BAINBRIDGE — After having already continued the public hearing for rezoning property near one of the busiest crossroads in the county, township trustees on Monday agreed to push a decision to their next meeting.

During their regular meeting Aug. 24, the trustees engaged in a “healthy discussion,” Trustee Chairwoman Kristina O’Brien recapped, with Ted Otero, president of Otero Signature Homes Design Center and J. Jaredd Flynn of Thrasher, Dinsmore & Dolan regarding two parcels of land near the corner of East Washington Street and Chillicothe Road by Signature Square of Bainbridge.

The property, located at 16832 Chillicothe Road, currently is zoned R-3A, or a rural residential district, and Mr. Otero, who is under contract to purchase the property, is proposing a rezoning of the site as CB, or a convenience business district with plans to build a boutique development with an Otero Signature Homes Design Center.

After lengthy discussions and raised concerns over traffic and impact on the nearby Dalebrook Estates Subdivision, the trustees opted to push their decision to Monday night’s meeting.

“We had some legal questions, we had some certain items with the traffic patterns and what was being discussed,” Mrs. O’Brien said Monday. “We’ve taken the last few weeks trying to get to our answers, trying to know where we’re going,” she added, “and from there, I think we just still are looking for a little more information.”

Trustee Jeff Markley said the trustees need to ensure they are covering their bases before moving forward on a decision for the property.

“There were representations that were made by the applicants to the zoning commission, representations made to the homeowners association,” Markley said. “We just want to ensure that those representations are as secure as we possibly can have them before we even consider a decision. I need to see that there’s some basic legal basis for what we’re trying to do.”

He said the trustees also need a guarantee from the Ohio Department of Transportation regarding whether the development would improve the traffic congestion at the intersection.

Mr. Otero, at the August meeting, explained that with shared entrances and exits between the proposed establishment and the current KeyBank ATM and Dunkin Donuts, a traffic study he had performed indicated that better flow would come to the busy corner. He added, however, that while in active conversations with ODOT, there has not yet been an official guarantee of this.

Mr. Markley said he has gained through phone conversations with ODOT a better understanding of the process and where the agency stands on the traffic study, but “[ODOT is] still working on it.

“In fact, the traffic study that the applicant provided has been commented upon by ODOT, and those comments were given back to the applicant, and the applicant still has to respond to those before ODOT will even consider any kind of access management plan or conditional permit,” he continued. “If we’re looking for a guarantee and ODOT’s not ready to give a guarantee, then we have to wait it out a little bit.”

Mr. Markley also suggested the township hold a special meeting to talk with Dalebrook residents in executive session under request for economic assistance.

“We’ve got good email correspondence from at least one family there, we’ve heard testimonies from the zoning commission public hearings, but that’s it. It has been quiet,” he said. “What I have heard is that there’s also those in support of the project and they’re not comfortable speaking up. So I’d like to hear all of that. I would like to hear those who are comfortable [or] in support and those who are not in support and why.”

Trustee Lorrie Sass Benza pointed out, however, that the only opinions on the proposal that “count” are ones held in public hearings.

Mrs. O’Brien said they would explain this to the residents in the closed-door meeting, and Mr. Markley added that any comments made in the meeting, he would translate into a public hearing.

Mr. Markley also pointed out that even if there are comments made that can’t be considered in their decision due to being made in executive session, the meeting would enable them to “ask a different question that we haven’t already come up with or follow up with something that maybe has been represented but maybe is misconstrued.

“It’s too big a decision to just let this go by chance,” he said.

The trustees unanimously agreed to continue the public hearing for the rezoning at their Sept. 28 meeting at 8 p.m.

In other news, Service Director Jim Stanek reported that to address flooding on Cedar and South streets, the township will hold a special meeting in conjunction with the Geauga County Engineer’s Office on Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.

“There is some potential project that’ll help alleviate some of that flooding. It’s going to require the residents to be aware and perhaps participate, so it’s real important that they show up at that meeting,” he said.

Mr. Stanek said there were about 100 tons of material that the service department had to clean out of the box culvert on Cedar Street as a result of the flooding, which he said is due in part to a mixture of erosion, improper ditch elimination and nearby development. He said there’s another probable 60 tons still needing to be removed.

The meeting will be at the Bainbridge Township Town Hall, 17826 Chillicothe Road, with social distancing protocol in place and available via Zoom. Instructions for connecting to the meeting online will be available at bainbridgetwp.com.

Sam Cottrill started reporting for the Times in February 2019 and covers Auburn, Bainbridge, Bentleyville and Chagrin, Kenston, Solon and West Geauga schools. She graduated from Kent State University in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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