PEPPER PIKE — Principal Bryan Stone of Axiom Development Group said that he plans to continue working with City Council to get rezoning Beech Brook on the Nov. 3 ballot, but may resort to an initiative petition by collecting signatures from residents instead. Working with the city to get the rezoning on the ballot requires a public hearing and a council vote.

The filing deadline to get the zoning issue on the general election ballot is Aug. 3 regardless of what path Axiom takes.

Mayor Richard Bain said that Axiom advised that it is challenging to continue the joint effort with the city because it requires meetings and a public hearing, which would likely draw a large crowd, but there’s still a limit of 10 people per gathering due to the COVID-19 pandemic health regulations.

Axiom is under contract to purchase the 68-acre Beech Brook property at 3737 Lander Road. Beech Brook closed its residential treatment services in 2016. CEO Tom Royer has said that much of their services are now in homes and at schools, so the agency does not need a large tract of land. Mr. Royer said the agency plans to move its administrative offices to a new location closer to the children and families that are served.

“Our plan is to go down the traditional route we’ve been going down and continuing to work with City Council to put it on the ballot in November,” Mr. Stone said on Tuesday.

“But as is the case with anyone who has a business right now, coronavirus is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. We have to make sure that we have a plan B where if having a public hearing with a lot of people in attendance isn’t going to be a practical solution, we need to make sure that we are exploring that option.”

Councilman Bob Freed said that he is disappointed that Axiom may take the initiative petition route. City officials have spent months trying to find a solution that is beneficial, he said, but this project and this developer may not be right for Pepper Pike.

“I’m very disappointed of course that they’re going around City Council to do this petition,” he said on Friday. “It is their right to do this but we as city council have spent months trying to come up with a solution that would be good for the city of Pepper Pike and the developer seems to have a program of their own.

“They’ve had months and months and months to tell City Council why this development would be good for Pepper Pike and my feeling is they have failed to do that. They’ve been given every opportunity to explain their position and detail how this is going to work and I don’t think that’s been accomplished.”

Axiom has been working with the city to write a new chapter of the zoning code for a mixed use district that city officials supported. There were lengthy meetings with the council and the Planning and Zoning Commission, in addition to a public hearing. Mr. Stone said that Axiom submitted its revised plans to Pepper Pike City Hall on Monday.

The major changes to the plan include removing multifamily residences and retaining the 50-50 split between single family homes and townhomes. Before, the plan included a 50-50 split between multifamily homes and single family plus townhomes, according to a press release.

The amount of retail is now capped at 40,000 square feet, the permitted commercial uses are more narrow and the residential density was decreased from five units per acre to four units per acre, according to the release.

Mr. Byron explained that if Axiom plans to use an initiative petition, it would need to file the revised ordinance with the city’s Finance Director Joe Brodzinski. Then Axiom needs to collect about 145 signatures, which is 10 percent of the number of residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election in 2018, according to Mr. Byron.

Then the petition documents are returned to Mr. Brodzinski and they are available for public viewing for 10 days before he submits them to the board of elections, Mr. Byron said. The board of elections has 10 days to complete the count and inform Mr. Brodzinski that the signatures are valid. Mr. Byron said that if Axiom has collected enough valid signatures, they can file by Aug. 4 to be included on the Nov. 3 ballot.

“It’s just a question of timing,” Mr. Byron said. “This allows them to get a vote on this November’s ballot.”

Resident and co-treasurer of the Say No to Rezone political action committee Manny Naft commented on the initiative petition possibility at the council meeting.

“Right now, all of that detail and all of that vetting is being bypassed and all of the things that needed to be done as a matter of due process is going by the wayside, which is disappointing,” he said.

As of May 27, Axiom still has a pending application with the city.

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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