PEPPER PIKE — City planner George Smerigan has proposed revisions to the U-2 zoning district for public buildings to give the city more control over future developments and possibly more tax revenue.

In a written report to City Council, Mr. Smerigan discussed three major deficiencies in the current U-2 zoning code. If Axiom Development Group’s proposal to rezone the Beech Brook property fails on the Nov. 3 ballot, development under U-2 standards at that property would be subject to the revised code if council passes the revisions.

In December of 2019, council passed a one-year moratorium on development or redevelopment in U-2 districts while the city reviewed the code. At the time, Law Director Steve Byron said that further development on any U-2 property could significantly impact the city and its infrastructure. The moratorium would give the city time to review the zoning code, which has not been updated since 1975.

After the moratorium was approved, the city partnered with Bob Gleeson and Kirby Date of the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University to look at the economic impacts of various land uses. Properties that are zoned U-2 in Pepper Pike include Beech Brook, the Orange City School District campus, Ursuline College, the Country Club, the Pepper Pike Club, the Cleveland Racquet Club, and the city municipal complex.

“The U-2 district lacks many of the characteristics that you would find in a traditional modern zoning code,” Mr. Smerigan said at the Aug. 26 council meeting. “Those deficiencies are what we focused on in looking at the U-2 district and making this report to City Council.”

Mr. Smerigan noted three major deficiencies in the code. First, the permitted uses are not clearly defined and could be interpreted in various ways. He said that some interpretations may not be “anticipated, reasonable or appropriate in Pepper Pike.” For example, day schools are listed as a permitted use, but a day school could include a truck driving school, Mr. Smerigan said.

Second, city officials were not satisfied with the standards for building heights and setbacks. The code permits buildings that are three stories or 45 feet in height, but also permits churches, schools and libraries to be four stories or 50 feet in height. The code also permits a maximum building ground coverage of 20 percent of the total land area of the site. In his report, Mr. Smerigan noted that there is nothing in the regulation to limit the number of permitted uses on a U-2 district site. There could be significant development, especially on some of the larger U-2 properties, such as the country clubs, that would affect the character of the city.

“Most of the U-2 properties in the city are surrounded by single-family residential uses. Intensive development of those sites capable of generating lots of noise, light [and] traffic can adversely impact the values of those adjacent residential properties,” Mr. Smerigan said. “Again, that’s a legitimate regulatory concern for the city of Pepper Pike.”

Thirdly, he said that there is a lack of development control standards for the U-2 district, in addition to U-3 for office buildings and U-4 for retail businesses. Mr. Smerigan explained that there are minimal setback standards, no design standards and no plan review provisions.

Mr. Smerigan recommended defining the permitted uses, limiting buildings heights, preserving open space and creating development plan standards. The ordinance was referred to the Planning and Zoning Commission for review.

Ms. Date explained that municipalities need a tool to look at different development scenarios because different developments have different demands for city services, such as police, fire and service calls. Representatives from Cleveland State University developed a model to show revenue and expenses to the city and Orange school district for various development scenarios.

“When [communities] are looking at development or even more redevelopment of existing properties and as municipal budgets become more and more restricted, people really needed some kind of tool that would help them compare different alternatives for a new piece of property to make sure that they weren’t getting themselves into the red in terms of the fiscal results of that development,” Ms. Date said.

Mr. Smerigan provided four scenarios for the Beech Brook property and two for Ursuline College. One option included 60 single family homes at the Beech Brook property, another was a mixed-use district as proposed by Mr. Stone, and scenarios three and four were a variation of more institutional uses. One scenario at Ursuline College showed a mix of senior living and institutional uses and the other scenario only included more square footage for the college.

The analysis showed that the mixed-use proposal would bring $509,243 in revenue to the city per year and $43,948 per year to the school district. The proposal of 60 single family homes at Beech Brook would bring the city $48,346 per year and $61,731 to the schools. The other two uses at Beech Brook would cost the city $16,084 and $46,303 respectively because they are tax exempt. The two scenarios proposed at Ursuline would also cost the city $12,448 and $2,686 respectively, which are also tax exempt.

The next council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m.

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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