor made it very clear that, if I was going to pursue this project, I had to make sure that council and the community understand I am not coming to the city for funds," she said. "What I will do is construct a capital campaign for businesses, corporations and foundations that would be interested in supporting the project on some level, such as naming rights."
"I explained to her that, although that could be an improvement to the center, our capital-improvement fund is limited, and that is not going to be one of the priorities," Mrs. Drucker said.
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