CHAGRIN FALLS — Last spring developer Andrew Brickman expressed confidence he would meet his goal for a late August groundbreaking on Riverhaus, a six-building Cleveland Street townhome project which has been in the planning then re-planning stages for three years.

On Monday, the village Planning and Zoning Commission inched the project forward when its five members gave unanimous approval to modifications for front, side, rear yard setbacks and building depth.

Variances for these items were to be heard by the Board of Zoning Appeals Tuesday night.

Before that, on Tuesday afternoon, village Administrator Rob Jamieson and the Brickhaus planning staff were scheduled to meet to go over last-minute details of the project.

Still in the offing are approvals on specifications for a private road from Cleveland Street into the narrow chunk of land and under which utilities would run to necessitate the builder’s agreement to higher standards for roadway composition and construction.

Normally, utility lines are installed in the ground beside roadways, village Engineer Timothy Lannon explained during the Monday meeting.

Yet unknown is whether the Brickhaus company’s specifications are up to those standards.

Meanwhile, the planning commission’s “to do list” includes permissions for a retaining wall at the north side of the development which would require an easement from the private property owner next door.

That may be greater than originally thought due to the height of the wall which undulates from 2 feet tall on the west end to 5 feet tall on the east.

Planners will at some point approve a plat plan for the development and sign off on development regulations which, among other items, spells out responsibilities of the homeowners association.

These include maintenance of the private access road and covenants regarding what can and cannot happen on the hillside and the conservation easement to the east of the property.

A lighting and landscaping plan are among the final approvals.

Planning commission Chairwoman Patti Baker expressed some concern. “I am a little nervous” about the many outstanding details about the project which will be allayed only by “going through a point-by-point drill on what we are modifying.”

The complicated project requires special attention due to its difficult location on a sensitive hillside where clay laden soils have created slides west and downstream the Riverhaus project.

The townhome building site is on the south bank of the Chagrin River, which requires riparian setbacks.

To the east of the townhomes is an open space conservation area on the east side of the property which had been deemed “untouchable” by planners early on in the project planning.

On Monday, Brickhaus project manager Michael Scaletta pointed out the area would be excavated to drain water away from the last townhome building.

A surprised Ms. Baker indicated the revelation would not be permitted under the previous understanding.

Mr. Jamieson advised her that the excavation would be among the items the Riverhaus team and village administration were to address at the Tuesday meeting.

Groundbreaking remains dependent on how expedient Brickhaus and village staffers, soils experts, geotechnical engineers and village boards can gather, peruse findings and re-adjust plans based on those yet-unknown factors.

When asked to describe the Riverhaus site, village law director and development zoning expert Dale Markowitz paused to consider his response. “It is a very significantly non-conforming property.”

The parcel had been a paper mill for more than a century and the site of the paper plant’s water clarifying machinery. Across the river lies the remains of the original mill which became a paper-making operation during more modern times.

Prior to its demolition, three years ago, the 20 acre parcel was to have become a multi-use development which was never built, a victim of the recession and lack of financial backing.

It has failed to attract a serious buyer. The owners turned down one offer from the Western Reserve Land Conservancy which aimed to restore it to a parkland.

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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