Communities in the western side of Geauga County saw a wide variety of activities in 2019. In Bainbridge Township, the Geauga County Public Library System started the initial work on a new building, while in Auburn Township improvements to the administration building were completed. After lengthy discussions, South Russell Village is keeping its building department rather than turning over the duties to Geauga County.
Auburn Trustees moved ahead with the improvements at the administration building at Auburn Road and Washington Street. There is a new parking lot to the east of the building, landscaping and new lighting. The parking lot replaced a space in the front of the building where parking was unsafe. The enlarged parking area is paved and marked and has an entrance off Washington Street with an exit onto Auburn Road. In addition, new “Welcome to Auburn township” signs were placed at entrances to the township.
A local man died after his small plane crashed on May 29 into a wooded area at Lake LaDue Reservoir. Troy Bankert, 55, of Middlefield and the Piper plane were found at about 8:58 a.m. in a wooded area near the reservoir. An investigation on the cause of the crash was done by the Ohio State Highway Patrol with the help of the Federal Aviation Administration. He was returning from a camping trip in southern Ohio. He was the only one on board. Authorities found him with the use of drones and people on the ground. The FAA is the lead investigator along with the National Transportation Safety Board.
Auburn Trustees worked successfully to obtain a $30,000 NatureWorks grant through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to help build a picnic pavilion at the Auburn Community park off Munn Road. Overall cost of the pavilion was estimated at $50,000. Alicia Beattie of the Chagrin River Watershed Partners helped the township with the grant application. The picnic pavilion is seen as a natural step for the park off Munn Road. The proposed picnic pavilion is to be built near the south end of the parking area and near the park playground. The park includes 67 acres with about 11 acres of flat land for athletic fields, including for soccer, football and lacrosse. There are wooded areas for walking.
Auburn Volunteer Fire Department welcomed five new firefighters early in the year. All five will be paid for their part-time work at the fire station. Firefighters sworn in at the special ceremony at the Auburn Fire Station were Kodi Kitko, Eric Lewis, Colin Fitzgerald, Frank McIntyre and Matt Scharfenberg. Auburn Assistant Fire Chief Michael Cardaman conducted the swearing-in event.
Redwood Apartment Neighborhoods, a builder of high-end apartment units was seeking to build in Auburn Township. The company is interested in about 30 acres at the southeast corner of Route 422 and Ravenna Road (Route 44). The Auburn Zoning Commission is to be considering the proposal for a change in the township zoning to allow the attached homes located on private roads. It would also include an amendment to the township zoning map. The area being considered by Redwood is currently zoned for general business. A zoning change to add an R-3 District is needed to allow single-family attached homes. The apartments would be single story and geared to senior citizens and empty nesters. The apartment would not have basements and would be 25 feet in height.
In Russell, plans are moving ahead to turn Modroo Park into a walking area on the former hayfield. The Geauga Park District will be mowing the walking trails on the approximately 53 acres off Hemlock Road and adjacent to the Modroo farmhouse.
The historic 1873 farmhouse was sold by the Western Reserve Land Conservancy to a private buyer.
The Modroo Park is expected to have a parking lot off Hemlock Road and some residents in the area have voiced their concerns about the parking lot for six vehicles being too close to the homes. The parking lot across from Riddle Lane will be located near the entrance to the trails. The site was considered the best location for the parking lot.
The historic Wiegand’s Lake Park in Russell saw a new owner this year. Ken and Carrie Borah purchased the 104 acres on Kinsman Road (Route 87) from Wendy Wiegand and husband Skip Pliml. The park had been a park of the Wiegand family and a landmark in the Russell Township community. Wilfred and Ella Wiegand started the park in 1932. Mr. and Mrs. Borah said they plan to continue to operate the land, including a 2-acre lake, as a park.
The Russell Citizens Park District will be moving ahead with placing a 1-mill levy on the ballot in March of 2020. The decision to pursue the levy comes after the park district members in August decided to withdraw the 1-mill levy from the ballot. The decision came after the park district submitted its budget and the Geauga County Auditor had questions on the 2020 budget. Auditor Chuck Walder asked for a number of items including the current year revenue and expenditures and a one-year budget of revenue and expenditures. The park board was advised to have a formal forward plan in place to adequately demonstrate the need for levy revenue.
