AURORA — Density of the houses planned by Pulte Home representatives at the former Sea World of Ohio parking lot remains an issue for many. Pulte’s conceptual plans were reviewed for a second time on June 5 by the Aurora City Planning Commission.
The $110 million Renaissance Park at Geauga Lake proposal calls for town homes, two-story single family homes and ranch houses in an area bordered by Aurora, Treat and Squires roads in the city of Aurora. Housing prices will range from $350,000 to $450,000.
Pulte presented its initial plans in May for 247 acres of land zoned for housing, offices, retail and commercial development.
The Pulte site is adjacent to residential properties in Bainbridge Township.
Aurora Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin said once the planning commission finishes its review, the plan will go to the city of Aurora Council. Density is definitely an issue for the planning commission and the city, she noted, adding that further modification of the plan is likely.
“They have definitely been working with the planning commission and the city to accommodate our concerns,” Mayor Womer Benjamin said of Pulte. It could take a couple of months to go through the process. “They have a lot to do.” Construction might not start until later in 2020. “I think it has potential,” she added.
Planning Commission member Sarah Gilmore said the plan needs more room between the houses and buffering on Treat Road by keeping the existing trees. “Preserving the character of Treat Road is really important,” she said.
Pulte representative Jim O’Conner said the company is continuing to take feedback from area residents and is also working with Aurora city officials to refine the plan.
For the meeting last week, Pulte representatives concentrated on the overall site including changes and enhancements to the plan as discussed previously by the planning commission. At future planning commission meetings, the parkland around the housing as well as the commercial development will be reviewed.
Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. owns about 650 total acres that once were home to the former Geauga Lake Amusement Park and the Wild Water Kingdom Water Park. About 330 acres of the land is in Bainbridge Township in Geauga County and 320 acres in the city of Aurora in Portage County. Aurora has zoned 560 acres in the area, including the Cedar Fair land, for mixed use. Pulte is planning to develop 245 acres in Aurora. Bainbridge has also zoned the Cedar Fair property within the township to mixed use.
An unused rail line bisects the Pulte site. North of that is the River’s Edge subdivision in Bainbridge.
The land in Aurora includes a former campground and quarry, all of which will be included in the Pulte development. There will be 20.6 acres in commercial development and 112.6 acres in parkland.
The parklands which the developer is proposing to turn over to Aurora would be a big responsibility for the city, Mayor Womer Benjamin noted. She would like to see Pulte put in walking pathways and other amendities before handing the land over to the city.
At the planning commission meeting last week, Brian Uhlenbrock, planning engineer with Neff and Associates, talked of the lot sizes for the plan with the overall density at 1.4 units per acre.
He also made note of area housing with significantly less buffering than proposed by Pulte, although there are other developments with better landscaping similar to what Pulte is proposing.
Natural vegetation at the Pulte development will be retained along with the surrounding parkland. More than 2,500 lineal feet of vegetation along Treat Road will be preserved, with only a filtered view of the planned houses, according to the plans.
Mr. O’Conner said sidewalks are being planned, with meandering pathways, as well as a path along Treat Road to create access to the parklands. The company wants to preserve 97 percent of the existing wetlands, he said.
At Treat and Aurora (Route 43) roads, next to the Liberty Ford dealership (not part of this development), the plan calls for medical and other office space. There will be commercial property off Squires Road adjacent to the residential area.
Mr. O’Conner said Pulte will be developing homes geared for specific consumer groups. The town houses on the western side, called the Reserve, will feature houses starting at $290,000. There will be two-story homes in that section, priced at $330,000 to $410,000.
The east side of the development, closest to Treat Road is called the Enclave and will include 145 homes. They will be ranch homes geared for empty nesters and those who want to down size. They will be priced at $350,000 to $425,000, Mr. O’Conner said.
In response to concerns about more children entering the Aurora City Schools because of the development, he noted the majority of people buying the homes will not have children. “Our history is the houses are more attractive to empty nesters than families with children.”
Aurora City School District Superintendent Pat Ciccantelli previously told the Times that the district could accommodate as many as 250 more children without expanding any buildings.
Pulte representatives said other changes to the plan increased the size of the lots to respond to concerns of the commission and residents at the meeting in May. Setbacks from the sidewalk and the roadside curbs were adjusted along with increasing the side-yard setbacks.
Mr. Uhlenbrock reviewed the environmental aspects of the plan, concerning drainage and how some of it will drain to the Aurora branch of the Chagrin River which flows through Bainbridge into the Chagrin River. “We can’t let it flow off site quicker than it did predevelopment,” he said of the run-off water. Approximately 62 percent of the development, 152 acres, is in open space.
Following their review of the plans last week, the planning commission and audience voiced their thoughts and concerns about the development.
Member Peter French said he was concerned with density. “I walked the property. It’s a beautiful piece of property.” He said he believes they are going in the right direction with the changes to larger side-yard and front-yard setbacks, “But the density hasn’t changed. It’s something I’d like to see,” he said of larger lot sizes.
Another issue involves the rail line that goes from Treat Road to the Geauga County line. It is not for sale at this time. Brad Piroli, a representative of Pulte, said the preference is to purchase it but if not, they would have to work to obtain permission to cross it.
The “postage size lots” were also noted by a resident who said it is not what they want. They should be 1 acre or more. Resident Deb Conti noted that the side-yard setbacks are still too small. “I don’t see much green space,” she said.
Aurora Councilman Jim Vaca said residents thought when they voted for the mixed use zoning, there would be a Pinecrest or Legacy Village. He added that 75 percent of the trees are going to be cut down by the time they build the homes.
Ms. Gilmore said it is a beautiful piece of property. “I want to make it nice for those living there and the public.” Making lots larger is desired, she said.