The Mayor of Woodmere informs the Orange school board that he is proposing to be re-elected this fall

PEPPER PIKE, Ohio – Woodmere Mayor Ben Holbert has plenty to smile about these days, and he happily discussed it during the Orange Education Council meeting with mayors on Wednesday, April 28.

Holbert, a former Woodmere town councilor who has served as the village mayor since January 2018, saw such a positive transformation in Woodmere Village Council that he decided to get re-elected in November.

“I will put my hat back in the ring for another term,” he said during the school board meeting with the mayors of the five primary municipalities in the district, broadcast on Zoom video and broadcast live on the site Orange schools.

Things were not looking so rosy for Holbert just a few months ago. He was frustrated by the village council’s repeated vote against legislation that would allow a sidewalk project called the Woodmere Chagrin Valley Gateway Footpath to move forward.

This legislation would allow the village to accept grants totaling $ 265,000 to be used to build sidewalks between Woodmere and Orange on Brainard Road, between Waterford Court and Chagrin Boulevard.

But on February 23, a special election was held in which four members of the Woodmere Village Council were recalled.

When the election results became official on March 12, former board chair Jennifer Mitchell Earley and board members Lisa Brockwell, Glenda Todd Miller and Craig Wade were dismissed. These four members were the members of the council who systematically voted against the law on hiking trails.

The other three board members – Nakeshia Nickerson, Tennyson Adams and Vivian Walker – were tasked with selecting the replacements.

The four new board members are Nicole Culliver, Hilman Lindsey, Waymond Scott and Seth Young. Culliver is the new chairman of the board and Young is the new chairman of finance, Holbert said.

At the new council’s first meeting on April 14, it passed legislation not only on the walking trail, but also on the village’s website, which Holbert said had not been active for over a year.

Holbert said the new sidewalks will be on the western part of Brainard Road and will connect to Orange.

“The big part of this is that it gives people who live in Orange the ability to walk through Woodmere and up Chagrin Boulevard, and it gives the people of Woodmere the ability to walk to Pinecrest (in Orange),” he said. “So we are delighted.”

Holbert said village engineer Edward Hren had started investigative work on the project and “was trying to get it sped up.”

The goal is to complete construction by mid-September, he said.

“So the $ 265,000 we received from county and state (through grants) will actually be used,” he says with a smile. “Thank you.”

The village’s new website will be unveiled on Saturday May 1, as council-approved legislation allows for a web designer position.

“This is very important, because during the height of COVID, we couldn’t provide our residents with information or updates (through the website),” Holbert said. “So we are very happy to have him.”

In addition, Holbert said the village had applied for a grant with Cuyahoga County to install digital signage in front of the village hall, “so that we can start to make sure our residents are aware of activities and events and emergency information.

“For two years, to be honest, it was very difficult,” he said. “We had a hard time trying to make improvements in the village.

“I hope that with this brand new advice – the three that remain and the four to come – that we can communicate and move forward.

In October, Orange Village Council passed a resolution urging Woodmere Council to accept the grant for the walking trail.

“When you have a board you can work with, that’s fine,” Orange Mayor Kathy U. Mulcahy told Holbert after saying he decided to get re-elected.

Update on Moreland Commons

Moreland Hills Mayor Daniel Fritz provided an update on Moreland Commons housing development. He said the 21-acre site – located on Chagrin Boulevard between Lander Circle and Ohio 91 – could accommodate up to 90 new homes, but is currently scheduled to be built in the mid to upper 60s. .

“We’re now down to about nine houses (which have been built),” he said. “Several are under construction and various houses are in the design phase after approval.

“So far, they all seem to be empty nesters. Construction and procurement is currently proceeding at an accelerated level. “

Fritz noted that the project is located across from the Orange Schools campus.

“We hope we haven’t been too inconvenient for the school district,” he said. “I hope we won’t have too much of an impact on (schools) in the future.”

Fritz said developer Axiom Development Group is not building model homes and that the project is moving “fairly slowly” through the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think we’ve seen an increase in the pace once the infrastructure has actually been placed inside the roads and curbs,” he said. “People were able to drive across and see the lots, instead of just looking at a map.