The Circle K store received approval early this year to build a larger store and to add gas pumps at the existing site at the northeast corner of Chillicothe (Route 306) and Kinsman (Route 87) and install gas pumps at the site. The new store will be about 4,400 square feet, facing east. Circle K is buying two buildings adjacent to the existing store with plans to demolish them. One formerly housed a veterinarian clinic and an adjacent building that was a bank is now used by Round 1, a physical training facility.
Russell Trustees are looking to build a storage facility for the police, fire and road departments. They are currently using the former fire station building at Chillicothe Road (Route 306) near Kinsman Road (Route 87). In a 2 to 1 vote Dec. 6, they approved razing the old fire station. Renovations of the former station would involve substantial costs including the need to replace the failing roof. They have talked of a new storage structure that would be built possibly behind the Russell Police Station.
Geauga Park District opened its new Holbrook Hollows park on Country Lane in Bainbridge. The 129-acre park was officially open in August for walkers and joggers to use the scenic trails. There is also a lodge for gatherings and a playground. There are 2.8 miles of trails including those for horses on the site that features valleys and scenic hillsides offering views of woods and stream. The property was once the site of a camp with horses. The 1,700-square-foot lodge seats about 100 people and will be available for rentals. There is a boardwalk with seating and views of the wetlands in the area. Geauga Park District Naturalist John Kolar called Holbrook Hollows a “true gem.”
The park district also held a dedication for two new picnic shelters built at Frohring Meadows on Savage Road in Bainbridge. It includes restrooms and fire pits and is located off the entrance drive at the park. Some Savage Road residents voiced their concerns about the shelters, especially their location so close to their houses. They had asked that the shelters be placed further back in the meadows. The open-air shelters are seen by the park as needed for those who visit the park. There is a parking area with access to connecting trails.
A deteriorating playground at Bainbridge Township’s River Road Park was an issue that received much attention in 2019. Most of the equipment had to be taken down in September because it was unsafe for children to play on.
Several residents who support installing a new playground at the park have formed a group to help raise funds for a new playground. Trustees moved forward with fixing drainage issues in the area and continue to meet with the residents. The hope is to build a new playground by the summer of 2020. The committee recently presented the trustees with a wish list. The committee is asking for some of the same equipment that was there before. They also cited improvements with items that were not there but would generate interest. More shaded areas and seating were recommended. The trustees will be looking at seeking a number of quotes from a variety of companies.
Construction for the new $12 million Bainbridge Branch of the Geauga County Public Library System began with site work in November. Construction is expected to take about one year on the 30,000-square-foot structure. The existing library is expected to be kept open during the construction of the new building. The new library is being built on ground adjacent to the existing library at the northwest corner of Washington Street and Snyder Road. It is expected to be completed by November of 2020. An increase in the community size has created a need for a larger library, according to Geauga County Public Library System Director Ed Worso.
The current 10,000-square-foot building was opened in 1985. It had multiple issues involving the structure, the roof and insulation. The building has sunk because it wasn’t built on the right soils and the heating and air conditioning system had to be changed. The Bainbridge Library serves Bainbridge, Auburn, South Russell Village, areas of Newbury and students at the Kenston Local School District.
The Bainbridge dog park at Centerville Mills Park was closed in the winter of 2019 when the grass became so worn that many areas were turning to mud. Grass was replanted in the entire area and a concrete walkway was completed at the dog park entrance. Bricks are being sold that can be engraved with names as a tribute or memorial to people and dogs. The park was reopened; however, unexpectedly, the park had to be closed again early this November because of the muddy conditions particularly in the section for the large dogs. The result was the provision for a “winter” park that will be used until spring.
Renovations of the former Bainbridge Township road department’s building was completed. It is now the home of the Valley Enforcement Group’s Special Weapons and Tactics vehicles. The Bainbridge Service Department painted the building that has not been used since the late 1970s for a road garage. Located on Bainbridge Road in front of the Bainbridge police station, the building was being used for storage. The renovation work inside the building was done with private donations, according to Bainbridge Police Chief Jon Bokovitz.
