CHAGRIN FALLS – Village council last week cleared the way for two houses to be built on West Orange and West Cottage streets including the final River Walk condominium.

Council approved three variances for the two houses on separate parcels during a July 23 meeting.

Owner Robert Vitt said the properties are so interconnected by the hill they occupy that all variances needed to be approved before either house could be constructed.

This project includes the final single family unit of the River Walk condo development at 44 West Orange Street at the bottom of the hill and a single family home a block away at 47 West Cottage Street at the top.

Mr. Vitt told council that because both properties occupy the same hillside, the variances are necessary for a slope modification and retention plan mapped out  by a geotechnical engineer.

The West Orange Street condo unit - once planned as a two-family townhome - won two variances which will allow it to be built at a height of 46 feet or 11 feet above the village code’s 35-foot maximum so it will match the height of the other condos on the property.

The second variance allows 60 percent front yard coverage against the 25 percent maximum to allow a driveway cul de sac.

Approval keeps the driveway wholly within the development with a single entrance and exit on Williams Street versus creating a second one on West Orange Street.

The West Cottage Street home, built at the edge of the hill separating River Walk and the West Cottage Street neighborhood, won a variance which allows it to be built closer to the street with a 22-foot front yard setback. The code requirement is 35 feet.

The variance provides for an adequate site on which to construct the proposed home’s foundation which doubles as a retention wall for that part of the hill.

The second retention area was described by Mr. Vitt as a tall curb-like structure located at the base of a redesigned hill behind the new condo unit.

While the meeting was to determine whether the three variances should be permitted, most of the discussion centered on the problematic hillside.

Some people have stated that the movement of the slope during the first phase of River Walk construction is the reason the foundation of the original house at 47 West Cottage Street failed and became unsafe.

The family was forced to move out and the house was demolished by order of the village.

The owners sued Mr. Vitt and won a $500,000 settlement which included Mr. Vitt taking possession of the now vacant lot at the precipice of the hill.

Mr. Vitt maintained foundations of the home and others on West Cottage Street were built before modern hillside engineering practices were developed.

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