A proposed new zoning classification to accommodate individuals with special needs is moving a step toward the March primary ballot following action by Solon city planners last week.
The Solon Planning Commission closed a public hearing on the rezoning, the first of its kind for the city, and forwarded the matter, with their recommendation, to City Council. City Council set the matter for public hearing at its meeting Monday.
The recommendation to move the R-3-C Multi-Family Special Needs zoning to the ballot, came with a great deal of support for the project, which would cost $3 million and create Solon Community Living, a development on about 4 acres of city property on Aurora Road, just west of Portz Parkway, for individuals with special needs.
Planners heard from local families including project creators Ara and Leslie Bagdasarian, who have two grown children with special needs. The hearing was held at City Hall.
Solon residents Patrick and Leslie Owen told the commission that they have a disabled young adult child. As many parents plan for their children to be able to be on their own when they grow, “we are not that fortunate,” Mr. Owen said.
“What Ara and Leslie are presenting here is the kind of thing we are looking for,” Mr. Owen said. “We can be assured that at the point when we are not here, our son will have a secure and safe place to live.”
The plan proposal includes 10-12 high-quality, two bedroom units with a minimum of one trained staff onsite 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The project would be in the area of the Solon Community Center, the Solon Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library and Solon Community Park, among other amenities, allowing the residents easy access.
“The location for the project is just ideal,” Mrs. Owens said of their proximity to all of the amenities “to live, work and play in Solon.”
The design is one that results in a safe, sustainable and secure neighborhood.
“We are very excited about it,” Mrs. Owens said.
Solon resident Theresa Markowitz also addressed the planners, explaining that she has an adult daughter with special needs. When her daughter was just 3 years old, she was already thinking of where she would live when she got older, Ms. Markowitz said.
She said the city is very “forward thinking” with this type of zoning, and she applauded them for it.
“We are really excited what the city is considering for this zoning and we hope to be part of that,” Ms. Markowitz said. “It is really great for the Solon community to be leading the way.”
Jeannemarie DiPadova, who has an adult son with special needs who works at the Solon Community Center, said this project would be ideal for him in its proximity to his job.
“I am not sure what the future holds for us,” she said. “We have not done a lot of planning, but I came to hear more about it.
“He will need something,” Ms. DiPadova said of her son, “and this sounds like a wonderful plan. I am in support of it.”
Mayor Edward H. Kraus, a member of the commission, said he believes families have struggled for some time about the future of their adult children with disabilities “and this is long overdue for our community.
“We probably should have done it years ago, but it’s never too late,” he said. “We need to be responsive to what people want.”
Commission members lauded the Bagdasarians for all their hard work on this proposal.
Mr. Bagdasarian said he continues to hear positive comments from the community. He was in attendance at last week’s Fall Fest, where he shared information on the project. He had a dialogue with Solon Senior Center Director Jill Frankel about the possibility of collaboration in certain areas as well as to explain the project to her.
“The city of Solon, through our department of senior services, presently provides some services for adults with disabilities residing in private homes,” Ms. Frankel said last week. “One of these services is transportation, which helps to connect people to the community, shopping and medical appointments.
“We also share our ideas and equipment for programs that are adaptable for varying physical and mental capabilities with the Blue Ribbon program, as well as offer some space and coordination of their use of vehicles,” she said.
“Ara has been extremely receptive to working together to determine how and if we may be able to assist the residents of Solon Community Living, including walkability and transportation,” Ms. Frankel said. “Once open, there may be a need to explore expanding recreational programming opportunities, including space and transportation, which we may be able to offer.”
Mrs. Bagdasarian plans to present information to the seniors at the center in January.
Mr. Bagdasarian said there could be the possibility of expanding programming they have to the residents of Senior Community Living.
“I appreciated her support and caring and looking for ways to collaborate,” Mr. Bagdasarian said of Ms. Frankel.