Author:

Over the past few months, you may have been hearing or reading a great deal about the rezoning of our land in Pepper Pike.

Until recently, most of those concerns have revolved around the need for more commercial development or the increased traffic that might bring. But lately, a handful of vocal opponents have been spreading negative information about Beech Brook – information that is not only untrue but harmful to our reputation and our ability to move from this campus.

I’m writing today to clear up some of that misinformation, which I also addressed in an Op-Ed in the March 26 edition of the Chagrin Valley Times.

False claim

This is the “former” Beech Brook property and is now vacant.

Fact

You may have heard or read the erroneous description of our land as the “property formerly known as Beech Brook” or the “former Beech Brook property.” There’s no former about it! Our Pepper Pike campus continues to serve as the headquarters for our administrative and management staff and a few direct services.

In 2016, we closed only our residential treatment program, which served about 45 children and teens, to focus on our community and school-based programs. Today our 225-member staff serves more than 14,000 children and families through more than 40 programs, partnerships with 96 schools, including the Orange Schools, a strong foster care network and our Beech Brook Family Center located in the city of Cleveland.

False Claim

The Beech Brook property belongs to the city of Pepper Pike.

Fact

Beech Brook is the owner of this land which was donated to the organization in 1916 by Jeptha Wade, Jr. to provide a country home for the orphanage, as it was in those days. It was given with no restrictions in terms of its future use, as was the tradition of the Wade Family, trusting the organization to do what was needed through changing times. In fact, when Beech Brook moved to this location, it was necessary to sell the building on St. Clair Avenue which had been donated by the first Jeptha Wade with the family’s full support.

False Claim

Beech Brook should donate the land to the city for a park or sell to someone who wishes to create a park here.

Fact

Whether or not the rezoning happens, this land will not remain vacant, nor will it become a park. During the 17 months the property was on the market, no one inquired about buying it to create a park or nature preserve.

Beech Brook engaged in an in-depth process to market the property and consider every proposal, resulting in a contract with Wiley Creek LLC (Axiom Group). At no time, despite rumors to the contrary, has any donor or land conservancy approached us to express interest or present any such proposal.

Since closing our residential program, we no longer need, nor can we afford to maintain, this large property. But we are obligated to do what is best for our community’s most vulnerable children and families; thus, the decision to sell the land and use the proceeds to support our mission. If the rezoning fails to pass, Beech Brook will need to pursue a use that will generate revenue on this land so that we can continue to deliver on that mission.

If the rezoning passes, the proceeds from the sale will be added to our endowment to provide funding for more direct services. Since most of our staff work with children and families in their homes, in the community and in schools, this would allow us to move to a smaller, much less expensive space with easy access for our staff and clients.

As a Beech Brook donor, you know that we are always working to secure government, foundation and charitable funding for the programs we provide to our clients, many of whom live in extreme poverty. To suggest that we should donate this land and not put this asset to work for children and families would be financially irresponsible.

False Claim

Beech Brook will not allow people on its campus.

Fact

Beech Brook has always welcomed visitors to our campus; however, this is a private property, and we ask that people call us to schedule a meeting or a tour. While we no longer provide residential treatment, we continue to have families and children coming to the campus for appointments, and we are responsible for safeguarding their privacy.

Most businesses, nonprofit or not, do not allow strangers to wander through their offices, taking photos or driving around their property without notice and for no reason related to our operations. We ask everyone who visits, even our board members and most trusted associates, to sign in with the receptionist upon arrival. All visitors are expected to do the same.

In January, we welcomed many Pepper Pike residents to an open house planned by the prospective developers, the Axiom Group, and we appreciated the opportunity to tell them more about our work and reason why we are selling our land. We have given tours to others who have visited, including some of the most vocal opponents to the rezoning.

False claim

Beech Brook is promoting the developer’s plans.

Fact

Because we are the owners of the property, we were required to ask for the zoning change. But we are not involved in the development plans; that’s between the developers and the city.

Our responsibility is to do what is best for Beech Brook. We have survived for 168 years by continually evolving to meet the needs of children and families through different times. Sometimes that means we must make difficult decisions, such as leaving our campus home of nearly 100 years. But we must continue to look to the future so that we can carry on this sacred trust, as all our predecessors have done since 1852.

In November, if you are a Pepper Pike resident, you will be asked to vote on the rezoning. We can’t tell you how to vote, but we hope that you will have a better understanding of why we are making this mission-driven decision to move….to better serve more of Northeast Ohio’s most vulnerable children and families.

I invite you to call me at 216.831.2255 or email me any time if you have questions or would like more information.

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