PEPPER PIKE — Conservation and infrastructure were the focus of a second information session on Aug. 25 set up by Axiom Development Group Principal Bryan Stone to give residents more information on a mixed-use district proposed for the 68-acre Beech Brook property on Lander Road.

This was the second such event presented by Mr. Stone, who is under contract to purchase the Beech Brook property for an undisclosed cost.

Voters are being asked to approve a Nov. 3 ballot issue that would change the property from public buildings zoning to a mixed-use overlay district that is needed for the development proposal to move forward. Axiom’s plan calls for housing, retail, offices and green space at the mixed-use district.

Beech Brook, a private behavior health agency for youths, plans to consolidate its administrative offices at a new location.

Panelists at the question and answer event included Alex Czayka, senior vice president for conservation transactions for the Western Reserve Land Conservancy; Vanessa Nghiem, Ohio Traffic Group manager at AECOM and Christian Lynn, a planning and landscape architecture practice lead at AECOM. Jeff Homans, vice president of building and places at AECOM, Brian O’Looney, principal and designer at Torti Gallas and Partners and Axiom’s attorney Dale Markowitz also joined the presentation.

“Having lush vegetation within the development and along its edges is going to be a really important part because even within a parking area, that becomes an important part of making a successful place, which I think is a key point of this development,” Mr. Lynn said. “It’s about creating a place, not just a shopping center.”

Mr. Czayka said that the land conservancy has engaged with Axiom for a possible conservation easement on 24 acres on the Beech Brook property. He said that 24 acres is “not insignificant” and described it as a “conservation win.” The conservation easement will be perpetual, meaning that it will last forever.

He said that the easement will prevent buildings and further development while maintaining the aesthetic and ecological qualities of the Willey Creek corridor. He explained that the easement would allow for public park uses, including walking trails, boardwalks, invasive species management and ecological restoration. Willey Creek is a “high quality habitat,” Mr. Czayka said.

Mr. Lynn discussed managing stormwater runoff and keeping water quality high. He said that water quality, erosion and sediment control and water quantity will be regulated by the Ohio EPA, Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District and the city of Pepper Pike. Stormwater will be collected in extended detention basins.

“Based on Pepper Pike’s zoning, which is quite stringent in how it defines stormwater management, what we would implement would result in reduced stream bank erosion from the existing condition, it would reduce flooding and it would reduce runoff into Willey Creek when we’re comparing it to the existing condition.”

Ms. Nghiem explained that the traffic study overestimated how much traffic would come through Lander Circle to ensure that their proposed solution would operate effectively. The study uses a 3-percent growth rate rather than a 1 percent because at the time of the study, the Pinecrest shopping center in Orange Village had not fully opened yet. She also noted that Moreland Commons housing development on Chagrin Boulevard is under construction in nearby Moreland Hills.

She said that the traffic study found that a two-lane roundabout will solve current and future traffic problems. The roundabout that AECOM displayed is smaller in diameter than the current traffic circle and there would be splitter islands that allow for right turns without entering the circle, Ms. Nghiem said.

Audience questions

Mr. Stone said that the necessary reconstruction of Lander Circle could cost $2.5 million to $3.5 million. Pepper Pike Councilman Tony Gentile asked who would be expected to pay those costs. Mr. Stone indicated that the city would pay for it, but revenue from his proposed development would defray the cost.

Resident Manny Naft asked if the streets in the development would be dedicated roads and who will pay for those. Mr. Stone said that the internal roads are constructed and paid for by the developer. He added that he is not seeking tax abatements.

Mr. Markowitz said that this discussion about public and private streets would come up again later during the site plan review, if the property gets rezoned. He said that the developer always pays for that infrastructure then it is dedicated to the public or maintained by the master association.

Linda Sekura serves as the conservation co-chair of the Northeast Ohio Sierra Club. She asked if it was possible for the land conservancy to buy the Beech Brook property and conserve it. Mr. Czayka said that the property is currently not available because Axiom is under contract to buy it. He explained that if it was available, the value still might be too high. The land conservancy usually works on projects from $1 million to $5 million, he said, but it is difficult to find donors for properties with a higher value than that.

On Aug. 24, Ms. Sekura released a statement on behalf of the Northeast Ohio Sierra Club through the Say No to Rezone political action committee regarding the proposed mixed-use district. She said that the proposed project degrades a mature forest ecosystem.

“Most importantly, I fear that this project will likely fail if built, since you cannot negotiate with the laws of nature and physics,” she wrote in her statement. “The selected site is in a basin (a “bowl”), with land grading on both sides down to a wide stream. That alone is reason to not build. Add to that situation impermeable buildings and pavement (even if paved with permeable pavers), that replaces the deep soils currently holding back runoff from rain and snow.”

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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