Confusion surrounds the controversial Beech Brook rezoning effort in Pepper Pike.
Axiom Development Group has been pursuing rezoning of 65 acres of land owned by the behavior health agency for more than a year and a half, meeting with Mayor Richard Bain, the Planning Commission and City Council all the while fielding a barrage of critical questions from residents, many of whom clearly don’t want to see change.
That is to be expected in a suburb where residents embrace open land and sprawling home lots.
Besides, Beech Brook, which started as an orphanage in the 1920s and evolved into a behavior health agency for youths, has been a place with acres of open land in Pepper Pike for a century.
Axiom Principal Bryan Stone, who lives in Pepper Pike, even invited fellow residents to an open house on the Beech Brook property off Lander Road earlier this year. He wants the land that is now zoned for institutional use to be rezoned for a mixed-use development with houses, retail, offices and green space. Mixed-use plans are very popular right now.
To get the new zoning, Mr. Stone needs voter approval.
He even came up with a color-coded rendering showing what the development might look like.
Initially, Mr. Stone was seeking to get the zone change on the ballot by going through the city. Then without much warning, Axiom hired a company to secure signatures of registered city voters that would allow the rezoning issue to go straight to the ballot, bypassing City Council and all those angry residents asking lots and lots of questions. One question is: Has a study been done to determine if the region can economically support another mixed-use center?
Axiom got the signatures and certification of those signatures from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections this week. Now Axiom has two possible ways to get on the ballot.
Last week, council members were expecting Axiom to have answers to a plethora of questions. Surprisingly, a company representative said they had no time to gather the information. They were too busy with other projects.
But they promised to get right on it.
Then another surprise. Axiom on Monday withdrew the application before the city. And although the initiative petition could put the issue on the Nov. 3 ballot, the company took another unexpected turn. Officials said they would work with the city to revise the proposed zoning amendment and answer concerns raised by the city planner. The planner had advised that once the land was rezoned, the developer could change his plan and basically do whatever he wants. We’re not saying Axiom developers would, but they very well could. There’s nothing in the proposed rezoning to hold developers to a specific plan with specific limitations, such as commercial space or mixed-use requirements.
Once the land is rezoned, the people lose their voice.
What’s next is anyone’s guess. Axiom’s attorney hinted that residents may not have to vote on the rezoning. We wonder, did the company find some way to work within the existing zoning?
Time will tell.
Though we are a bit skeptical, we would like to believe that the developer will come up with a good plan that is acceptable to city residents.
There is one reality that cannot be ignored. Beech Brook CEO Tom Royer has said that profits from the land sale are critical for his agency. So, if this proposal doesn’t go through, what could be next?
The best plan is for Axiom or any other potential buyer to be open with residents.