PEPPER PIKE — Mayor Richard Bain reassured council members last week that nothing is set in stone yet with the Beech Brook proposal calling for a district with retail, housing and a town center.

Legislation to put an issue before voters to rezone 65 acres near Lander Circle for a mixed-use district had its first of three required readings on Aug. 28. That’s when council members wanted assurances that the city is not moving too fast with the proposal.

Bryan Stone and Steve Bittence of Axiom Development Group are under contract to purchase the property as the Beech Brook agency phases out its behavior counseling services at the Pepper Pike location before consolidating its operation at an existing Cleveland location. Mr. Stone and Mr. Bittence described their concept of a town center at earlier meetings, which could include a mix of residential buildings, office buildings, retail stores and green space. Mayor Bain said that the proposed rezoning has been referred to the Planning and Zoning Commission, which will review it and make a recommendation to council for a final decision.

“There are no guarantees in any of this,” Mayor Bain said. “We’re going to do this right instead of fast.”

He explained that the referral to the planning commission is the beginning of a process, and noted that Mr. Stone, who attended the council meeting last week, was aware that this is still in the discussion phase. Mayor Bain said that the administration is giving the Beech Brook proposal a “due process procedure” and recommended that council members attend the planning commission meeting to hear the details of this ordinance.

Some council members and residents have voiced concerns that a town center would disturb the tranquility of Pepper Pike with more noise, increased traffic and a reduction of green space. The Beech Brook property is at 3737 Lander Road near the Chagrin Boulevard traffic circle.

“This language [in the ordinance] is aspirational on the part of the applicant,” Mayor Bain said. “It is not an endorsement or recommendation at this point nor would it be appropriate at this point for council to form an opinion regarding this legislation one way or another.”

Councilman Tony Gentile asked if there will be more public hearings for this proposal, stressing the importance of hearing from the public. Mayor Bain said that he would like to hold a second public hearing at a planning commission meeting and hold a public hearing at a council meeting.

“This legislation will not suffer from a lack of exposure and comment from the public,” Mayor Bain said.

Councilman Jim LeMay, who expressed concerns two weeks ago about noise and traffic at a mixed-use district, asked if council could decide not to refer the proposal to the planning commission. Law Director Steve Byron said that he has never seen a council member object to a referral to the commission, explaining that it is “standard, routine and noncontroversial.”

Mr. Byron said that the proposed new chapter of the zoning code, which would detail specifics of a mixed-use district, was written by City Planner George Smerigan. Mr. Byron said that Mr. Smerigan took the concept that was requested by Axiom and put it in a format that is familiar to Pepper Pike.

Councilman Scott Newell told Mayor Bain to use every line of communication he has to inform the public of upcoming public hearings so they can voice their opinions. The planning commission will review the Beech Brook proposal on Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at City Hall, 28000 Shaker Boulevard, but the location may change to accommodate a larger audience.

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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