BAINBRIDGE — Trustees are still mulling over unanswered questions regarding potential zoning impacts on the waterline extension in the works in the township with the latest route iteration potentially running through property with a conservation easement.

“The Department of Water Resources is actively moving forward with this project,” Trustee Chairman Jeff Markley said Monday night. “At last check, they are, I believe, almost complete with their engineering” for the project. He said the county will soon be conducting an analysis to determine the cost of tap-in fees for the extension.

According to the Geauga Department of Water Resources, the project is estimated to cost about $1.2 million and is one of a series of waterline extensions into the township from the Cleveland Water Department. The project closes a waterline, creating a complete loop, from English Drive and Bainbridge Road to Chagrin Road, running under U.S. 422. Construction is anticipated to start this June.

The property in question with the conservation easement is about 17 acres of township-owned property adjacent to the Bainbridge Police Department on Bainbridge Road, formerly known as the Mutual Security property.

Trustee Lorrie Sass Benza questioned if the township would need approval from a particular agency responsible for the easement.

Mr. Markley, however, said there does not appear to be any agency that exists in relation to the easement, noting there has been no activity from any conservation organization groups pertaining to the easement since 2005.

With a conservation easement, but no respective organization, he asked if the county could get around it with the waterline extension.

“They might be able to bore underneath and that ends the issue,” he said. “It also, then, does create a permanent utility easement over township-owned property. It does affect any future use, should there be a future use of the property.”

Mr. Markley said that with the department of water resources in the process of determining a more concrete route for the waterline extension, the county may need to determine whether the easement may present an issue with the progress of the project.

“They’ve got to deal with the, either the extinguishment of, or the negotiation with an entity,” he said in regards to the easement. Mr. Markley said he would do his “homework” and see about tracking down whether another entity is the successor of the conservation easement.

The trustees also agreed that they would need to set a meeting with water resources Director Steve Oluic, the township Zoning Commission and possibly get the opinion of the county prosecutor or legal counsel as to whether the expansion of utilities would affect the zoning in the township.

“If we’re still looking at zoning – residential areas, density, large lot zoning – being directly tied to health and safety, and we are now looking to expand utilities, what, if anything, do we have to do?” Mrs. Benza asked. “From a planning or protective perspective, do we just say we have a preference for large lot zoning?”

“I think the addition of a waterline changes the dynamic of zoning in a township,” Mr. Markley said. “What, if any, statements or actions does the board of trustees in conjunction with the township zoning commission need to take to protect, if there’s still an interest, [potential changes to] contextual zoning language?

“The township zoning is based on the lack of sewer and [waterlines],” he said.

He said that because the extension is the closing of a loop for health and safety, not necessarily an expansion of the waterline through the rest of the township, this might not be an immediate concern. The issue could surface in the future, however, as to whether waterline expansions could happen elsewhere because the loop was allowed.

Mr. Markley said he would take the concerns to the Zoning Commission relative to how more waterlines could affect the township’s zoning.

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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