GATES MILLS — Council is taking steps to move forward with a master plan after many residents spoke out against a proposed housing development in the village.
In April, dozens of residents turned out at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting and the council meeting to share their concerns with a proposed housing development on Chagrin River Road. The informal plan called for 16 homes on 16.5 acres, which does not comply with the village’s 5-acre per residence minimum. Mayor Karen Schneider and council members said that the plan would not move forward because it did not receive enough support from council.
In an interview on Monday, Mayor Schneider and Councilwoman Nancy Sogg, chairwoman of the planning commission, emphasized that there was never a “formal request” for variances or rezoning of the property, which is owned by Nick Lemmo.
“There were no variances and there was no ordinance,” Ms. Sogg said. “We just had a discussion.”
The Gates Mills Residents for Responsible Village Development collectively wrote a letter that was signed by resident Holly Mathews and sent to Mayor Schneider and each of the seven council members. The letter stated three focus areas based on the discussion at the April council meeting including updating the master plan for the village, improving the transparency of the planning commission and allowing the citizens to vote on significant zoning changes.
In the letter, the residents also asked village officials to not change zoning laws until residents approved a new master plan. Residents also asked to be involved in the master planning process and to immediately start open communications with the community.
The letter was sent via email on April 22 and Ms. Mathews said that she did not receive a response from the mayor or most of the council members. She said that Councilman Larry Frankel sent her a copy of a letter that he also sent to the planning commission that was not in support of the housing development on Chagrin River Road, and Ms. Mathews said that she appreciated his response.
“A letter of acknowledgement of just having received the letter and some thoughts of what they think they’re going to do would have been nice,” she said. “We sent it out to be conciliatory. We didn’t want to start a fight.”
Ms. Mathews said that it feels like the mayor and council are downplaying the housing development that was proposed on Chagrin River Road.
“Our biggest complaint is that they have not been transparent and communicative, and not having a response highlighted that,” she added.
Mayor Schneider said that she read the letter but did not respond to it because she is responding with her actions instead.
“We should really have an updated master plan,” she said.
After the April council meeting, she called the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission to begin the master planning process. Two representatives from the county planning commission spoke at the council meeting on Tuesday. She said that the village is looking for grant money to fund the master planning process and named Councilman Jay “Chip” AuWerter to head the selection committee. The committee will then create a larger group of participants in the master planning process to involve the community members.
Ms. Sogg said that she did not respond to the letter because the residents’ requests were already in place. She said that the planning commission is transparent by law and everything is on record in the meeting minutes. The residents mentioned that there should be a time for public comments at planning commission meetings, and Ms. Sogg said that residents can go to council meetings to share their thoughts.
“The function of planning and zoning is not to seek widespread input,” she said. “We’re following everything according to the rules now.”
Ms. Sogg said that she wants everyone to participate in the master planning process so the village can move forward with a plan that the residents support.