City planners last week set for a public hearing a new multi-family special needs zoning classification targeted to be before the electorate on the March primary ballot in 2020.

A hearing on the zoning classification, developed by City Planning Director Robert S. Frankland, will take place at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 24. The public is encouraged to attend and provide input.

The land that is the subject of the new zoning is about 4 acres of city-owned property on Aurora Road just west of Portz Parkway.

In May, Solon resident Ara Bagdasarian presented to city officials a “Solon Community Living” nonprofit, long-term supportive living option for individuals with disabilities that will cost $3 million. A new zoning classification for multi-family zoning specific to this would have to be created for this community.

Mr. Frankland explained that the Multi-Family-Special Needs R-3-C district would be designed as “stand-alone zoning” and can be applied to the specific property. In general, the format and layout is similar to senior housing zoning, he said, with similar amenities permitted.

The setbacks will be a little relaxed compared to senior zoning because the scale of the buildings is reduced under this zoning, he continued.

This type of zoning would also advance the master plan concept in that it expands housing options that meet unique preferences and needs of all age groups.

“I think it’s a very worthy concept,” Mr. Frankland said. “Area communities have this type of zoning and Solon should be accommodating of all [types of] housing.”

The zoning requires a minimum project area of 3 acres and a maximum density level of five units per acre. Permitted uses include single family, two family and multi-family residences in both independent and assisted living configurations.

“Adoption of this type of zoning would provide the city with yet another tool to meet the diverse needs of its residents,” Mr. Frankland said.

The zoning can be adopted as a stand-alone classification for future application, he continued. It, however, is suitable as well for immediate application in the Portz Parkway/Aurora Road area as per the current request before City Council.

Mr. Bagdasarian presented to the commission details of the project, noting that the overall goal is to create a safe, sustainable neighborhood for his children and others with special needs that would take care of their housing needs when their parents are no longer living.

Mr. Bagdasarian and his wife Leslie have two adult children, Alex and Julie, both of whom have Fragile X syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes intellectual disability and cognitive impairment. He explained for the commission that the goal of the housing project is to provide his children and others a housing option that was different than a traditional group home, several of which exist in the city.

Instead, Solon Community Living would provide access to the community by having them live within walking distance of city amenities like the Community Center, Community Park, Solon Library and more.

Mr. Bagdasarian told the commission that there are more than 508 individuals with disabilities now living in Solon, according to the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities. He said since living in the city for 21 years, “we have found the community to be very supportive of our special loved ones.”

He cited the Blue Ribbon Adaptive Recreation program at the Solon Community Center, which serves more than 300 individuals, as an example.

The housing would include 10-12 high-quality two bedroom units with a minimum of one trained staff on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Plans are to enter into an agreement with Welcome House, an experienced provider for Professional Property Management and Service Coordination with 47 years in the field.

Mr. Bagdasarian said one-third of the funding for the project has been secured. Part of the funding came from families themselves with other sources including grants from various foundations.

The zone change would need a majority vote both in Ward 6 and citywide.

“The goal is to improve quality of life for residents and families,” Mrs. Bagdasarian, who was also in attendance with her daughter Julie, said. “The biggest thing is peace of mind, to have our loved ones live somewhere when we are gone.”

For the last decade, Sue Reid has covered the government, business climate and residents of Solon. A Times reporter for 22 years, Ms. Reid has earned commendations from the Ohio Newspaper Association and Cleveland Press Association.

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