“I think once you were able to complete this development it just got a little easier to sell the lots.”

The land was broken in 2019 on the housing development, which will include a combination of single-family homes and townhouses.

“I know a lot of these developments are going to attract empty nesters, but we know it will still affect our enrollments a bit,” school board member Beth Wilson-Fish said. “We’re going to see our numbers increase, and that’s a good thing.”

More housing to come in Orange

In Orange, Mulcahy said she expects plans for the Pinecrest residential project to start rolling out in the coming months.

She noted that a group led by local real estate developer Randy Kertesz acquired the former Beachwood Inn property in a sheriff’s sale via public auction in February. The property is located next door to Pinecrest, and this transaction will result in a different entry into this mixed-use development, she said.

“It could be up to 390 units,” Mulcahy said. “It’s supposed to be mostly townhouse / villa type things, but they’re also trying to throw in some apartment buildings.

“So I’m not happy. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out.

In addition, Mulcahy said several new homes are approved each month in the Orange Lakes subdivision, near Brainard and Miles roads.

“I have a feeling that most of them are empty nesters, and many of them are already residents who are already moving into this development, although there are families with children there- low, ”she said.

“They added a phase 7 to Orange Lakes, which adds 49 other units to the original 150. They just sell like hot cakes; it’s incredible.”

Pepper Pike Mayor Richard Bain said regarding the housing situation in his town, 32 new residence permits were withdrawn last year.

“The total value of our new homes and renovation permits is just under $ 20 million,” he said. “So hopefully this will be taken over by (Cuyahoga) County, and that it should translate into new income for schools.”

Hunting Valley Mayor Bruce Mavec said things were calm in his village.

Pepper Pike Mayor Praise

Bain praised the Orange school board and administration for how well it weathered the storm during the pandemic.

“All of the villages and (Pepper Pike) have been dealing with the routine of COVID and the pandemic for a year and more, and we face our own challenges, keeping our staff operational and providing services,” a- he declared.

“The school board (Orange) and the administration faced a very different task, where your impact was how to keep (nearly 2,000 students) operational and get to school. I know this has been really difficult for you.

“But the board and the administration, you’ve always seemed open to a conversation with the community about this, and I think you’ve done a wonderful job trying to balance some extraordinarily difficult and new issues. that you have encountered. not anticipated and did not ask, ”he continued.

“At least as we seem to be getting out of it, we can’t let it go without congratulating you on a job well done.”

Wilson-Fish thanked Bain for his kind words.

“Our administration has been great because of this,” she said. “Our teachers and staff have been wonderful, and the power of the community forums that have taken place… to have community forums where our administrative staff have continued to answer tough questions from residents for hours on end.

“I give all the credit to our school district staff for what they have done. It was really quite impressive, compared to other school districts.

Superintendent Lynn Campbell said he was very proud of the district administration team, “of the way they were able to pivot so many times, and of our families who rode with us.”

“There were times when it got very stressful, but I would say the feedback (from residents) was overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “We delivered what I think was a very successful program during our distance learning, which was not ideal.

“Thank you for everything the villages have done to keep our children safe.”

Registration remains stable

Campbell addressed the issue of district registration, noting that it has been “very constant” in recent years.

He displayed a graph indicating that the enrollment of “residents who actually attend school” has remained at around 1,900 students since 2017. As of March 1, it was 1,892.

“There was a lot of discussion throughout distance learning as to whether there was concern about a mass exodus or the loss of (a lot) of students, and there was not.” , did he declare.

“We lost a few children, mainly our kindergarten numbers. Some parents said a remote kindergarten was not interesting, but they plan to be here in person for the first year, and we have recovered.

Campbell said he hopes the district will have a traditional start to the 2021-2022 school year.

“If the data trends remain as they are, we expect a full in-person model for next year,” he said. “The goal is to bring everyone back and continue our mitigation strategies and go back to our usual practices as much as possible.”

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Ray Coulombe

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