PEPPER PIKE — Residents spoke out at a public hearing on Tuesday questioning the impact of a proposal to turn the 65-acre Beech Brook property into a mixed-use town center. Increased traffic and the possibility of creating more rental units were among the issues raised by residents.
The special Planning and Zoning meeting to discuss Axiom Development Group’s proposal for the Beech Brook property was held at City Hall and included a public hearing. Both concerns and sentiments of approval were brought to the table as the commission discussed the potential changes in zone ordinance for the property.
Under its current U-2 zoning, the Beech Brook property at 3737 Lander Road can only be used for public buildings such as schools, churches, libraries, community centers and municipal departments, according to the zoning code. Council is in the process of considering Axiom’s petition to modify the zoning ordinance so that it could become a mixed-use zone after a vote from Pepper Pike residents, according to Mayor Richard Bain.
Beech Brook, serving the behavior health needs of youths and their families, has been at this location since 1926. The agency closed its residential program at the Pepper Pike location in 2016 in an effort to consolidate services.
The proposal that Axiom presented to the council includes several options and features “a vibrant mix of engaging commercial and residential spaces housed in a truly walkable town center and residential neighborhood,” said Bryan Stone, who was representing ADG Wiley Creek LLC and Axiom Development at the meeting. Mr. Stone also mentioned that approximately 30 percent of the property would remain green space, with the main concentration surrounding Wiley Creek.
Maryanne Lutjen, a resident of Pepper Pike, raised concerns about past housing developments, such as the Sterling Lakes development and the development at Cedar and Brainard roads, that had gone differently than was discussed in meetings.
“When Sterling Lakes went in, that was supposed to be for empty nesters, and instead they built huge homes that are three floors and then they discovered that the school buses had to come in there,” she said. “And so that made a difference. And with the new one that went up at Cedar (and) Brainard, I thought initially when I was sitting in meetings, that those were all supposed to be owner owned, not rentals. And my understanding is now those are all rentals,” she said of the Luxe at Pepper Pike development.
“I mean to me, it (the Axiom development) sort of sounds like, OK, this sounds attractive. But I was really wanting to see something that doesn’t repeat what I consider past mistakes,” she said.
George Smerigan, Pepper Pike’s city planner, explained that the modification to the property’s zoning would be an overlay, meaning that the city’s planning commission would have complete control over deciding what could and could not be developed there, with consideration to public concerns.
Several attendees also brought up concerns about traffic issues that could occur, should the property be developed.
“We have all witnessed the mixed-use development Pine Crest (in Orange Village) and what it has done to Harvard Road in terms of the amount of traffic involved and just the negative associated with it,” said Bill Melsop, a member of the commission.
Axiom representatives indicated that the proposal seeks to solve this concern by including a traffic study and potential plans for a connecting road to alleviate traffic. Both Mr. Melsop and Mayor Bain pointed out the positive possibility of the tax revenue that could be provided from the proposed development. The current U-2 zoning means the city would not collect any property tax from the developments allowed under the code.
Several attendees also brought up concerns about the property not being considered for the possibility of a park. Mr. Smerigan said that although the property has been on the market for more than a year, no one has stepped forward to offer to buy the land with the intent to dedicate it as a park.
Kendrick Chittock, a conservation development officer with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, mentioned the challenges of meeting market value and working with buyers and sellers to secure land for conservation. Mr. Chittock also said that the Land Conservancy representatives want to make themselves available to anyone who would have an interest in preserving the Beech Brook property.
Mayor Bain said that he was not averse to the proposal at this point, but that the council members should weigh the pros and cons as they consider the options.
“The multi-use is the most diverse approach,” he said in favor of the proposal. “I’ve said this in public sessions before, I don’t like monocultures. I like things that have diversity, and I think that’s a stronger prop for us, to not simply be relying upon one sector manner in which an area develops. I think it’s a stronger economic model.”
As for the future, legislation should be introduced this month or next, with council taking three readings through Axiom’s proposal. Should the council decide to approve it, the proposal would be put on the ballot, though it is unclear whether action could be taken in time for the November ballot.