College suit shines light on city problems

To the editor:

I want to thank Oberlin College for being so vigilant in pursuing an agreement with the city that preserved angled parking on College Street.

It is hard to believe that it took years of fighting and a lawsuit for the city to come up with a satisfactory compromise. I hope city council asks why this idea was not brought to the table earlier in the process.

I would encourage the citizenry to read the claim Oberlin College filed. It helped shed light on the confusing process the city of Oberlin has for entering into a development agreement and how it oftentimes creates new demands of the business owner or developer that are not brought up in the planning process. The East College Street Project had a similar experience to Gateway. Like the old adage says, “Only in Oberlin.”

How many other smaller business owners have been confused by this and spent resources that it did not need to because the city’s processes were so disjointed? Or worse, walked away from Oberlin, and taken jobs and tax revenue with them, fed up with the dysfunction and a city where the departments act like silos instead of integrated team members? How often has this behavior been enabled by council members who repeat cliches about safety and supporting city staff, as if being polite is a substitute for sound economic development policy and stabilizing our tax base?

Instead of a parking study, perhaps Oberlin should put the money toward interviewing every business owner, developer, architect, and engineer who has proposed a project in Oberlin over the last 20 years. Ask them their experiences, why Oberlin has such a dysfunctional reputation, and how the process can be improved. Best practices are out there waiting to be adopted. We need a council with the courage to seek them out.

Josh Rosen