AUBURN — After the Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously denied several variance requests from Redwood USA, LLC in a standing room only meeting last week, longtime resident Dee Belew questioned procedures, noting the lack of trustees’ involvement and public notification.
Auburn trustees met for their regular meeting Monday and gave no remarks about the requests that filled Adam Hall on Jan. 14 until Ms. Belew, a former township Zoning Commission member, called for further discussion during the public comment period.
Trustee Patrick J. Cavanagh said that while the matter was closed and was not related to the trustees, they could “certainly give a recap.” He briefly explained that the real estate company requested several variances for the proposed development of residential attached dwellings, which the zoning appeals board unanimously denied.
According to the township’s public hearing notice, Redwood requested variances on prohibited uses, minimum dwelling unit areas, building setback requirements and riparian setback requirements on seven parcels of land at the southeast corner of Ravenna Road (Route 44) and Route 422, B-3 and B-4 shopping and business zoning districts.
The plans for the dwelling show more than 110 units on a little more than 31 acres of land. Ms. Belew said residents filled the meeting and addressed their concerns of well water quality and the impact such a development would have on the rural aesthetic of the township. About 97 percent of Geauga County depends on underground wells for water.
Mr. Cavanagh said the next legal step for the zoning appeals board is to approve their minutes, then it will be up to Redwood and the property owner, Robert Brosnan of Six Dog Holdings, LLC, to determine what he plans to do.
Ms. Belew said that she was surprised at how the meeting happened, noting there was little to no notice given to residents on behalf of township trustees for what she described as a large magnitude project.
“It was not a normal procedure as far as following it,” she said, explaining that Redwood did request an amendment to the Zoning Commission which ultimately was withdrawn by attorney Dale Markowitz of Thrasher, Dinsmore & Dolan, who represented Redwood and Mr. Brosnan.
“There was no talk or any idea,” Ms. Belew said to trustees on Monday. “You never said anything about it.”
Trustee Michael Troyan explained that the variance request never reached the trustees, therefore they had nothing to notify. He said Redwood went to the zoning commission and were then sent to the planning commission, but company officials withdrew the proposal when they realized the planning commission had concerns.
“They made the quick decision to say, ‘OK, we’re not going to apply through the commission anymore,’” Mr. Troyan said, adding that the parties involved decided, instead, to go for a variance though the board of zoning appeals.
When Ms. Belew asked then why the case was not addressed by the trustees before being filed as an amendment through the appeals board, Mr. Cavanagh explained that because it was submitted and withdrawn by the owner in such a manner, it was never submitted to the trustees for any review.
“You had no idea about the amendment or anything going on like that?” Ms. Belew asked.
“We weren’t involved with it,” Mr. Troyan interjected. “We would have been had they (Redwood) completed the process” through the planning commission.
“They tried it, went to the planning commission, the planning commission was not amused and then they canceled it,” he said. “So, it never got to the point where we had to address it.”
Ms. Belew also commented that the township’s website does not display up-to-date information for upcoming meetings outside the “last-minute” appeals board public hearing notification, noting that the website’s event calendar has remained empty despite having scheduled meetings.
“It doesn’t even show that you’re having a meeting tonight. The calendar is blank,” she said, adding that the township should have specified that there would be a meeting during the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday.
Chairman John Eberly pointed out that they set the dates during the first meeting of the year and for years, the board has met on the first and third Mondays of the month.
The schedules of all township meetings can be viewed on the website’s minutes page.
Mr. Troyer pointed out that even with holidays, the board meets on the first and third Monday of the month.
“If we’re not going to make the first and third Mondays, then we will notify you that no, we’re not meeting on schedule,” he said, explaining that if meetings are on schedule, no additional notification is necessary.
When addressing the concerns of the well water quality on the corner property, Ms. Belew said that well water would not support the magnitude of the development.
Mr. Troyan said the only issue with well water on the property would be if somebody who is going to build on the property does not want well water. “If they don’t mind having well water, there’s no longer an issue.
“Allegedly there is enough sewer capacity for what they’re doing,” he added.
Ms. Belew emphasized that considering the magnitude of the proposed project and the large number of residents who showed up in protest of it, she was “astounded” that trustees did not notify residents or get involved. It’s hard to believe that trustees heard nothing about the plans, she added.
“We knew it was going (to the appeals board), but what do you want us to do about it?” Mr. Troyan said, specifying that trustees cannot interfere with the process. “We have to let it run its course.”
“We used to always work together,” Ms. Belew said of when she was on the zoning commission. “I don’t know what’s going on with the commission anymore.” She served on the zoning commission for more than 25 years.
“You’re insinuating that we used to control those boards,” Mr. Eberly said. “We never did.”
Ms. Belew clarified that she meant that in cases of large proposed projects, the commissions and trustees at least talked about what was at hand, to which Mr. Eberly said he was never approached in such cases.
“Well, I can understand why you weren’t approached,” Ms. Belew said. “It’s your attitude.”
“Well, there you go,” Mr. Eberly said.