In a primary election on Tuesday, Solon voters overwhelmingly approved Issue 19 paving the way for the first-ever special needs zoning in the city.
By a vote of 4,010 in favor or 82.61 percent and 844 against or 17.39 percent, the rezoning passed citywide, according to unofficial results from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. The issue passed in Ward 6 by an 82.6 percent margin with 697 yes votes compared to 121 no votes. The city charter mandates that ballot issues pass in effective wards as well as citywide.
This was a primary postponed from March 17 when the Ohio Department of Health closed in-person polling sites due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Ohio General Assembly rescheduled the primary for April 28 as a mostly vote-by-mail election.
The new zoning classification, R-3-C multi-family residential Special Needs Zoning is the first step toward Solon Community Living, a $3 million housing project proposed for about 4 acres at the southwest corner of Aurora Road and Portz Parkway.
“We are extremely grateful for the support of Solon residents, the mayor, city council and planning,” said Solon resident Ara Bagdasarian, who proposed the project along with his wife Leslie. The Bagdasarians have two adult children with special needs.
“It’s about a year ago that we made our first family presentation followed by the introduction of the whole idea to city council,” he said. “It’s taken about a full year to get this far.”
Solon Community Living will consist of 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 will be in the area of the Solon Community Center, the Solon branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library and the Solon Community Park, among other amenities, allowing residents easy access to them.
Mr. Bagdasarian said Tuesday’s passage brings a sense of relief.
“It’s been a long road with the virus and the delay and the whole process,” he said. There have been multiple public presentations on the project as well as meetings with city officials.
“We feel really good about creating a unique opportunity for people with this zoning,” Mr. Bagdasarian said. “It could potentially be groundbreaking for not only our kids and their families, but a model for other communities.
“I also feel this could be something special if we do it right,” he added. “It can have broader meaning than just in Solon.”
Mr. Bagdasarian said the next steps involve working with the city on the whole process, including acquiring the site, identifying the footprint and working on design and layouts. It is most likely the project will commence in 2021, he said.
“We want to thank the city and everyone for their support, and we are excited to provide this opportunity for people,” Mr. Bagdasarian said. “There is a lot of work ahead.”
Mayor Edward H. Kraus said following the election, “For all of us, it is great news in a tough time.
“We can use this type of good news and something so positive for the community going forward,” Mayor Kraus said. “It came at a perfect time. The whole community, administration, council and residents can feel good about who we are and what we are doing as a community.”
Mayor Kraus said this project will allow adults with disabilities to have a safe place to live and to live independently with the help of caregivers.
“I think we all should be proud of who we are and how we responded,” Mayor Kraus added, noting that people had to vote by mail due to the pandemic and the stay-at-home order.
“It’s such a wonderful thing for all of us to be a part of,” he said.