CHAGRIN FALLS — Developer Robert Vitt was on Tuesday morning’s Architectural Review Board agenda with an application to move the house at 3 W. Summit St. to provide space for a new outbuilding. He left the meeting asking to demolish it instead.
The home is a historical and visible landmark in the village at the very top of Grove Hill (North Main Street).
“We were united as a board,” said ARB member Dr. Steve King in a telephone call following the session.
He said the reasons given for demolition are the same as for every demolition request the board has reviewed in the past – low ceilings, mold, damp basement, knob and tube electrical wiring.
“In other words, like most of the houses in Chagrin Falls,” Dr. King added.
Because Mr. Vitt changed his request from moving the house to demolishing it, his original application was void and he will be required to reapply for a demolition permit.
In Chagrin Falls, demolition requests must be accompanied by plans for the replacement structure.
The village’s historic preservation specialist Alice Sloan, in her report stated the 1878 home and circa 1920 meets the stand for a historically significant property.
The report was written in light of Mr. Vitt’s request to demolish the outbuilding only and move the house elsewhere on the property.
Removal of the outbuilding, once an artist’s studio, and relocating the house elsewhere on the property would have an adverse effect on neighboring properties and relocating the house would be deleterious to an adjacent home all the way to Triangle Park from which the home is visible.
Ms. Sloan also pointed out that the village ordinances state demolition of historically significant properties must be approved by the ARB only if it determines there would have no impact on the historic character of structures more than 50 years old.
He must also provide proof that the cost to rehabilitate the property would cost more than the home is worth.
Dr. King pointed out the rules for proving “economic feasibility” is for basic restoration “not granite countertops.”
Mr. Vitt’s Silver Leaf Ventures LLC purchased the W. Summit Street house for $550,000. The seller was Laurie Salim who acquired the home in June 2019.
Longtime prominent village resident Bruce Kennedy purchased the property in 1975.
Dr. King said there have been rumors that the developer wants to build three houses on the hillside property which stretches from West Summit to West Cottage Street next to the stone wall built during the Great Depression era as a WPA project and which is also historic.
Mr. Vitt is no newcomer to Chagrin Falls or the hillside where West Summit is located, having built the condominiums on West Orange Street just west of the M Italian restaurant.
When the land was cleared for their construction, the clay soil hill behind it experienced slippage which ultimately caused cracks in the walls and floors of an occupied home on which it sat.
That property was condemned and the owners sued Mr. Vitt’s development property. The homeowners won their suit and Mr. Vitt bought the lot and built a new home with substantial underpinnings.
The experience served the village administration and council to upgrade their hillside regulations, engineering standards and ground testing requirements.