CHAGRIN FALLS — Controversial zoning changes that seemed to come out of nowhere without notification of those most affected by them were set right this week with the deletion of changes some or reversal of others.

During a special work session on Monday, Village Council members reviewed the reboot of changes and agreed to postpone their final vote until the July 22 meeting.

The village administration, in its written notification of the work session, stated the revisions under consideration were “as a result of the comments and concerns expressed at the public hearing on the ‘zoning code overhaul’ held two weeks earlier.

Spillway mystery

Owners of the Spillway property on Cleveland Street – who are actively trying to sell the 20-plus acre riverfront tract – got wind that their property was about to be rezoned from the more profitable limited industrial/residential mixed use to a less profitable residential district.

On Monday, Spillway Partners spokesman Robert Darden asked council where the change had come from, who suggested it and why he and his partners were not consulted or notified.

The plot thickened when no one in authority, on council or in the administration seemed to have the answers.

Notification of Monday’s work session stated only the Spillway would remain the limited industrial and limited mixed use, the higher valued and option rich designation.

“I’m curious where this came from and whose idea it was,” asked Mr. Darden.

Village Law Director Dale Markowitz offered that those “developers who came along wanted the property for residential,” but that did not satisfy Mr. Darden.

“Why has this come up again?” he asked.

Council president Nancy Rogoff said she did not know, others on council shrugged their shoulders and planning commission chairwoman Patti Baker said it never came before her commission either.

“So, you can’t give us an answer,” Mr. Darden persisted. “I am not here to crucify anyone, but was it you guys or the mayor?”

After the meeting, Mayor William Tomko said he “knew nothing.” Village Planner Julie Lindner said she did not know either and Mr. Markowitz echoed them both.

Down by riverside

Among the other items deleted from the “zoning overhaul” was the addition of park zoning on all residential riverside properties west of Main Street.

It proposed the shoreline sections of all these parcels on West Washington, Church, Maple, Miles and Solon roads be changed to the park designation.

The reason, according to Mr. Markowitz, was to unify riverside by making them all part of the parks district.

Effected property owners did not see it that way and crowded Village Hall to complain they knew nothing of the rezoning, voiced concern for their property values and demanded every inch of their land be made residential.

Mr. Markowitz said on Monday that he tried but was unsuccessful in explaining the change was for consistency only and did not impact their use of their property and their river’s edge lots would not be open to the public.

In the end, residents were heard and the parks district designation was removed and zoning on each changed to match the rest of the property.

Playing with fire

Two other changes made during the code overhaul which was questioned by the public were pertaining to sections dealing with play structures and outdoor fireplaces.

In an interview before this week’s meeting, long-serving zoning board member Ms. Rogoff pointed out both play structures and outdoor fireplaces had been dealt with two years ago then modified to meet the needs of residents and the physical specifications they suggested.

Ms. Rogoff said she tried to explain during the hearing that these were not new requirements, but instead settled code including the modifications.

Even in light of Ms. Rogoff’s “settled code” opinion, it remained unclear if the code for play structures and outdoor fireplaces will stay, go or be re-modified.

The third item deleted from the code “overhaul” is the section requiring restaurants to have odor abatement equipment.

It came as a result of a discussion at a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting regarding complaints about food odors from village restaurants, according to Mrs. Lindner.

After hearing about the coming change, restaurant owners complained the onerous cost of the equipment would discourage them from necessary remodeling and discourage new restaurants, including reopening new restaurants in vacant eateries such as Grove Hill.

Mrs. Lindner, who has been the village planning consultant for 25 years, said following Monday’s meeting, she was unsure how many odor complaints there were but it is her practice to suggest remedies.

In this case, she said she found odor abatement codes from other towns and applied the language to Chagrin Falls.

“Odor abatement is nothing new and it is regularly part of codes for other places,” she said, adding law that speaks to the health and welfare of the public are common throughout society.

A secondary issue for these property owners was why they were never notified on the coming change of zoning on their properties and cited last minute word of mouth and social media commentary were the only way they knew about the pending changes being voted on that very night.

Some planning commission members also wondered what or who generated the changes they never saw and on which they were not consulted.

From the audience, Parking Commission member Michael Corkran reminded that as commissioners they could only recommend, did not make law, had no final vote and there was no law that they be consulted.

In light of the confusion on that point, Mr. Markowitz suggested council ask the planning commission to study and recommend who, when, why and what circumstances require notification.

A veteran reporter and columnist, Barbara Christian has been covering Chagrin Falls since 1967 and is currently responsible for Chagrin Falls village events, government and school board news along with her weekly column "Window on Main Street."

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