BAINBRIDGE — Trustees continued discussions regarding a waterline extension in the township and have decided a meeting with county officials is necessary to address unanswered questions surrounding the zoning impact of such a project.

The waterline extension discussion “has been batted around for quite some time,” Trustee Chairwoman Kristina O’Brien said. “We have issues in the town hall, we have issues in [the fire department], at the police department with water.”

The township brought in a waterline extension from the Cleveland Division of Water after gas well drilling led to a 2007 explosion on English Drive that contaminated water wells in Bainbridge. Current waterlines in the township “dead-end” on English Drive and Chagrin Road, Trustee Jeff Markley explained.

“The Chagrin Road side is what serves the end of the Canyon Lakes development. The English Drive [side] is what comes up from Solon. It serves the area that was affected by the gas well drilling,” he added. “So they need to make that loop continuous because you can’t have these dead ends in waterlines that long.”

Trustee Lorrie Benza explained that with the dead ends, the lines contain stagnant water that needs to be chlorinated and flushed.

Mr. Markley said the Geauga County Department of Water Resources made plans to close a loop in the township’s waterline from English Drive by traveling up Bainbridge Road, boring underneath U.S. 422 just before the Chillicothe Road intersection, and connecting to Chagrin Road. He said the Cleveland Division of Water has approved this plan.

A separate option, he added, includes a narrower boring route, therefore more cost effective for both the township and county. The line would go further east, by the Restland Cemetery, then toward Bainbridge Road east of Tanglewood Square, then back toward Chagrin Road.

Mr. Markley said Director Steve Oluic of water resources needs Bainbridge’s answer by January to get a jump on the design proposals for the project. He added that the department anticipates the work moving forward this April or May.

He added that the exact routes are unknown at this stage without the designs, and there isn’t further information on how this would impact surrounding properties just yet.

Mrs. O’Brien and Mrs. Benza said they need more information, however, specific to just what properties might be affected and how such a project would affect the township’s zoning.

“I think we have to get planning and zoning guidance, regardless of what ends up happening,” Mrs. Benza said. “There are a lot of different properties that can be impacted by this.”

She said the stakeholders of the project need to have a more thorough sit-down discussion instead of what currently feels like a “pigeonholing” process between the township, county and Cleveland water.

“Once upon a time, the way we used to do things – I realized it’s not done this way anymore – when a project as sizable, as substantial, as something like this were to be proposed, we would get the major players in a room,” she said. “A group to say, ‘OK, guys. What are we talking about? Let’s focus.’”

Without all the stakeholders communicating together, it is difficult to get answers to outstanding questions, she said. “So, we need to protect our township by virtue of sending some kind of a request for additional information and guidance,” she said.

“We’re very concerned for our residents, we’re concerned for zoning, we’re concerned for impact,” Mrs. O’Brien agreed. “To me, the best thing to do, sooner rather than later, is to sit down and say, this is what was, this is a potential, here [are our questions].”

Mr. Markley said he would agree to setting up a meeting, but warned “there will be friction,” noting that water resources is just seeking the township’s input on which of the two options it prefers so they can get the design work started. He said the department has previously already answered the question regarding zoning impact by stating it’s not responsible for zoning.

In posing the question to county Planning Director Linda Crombie, “I expect that answer will be very simple and very short, but whatever it is, it’s going to be an answer,” he said.

Mr. Markley said a meeting should include township Zoning Inspector Karen Endres and Assistant Zoning Inspector/Zoning and Planning Coordinator David Dietrich and should focus on dealing with the impact internally, rather than at the county level. “At the end, we have to deal with the realities of what this will do, and I think internally we have the staff to do it.”

The trustees ultimately agreed to request the meeting with the county department heads by sending a letter to Ms. Crombie.

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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