PEPPER PIKE — The city Planning and Zoning Commission last week granted a conditional use permit to the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District for the $1.2 million Pepper Creek bank stabilization project designed to reverse long-term erosion.
Jeff Jowett, senior watershed team leader at NEORSD, said Pepper Creek has ongoing problems along the stream bank nearly half a mile east of the traffic circle at Shaker and Gates Mills boulevards.
“The main issue is erosion. The stream is compromising people’s properties,” Mr. Jowett said.
Ivan Valentic of GPD Group, the firm that is designing the project, explained that Pepper Creek keeps cutting itself lower and is causing instability in the surrounding banks.
Shaker Boulevard residents Anna and Yaron Perry told commission members during the public hearing at the Jan. 7 meeting that erosion is creating an annual problem. “We are losing five to six trees per year because they’re falling down into the creek or on our property,” Mrs. Perry said.
Mr. Valentic said that GPD Group is working with NEORSD to restore more than 800 lineal feet of the stream. The district is covering 100 percent of the project cost.
Officials from NEORSD stated that they plan to move the stream and give it better access to the floodplain. Mr. Jowett described a floodplain as low land near the stream that is made of stream sediment. He said that right now the stream can only go downward and is eroding the bank.
“Streams have dynamic features, they don’t like to be channelized,” he said. “Think of them as dynamic, they want to slow down and deposit sediment and other nutrients.”
Mr. Valentic said that the contractor will plant 150 trees and 400 shrubs along with small herbaceous material. They also plan to add 4,000 live stakes, which Mr. Valentic described as long woodcuttings that are pushed in between rocks. He referred to a native seeding plan to restore the stream bank. The contractor, RiverReach Construction, will restore gentle, natural slopes, according to Mr. Jowett.
Debbie Sopko, who lives on Shaker Boulevard, said that she was concerned about the appearance of her property when the project is completed. She said that the landscaping on her property will look mismatched and incomplete.
“I think this is a wonderful project but it’s going to leave me with a lot of work to do,” she said.
Resident Brian Schmotzer asked about the timeline of the project. Officials said that the trees that need to be removed will be taken down by April and the project will be completed in the summer, although some plantings would take place in the fall.
The district is seeking a conditional use permit because this project requires them to work in the riparian zone, the interface between land and the stream. City Engineer Don Sheehy said that Pepper Pike has an ordinance against working within 75 feet of the riparian zone due to the possibility of disturbing the soil. Completing work within the riparian setback also requires permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which was granted on Dec. 13.
Council held a public hearing before voting on the conditional use permit on Wednesday.