PEPPER PIKE — The public hearing scheduled for tonight, an opportunity for residents to comment on the proposed Beech Brook rezoning, was delayed until an indefinite date in March, according to Mayor Richard Bain.
The mayor said he granted Bryan Stone of Axiom Development Group an extension to modify his proposal before presenting it to the residents at the hearing.
“[Residents and stakeholders] were just bringing up issues that we admittedly had never thought about. There were ideas that were outside the box and things that we think could be really helpful to incorporate,” Mr. Stone said on Tuesday in reference to Axiom’s open house at Beech Brook on Jan. 25. “We want to make sure we’re taking a hard look at our application and making sure it’s something that residents will ultimately want to support. This gives us the opportunity to do so.”
Last Friday morning, residents received an email from Mayor Bain advising that the Feb. 13 public hearing would be postponed. He said that he expects the public hearing will be before spring break for the Orange City School District, which begins March 23. Law Director Steve Byron said that anyone is permitted to speak at the hearing, but Pepper Pike residents will be prioritized.
Axiom is under contract to purchase the 68 acre Beech Brook property near Lander Circle. Mr. Stone proposed a town center on the property that would include housing, offices, retail and green space. The land currently is zoned for public buildings, but in order to proceed with the plan, the residents of Pepper Pike must vote to rezone the property to a mixed-use district.
Beech Brook, a behavioral health agency, closed its Pepper Pike residential treatment services in 2016 and plans to consolidate its administrative offices at a new, smaller location. Axiom held an open house on Jan. 25 at Beech Brook to discuss their plans for the town center and to improve the traffic flow at Lander Circle.
“[Axiom] felt that there were some of what I assume are significant changes or refinements to what they’re doing that would affect public comments,” Mayor Bain said last Friday. “There was a lot of information that [Axiom] already received, and they wanted to make adjustments before further comments, so people could be more effective in what they’re reacting to.”
Mr. Stone said that the proposal must fit in with the character of Pepper Pike.
“In the long run, we have to have a plan that residents will support and that serves the interests of everyone involved,” he said in a press release. “This has to work, not only for us, the city and residents, but also Beech Brook, which will use the proceeds from this sale to further serve children and families in need.”
Mr. Byron said that he is expecting Axiom to present the same conceptual plan but with more details.
“There’s been a demand for more information,” he said on Monday.
Pepper Pike residents Manny and Judi Naft, co-treasurers for the Say No to Rezone Political Action Committee, have sent out a series of communications with other city residents. They said that they have spent several thousand dollars on their efforts to inform the community about the public hearing that is now delayed, including postcards, fliers and an advertisement in a local newspaper.
“We are totally shocked and surprised at how unprofessional this is. This meeting should have gone forward,” said Mr. Naft. He lined up speakers representing the Sierra Club and the Western Reserve Land Conservancy for the public hearing, along with realtors to talk about the effect of a mixed-use district on property values in Pepper Pike. “If they had more things to include, they should have called a second meeting. A lot of time and effort has been spent to get ready for the Feb. 13 meeting.”
Mrs. Naft said that if Mr. Stone is not prepared to give a presentation to council and the residents, then he is not prepared to build a mixed-use district.
According to Mayor Bain, moving back the date of the public hearing is accommodating the residents rather than the developer. He said that this shows that the developer is taking the residents’ comments into consideration and making changes to his proposal.
He explained that he wants the public hearing to be a wise use of everyone’s time. After Mr. Stone completes his updated proposal, Mayor Bain said that the city will be sure to inform the residents of the changes. Therefore, the residents can attend the hearing with the most accurate, updated information to have an efficient conversation. Usually there must be a 30-day public notice of a public hearing, but that 30-day notice is not required when a hearing is delayed or rescheduled, according to Mr. Byron.
Mayor Bain also noted that at the beginning of the public hearing, the developer will describe his proposal then residents will have the opportunity to comment, although city officials will not respond to their questions.
“It is not a Q&A period, that’s not what it is,” he said. The significance of Axiom’s changes to the proposal, the mayor added, may influence the administration’s thoughts on whether there should be a question and answer period.
August is the latest that City Council can vote to put this rezoning on the ballot for November because it must be filed with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections 90 days before the election.