A long-awaited traffic light was installed at the intersection of Taylor May and Chillicothe Road (Route 306) in Bainbridge. The T-shaped intersection had been a major safety and traffic concern. The Ohio Department of Transportation project included an upgrade to the traffic signal at Pettibone Road and Route 306 as well.
Aurora and Geauga Lake land
Aurora City Council has given its approval of the proposal by Pulte Homes for homes, commercial and office development on the former Sea World of Ohio parking area in Aurora. It is adjacent to the former Sea World park and the former Wild Water Kingdom Water Park in Bainbridge.
The land is owned by Cedar Fair of Sandusky. The Pulte proposed development, estimated at $110 million, is adjacent to the River’s Edge subdivision in Bainbridge. Aurora Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin has said she believes the plan is a positive development for the community. It will be surrounded by a public park.
Pulte will be developing about 245 acres which includes the former camp ground, quarry and the Sea World parking lot. The plans must still be reviewed by the city as the plans progress. The proposal calls for town homes, two-story single homes and ranch houses in the area bordered by Aurora, Treat and Squires roads in Aurora. Construction is expected to start in 2020.
Cedar Fair also owns land where Geauga Lake Park was located in Bainbridge. Bainbridge has zoned the property to mixed use. A potential buyer for the property has been in talks with Cedar Fair.
South Russell Village
After nearly 50 years of service, South Russell Street Commissioner Darrell Johnson retired in October. He oversaw the maintenance of the roads and removing snow in the village. Mr. Johnson, who was born and raised in the Village of Chagrin Falls, started working as street commissioner in South Russell in 1994. Prior to that assignment, he worked with the Chagrin Falls Service Department. South Russell has 47 miles to maintain, and Mr. Johnson worked with three other employees to maintain the roads. He was a member of the Chagrin Falls Fire Department and retired and then became an associate member and has researched the history of the fire department.
In April, Village Council approved a change in zoning that will allow village businesses to display flags indicating the business is open to customers. The flags, called “streamers,” will be permitted. They are limited in size. The flags must be affixed to a commercial structure and have the word “open” on them.
Flags are not considered signs, which are regulated under another section of the village zoning code. The flags must be displayed during business hours and not when the business is closed. It is an effort to help small businesses.
The annual South Russell Fall Festival held in September at the village park was a huge success. The event included the dedication of the new playground at the park. Everyone wanted to take a ride on the hay wagon around the park off Bell Road. Visitors admired the Chagrin Falls Fire Department equipment including an all-terrain vehicle, and they indulged in the grilled hot dogs, free to all. There was face painting, pony rides and other entertainers. The event, in its 14th year, brings the community together, according to members of Village Council.
The village has been discussing a veterans’ memorial. Where it will be located is yet to be determined. There are several sites considered including the village park on Bell Road, at the village hall and at the intersection of Bell Road and Chillicothe Road (Route 306).
A major focus of discussion in the village has been the future of the village building department. The question has been whether the village should maintain the department or transition to a zoning office and use the services of the Geauga County Building Department. The village has been using the services of a part-time building inspector. The village has the only certified building department in Geauga County other than the county’s building department. South Russell has an estimated 4,000 residents and is about 1 mile wide and 4 miles long. On Dec. 9, the decision was made that the department will remain open with business as usual. There will be a part-time building inspector as well as a part-time zoning inspector.
South Russell is working toward a solution to flooding in the area of Chillicothe Road (Route 306) at the entrances to the Manor Brook and White Tail neighborhoods and downstream in the village. Village officials received two grants totaling $600,000 from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for the projects. They hope to slow the water as it runs from the east to Chillicothe Road. Construction started recently on a retention pond behind village hall. The second project, to be done in 2021, will involve a stream enhancement at Chillicothe Road and Manor Brook Drive.
Geauga County Department on Aging found a new location for its senior center in Bainbridge. In April, Geauga County Commissioners approved a lease with the Bainbridge Community United Church of Christ on Chillicothe Road (Route 306), just south of the Route 422 freeway. The move was made to provide a more central location for the convenience of participants, according to Jessica Boalt who is director of the county department on aging. It includes a 7,125-square-foot space for senior programs offered Mondays through Fridays. The Bainbridge location serves senior residents in Bainbridge, Russell and South Russell.