Solon City voters on Tuesday approved Issue 65, a new zoning classification centering on the long-discussed and debated Liberty Ford site and surrounding area on Aurora Road.
According to unofficial results from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, the issue passed citywide with a total of 3,398 votes or 63.43 percent with 1,959 or 36.57 percent opposing. It also passed in the affected Ward 6.
Mayor Edward H. Kraus said following the election, “For me, I’m just really, really excited and I want to thank the voters.
“I think people took the time to go through and to find out what was in the ordinance and what was the mixed use and the exact zoning change,” he said. “I think in the end, people are excited about progress and sort of turning the page.”
The approval will allow for the rezoning to a mixed-use district that covers 21.76 acres and will allow the land to be developed for such uses as restaurants, retail, residential and office space.
The Liberty Ford site, measuring about 6.5 acres, is under option to be purchased by Industrial Commercial Properties in Solon.
While the city’s administration has lauded the zone change and plans to redevelop the entire site, some residents have expressed concerns about the residential component.
“I’m not in favor,” resident Bob Bailey said at the polls on Tuesday. “I’m pro-development, but I did not see they had a concrete plan to educate the voters.”
Mr. Bailey went door to door in his Ward 6 in opposition of the rezoning, he said.
“I feel Issue 65 has not been presented properly,” resident Stan Gordon said at the polls. “I don’t think it will pass.”
Mr. Gordon said he did not believe apartments to be a good fit in that location. “I truly don’t believe people will rent apartments at that price and smell the diesel fuel off of Aurora Road.”
Developers have indicated that apartment units would mainly be one-bedroom units, measuring 850 square feet with rents beginning at $1,500 a month. They can go as high as $2,500 to $3,000 depending if two-bedroom units are peppered in.
Plans also call for high-end restaurants in the area.
Prior to the rezoning, the land use on the former Liberty Ford site was limited to hotels, car sales/dealerships, automotive repair centers, office use and gas stations.
Mayor Kraus said the city has had issues on the ballot before and people have voted it down “and all of that had to do with location.
“But with the Liberty Ford site, people saw the right opportunity for the right development in the right location,” Mayor Kraus continued. “I think people looked at it as an opportunity to take a vacant property and really provide nice amenities for the community. This is just the beginning of a long process.”
Mayor Kraus said although voters OK’d the rezoning, that doesn’t mean the city is obligated to take just any plan. The mixed-use zoning is a Planned Unit Development, which gives complete control to City Council to make determinations of what is acceptable or not on the site.
“We have a tremendous amount of oversight, and we will make sure we get a nice development, something that we all can be proud of and will meet all of our standards and comply with our codes. That includes ensuring traffic studies are done and plans are reviewed by engineers.
“In the end people realize this is sort of the beginning phases,” he said. “In order to have development, you have to have the right zoning.”