WOODMERE — Residents of Belmont Road gathered at a council meeting on Aug. 8 to address concerns about encroaching development and sewage on their property. Six residents on Belmont were contacted by a commercial property company in regard to selling their homes.

Bryan Baetjer, a business development associate with Patton, Wiles and Fuller sent a letter to a resident saying that his company is working with a developer who is interested in buying various properties on Belmont for “redevelopment purposes.” He said in the letter that his company has also been in touch with several other property owners on Belmont.

“This is not an endeavour from council,” Council President Jennifer Mitchell Earley said.

According to the letter, an unnamed developer has expressed interest in the properties on Belmont because of their location. Belmont is a residential street on the far east side of Woodmere, it borders Orange Village and sits across the street from Eton Chagrin Boulevard shopping center.

At the Aug. 8 meeting, Belmont resident Beata Fleszar explained this to the council members, who were mostly unaware of the situation. Councilwoman SharNette McCully said that she had not heard about the offer to purchase the properties until she arrived at the meeting.

Ms. Fleszar said that receiving the letter from the commercial property company was “a shock.” Law Director Frank Consolo assured the residents that council would have to vote to change the zoning of a particular area. Otherwise, developers could not build any multi-family units or commercial buildings on Belmont because it is zoned as a single family residence district. Ms. McCully said that she would not be in favor of redevelopment on Belmont if it meant building townhouses or cluster homes.

“I love Woodmere, this is not something I would be in favor of,” she said.

Residents asked if this could be related to Woodmere’s master planning process. Mayor Ben Holbert spoke with several residents and gathered more information about their concerns. He found a master plan document from the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission called the community vision. The Steering Committee members completed a NOISE analysis, which identified needs, opportunities, improvements, strengths and exceptions.

In that analysis, the committee members said that vacant land on Belmont should be developed. Mayor Holbert said that some residents may have misunderstood this information to think that the village was planning to redevelop properties that the residents own. The master plan is a draft document and does not indicate definite plans for the village.

“We’re not totally sure what the game plan is. No one has come to Planning and Zoning,” Mayor Holbert said. “I don’t see anything like that taking place at this point.”

Another Belmont resident, Gladimir Lobo, came to the council meeting with a concern about sewage in his front yard when there are heavy rains.

“Woodbran is contaminating my lot and it’s overflowing into the creek in my backyard,” Mr. Lobo said.

Village Engineer Ed Hren explained the history of the sanitary sewers in Woodmere. He said that the main sewer line on Belmont leads to the Woodbran wastewater treatment plant at the end of the road and the sewer line and treatment plant are around 50 years old. Woodbran is a private company with its own sewer district, including all of Woodmere, part of Orange Village and a small piece of Pepper Pike. The village contracts with the Cuyahoga County Department of Public Works to maintain and clean the sewers on the other residential streets, he said.

In the past, four houses on Belmont had sewage backup into their basements during heavy rains when stormwater entered the sanitary sewer, which he called “inflow and infiltration.” The village installed backflow preventers in those four houses, which kept the sewage from gathering in the basement. Another problem, however, is when the sewage comes up the clean-out pipe and pools in the yard. When this happens, Mr. Hren said that Woodbran notifies the EPA and the EPA cleans the affected area.

He explained that Woodbran cleans the sewer lines periodically and continuously upgrades the treatment system. According to Mr. Hren, Woodbran conducts video inspections and repairs broken pipes.

“We only had these four houses. With a backflow preventer, we’ve eliminated the problem of sewage backing up into someone’s basement. Sewage in the front yard is a problem but sewage in the basement is a disaster,” Mr. Hren said. “As more repairs are being made, the problem should resolve itself.”

The engineer said that Woodmere is also considering replacing the sewer line on Chagrin Boulevard because a new pipe would handle the flow more easily.

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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