Team Environmental’s owner resists Battery Park’s
& city’s efforts to force him to sell

by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, December 2004) Team Environmental Inc., a six to twenty employee company located on two parcels of land at 1275 W. 74 (W. 74 th and Goodwalt), is being asked to move to provide additional space for the 13 acre, 300 unit, Battery Park housing development planned for the neighboring site of the former Eveready Battery Company factory complex. Ron McConnell, the owner of Team Environmental, says the City of Cleveland is pressuring him to sell his building to make way for expansion of the private housing development planned for the Eveready site next to his property.

McConnell owns the building where his business is located. He purchased the 3800 square foot building two years ago under the name DEM Company. McConnell shows the interior of his building with pride. He has neatly arranged the various equipment and tools used in his business in a way he can easily access them to get the right equipment for a job. McConnell also has an office set up in a separate room in the building to do his paperwork. Team Environmental Inc. does asbestos removal, demolition and mold remediation. McConnell believes the building is perfect for his business. He planned to stay there for 30 years and then retire. He does not want to sell. McConnell has plans for expanding the building, which he had drawn up shortly after he purchased the building two years ago.

McConnell feels he has a good relationship with the residents in the neighborhood and knows the surrounding business owners. McConnell’s plans included placing a decorative fence around the yard, landscape the yard and create a picnic area for the neighborhood block club, W. 76 th Street Area Block Club. He says, now, feeling like he is in limbo, he has placed those plans on hold.

McConnell says Adelbert “Chip” Marous Jr.,of Marous Development sent him a letter in mid April stating interest in purchasing his property. The price offered in the letter would not come close to covering the cost of purchasing another building and moving his business. Not interested in selling he ignored the letter.

McConnell says Marous Development representatives originally told him they had two plans for the Battery Park development, one with his property, one without. McConnell felt he could coexist with the new development. However, representatives of Marous kept insisting they wanted to talk to him about purchasing his building.

McConnell set up a meeting with Chip Marous. At the June 3 rd meeting with Chip Marous and Paul O’Neil of Marous Development, he told the developers he was not interested in selling, Marous then advised him to discuss the building and the sales price because he said he would hate to have to take the building by eminent domain. McConnell said he then told Marous what he wanted for the building and the burden of uprooting his business and Marous walked out of the meeting without making an offer.

McConnell says now he is being told that the plans have evolved and that his property is needed to make way for extension of W. 74 th street through his property. In August members of the West 76 th Street Area Block Club showed him a copy of the August 18 th city record showing that Ward 17 Councilman Matt Zone had introduced legislation in city council to authorize the city of Cleveland Community Development department to negotiate with him for the purpose of purchasing his property for the purpose of building a road. McConnell says in the new plans W. 74 th street is moving east to the area where his property is located. McConnell believes the plans were redrawn to give the city an excuse to take his property.

Paul O’ Neil, of Marous Development, would not comment on the efforts of the city to acquire McConnell’s property through legislative means.

McConnell says the legislation mandates that the Community Development Department can’t spend more than the fair market value of the building. He says this won’t allow him to be compensated for the cost of moving and the downtime his company would experience during a move. He says, “Why do I have to be displaced because a private developer wants to make millions of dollars?” McConnell says he doesn’t mind Marous Development wanting to make a profit on the development, but he says, “Their benefit, should not be my burden.”

Ward 17 Councilman Matt Zone stresses that the legislation does not authorize use of eminent domain. He says it simply gives the city authority to get an independent appraisal and work with the property owner to see if an agreement can be reached. The legislation calls for mediation or arbitration if an agreement can’t be reached, said Councilman Zone.

In a letter to McConnell’s company dated August 26 th, Joseph A Sidoti Commissioner of the Division for Neighborhood Development in the Community Development Department of the City of Cleveland stated “The city of Cleveland, Department of Community Development, is interested in acquiring your property to facilitate the development of Battery Park…” The letter further states, “your property is needed for the purpose of constructing a public road to enhance access to and from the development.” As McConnell indicated the letter restricts the city’s offer to “fair market value.”

On October 25 th he says an appraiser came to the site to determine the fair market value of the site. While McConnell has not seen the number the appraiser has come up with, he says the market value of the building doesn’t match up to the expenses he would have to incur to move the business. McConnell says he likes the neighborhood and doesn’t want to move, but he would be willing to do so if Marous or the city would offer him enough to purchase a similar size building on a similar size parcel and cover moving costs and down time.

During a presentation at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on November 9 th, city officials defended giving a15-year tax abatement to the project because of the new residents it would attract to the city and the benefit the city would gain from the payroll taxes they would pay. McConnell discounts that argument. He says at most the land on which his building is situated will allow for an additional two houses to be built. He expects that the payroll for his employees is substantially greater than that of the occupants of two households. In addition McConnell says he already paying full property tax on his building and business taxes, while the new buildings are abated for 15 years.

Plus, McConnell says the city would be incurring expenses for putting in a new street and infrastructure to justify taking his building, rather than using the existing infrastructure already in place on W. 74 th. McConnell also points out that the city’s plan to extend the narrow W. 74 th Street that now ends at Goodwalt Ave. to go through his property, doesn’t make sense. The current extension of W. 74 th in front of his building is much wider and already has infrastructure in place.

McConnell says the city of Cleveland has not offered him any assistance in looking for a new site for his business. While he doesn’t want to move, McConnell said if the city would build him a comparable building on the same amount of land in the nearly empty industrial park on Walworth he would be happy to swap deeds.

Ward 17 Councilman Zone says, when told of McConnell interest in swapping his building for a equivalent new building on a similar size lot in the Walworth industrial park, said, “That would be something very acceptable.” Zone says he tried repeatedly this past summer to contact McConnell to hook him up with resources and people to help with relocation. He urged McConnell to call him.

 

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