Auburn’s zoning in jeopardy

There was standing room only last week at Adam Hall as Auburn’s old and new residents expressed their feelings at a public hearing on several variances put before the Board of Zoning Appeals by Robert Brosnan (Six Dog Holdings, LLC) of Chagrin Falls. He owns 11 parcels of land in our B-3 and B-4 business districts south of Route 422 and 44 which are zoned 2 acres. The summary of his variances is to change seven of his parcels totaling 31-plus acres to a new district Residential (R-1) allowing high-density housing. The plans shown are 110 apartment units with very little green space running down to the beautiful LaDue Reservoir and to be built by Redwood USA, LLC.

Dale Markowitz of Thrasher, Dinsmore & Dolan represented Mr. Brosnan and Redwood USA, LLC. A representative for Redwood’s units across Ohio and eight other states described the company. Other presenters spoke on traffic study, water study, environmental impact studies, etc. that were somewhat done on the property. It was very apparent that well water, endangered species, and most of all, townships were definitely new to Redwood.

Mr. Brosnan has not been able to sell his properties at the current zoning, which is in a sewered district. First, Mr. Markowitz filed a zoning amendment (see Geauga County Planning Commission minutes of Oct. 8, 2019 (pages 63-90) for complete information on this amendment). At the review of this amendment with the County Planning Commission, which they continued because of the extreme contents, Mr. Markowitz pulled the amendment and started the variance process. Something of this magnitude has not been done in Auburn.

The public comments were fast and heated, and it was difficult at times for the chairman to maintain order of the hearing. The newer residents representing a very large number at this hearing, moved here because they like rural Auburn and do not want to see apartments in Auburn, let alone the high density. This kind of housing is not in the current zoning, not in our Land Use Plan and was never even thought of in the 25 years of my zoning commission experience. I am sorry, Mr. Brosnan, that this is property you have not been able to sell. I wish you could find it in your heart to stop this and work with the township for a better fit. It was very obvious that Redwood USA hasn’t developed in townships.

The sad part of all of the above is that 98 percent of the residents that attended his public hearing did not know about it until the weekend before – finding out through social media and flyers, not by our township officials. Our township website had part of the public notice posted about another variance on the same date. After being told the information was not complete on Friday before the public hearing, they changed their website adding the full public hearing notice. Why was something so important to Auburn not brought before the residents before this? Our trustees should have known how this would go over.

Thank you, Zoning Board of Appeals, for voting no on these variances. Your comments were very well stated as well as the many residents’ comments. Our zoning has been strong. Here’s hoping they will not break through it.

Dee Belew

Auburn

Master site plan needed now

I would like to comment on the information provided by the proposed Beech Brook development group that was reported in articles in the Jan.16 edition of the Times.  While the article mentions 40,000 square feet of retail space and 75,000 square feet of office space, and 327 new dwellings, this is the developer’s scenario B.  The article does not mention the developer’s scenario C, which includes 90,000 square feet of retail shops, 125,000 square feet of office space, and 360 new dwellings. While Pinecrest in nearby Orange Village has 87 apartments, scenario C for Beech Brook has 245 apartments.

The proposed zoning language does not limit the total square footage for retail and office space in this development. Without a master site plan, how do we really know what’s going to be built? Do the residents of Pepper Pike want to wait until after the property is rezoned before they see a site plan? If rezoning is passed, residents no longer have a vote in the development process and no longer have a say in the variances requested by the developer. 

While according to Steve Bittence of Axiom development company, “They are not anticipating a need for variances after the initial development plan is approved.” According to a Chagrin Valley Times article from June 12, 2017 referring to this developer’s residential project in Moreland Hills,  “There were multiple requests for modification of the zoning requirements … Members of the commission commented that they are concerned with that request …It would be a terrible break of faith with the voters of Moreland Hills.” 

How can we be assured that the same scenario will not unfold at Beech Brook? What if there is a scenario D with even more retail space and new dwellings? Pepper Pike prides itself on its largely bucolic nature. The proposed rezoning of Beech Brook with development by Axiom has the potential to ruin this vision. The residents of Pepper Pike deserve better than this.

Howard Nearman

Pepper Pike

Rezoning not needed

Forget the developer as relates to who he is and what he can do. Forget the traffic study. Bottom line, do we need more retail space? Do we need more office space? Do we need more less-than-an-acre housing?  No, no, no. No matter what “they” say, we will have much more traffic and this proposal will completely change the feel of Pepper Pike. We do not need more traffic. Vote no on any rezoning.  

Jimmy Kleinman

Pepper Pike

Turn Beech Brook into park

I am a fairly recent Pepper Pike resident, having moved here from Lakewood, Ohio in 2017. I enjoyed the area so much, with its beautiful nature, private homesites, excellent school district and city services, that I purchased a residence in November of 2018.

I looked at real estate in neighboring communities, but ultimately decided to pay the premium that homes in Pepper Pike sell for in comparison to adjacent communities. It was worth it for my family and I to live in a clean, safe, calm, quiet and beautiful area, surrounded by nature and an easy commute to get to everything we might need. To my dismay, I have seen beautiful swathes of nature taken down to build chain restaurants, retail stores and so many parking lots to the point that there are empty plazas and storefronts, litter and excessive traffic polluting the area. 

Pepper Pike is being developed at an alarming rate. It already has began impacting the quality of life for my family and countless other residents. Please know that the residents of this area, the residents that vote and pay a generous amount in taxes, do not want any further rezoning, retail, parking garages, multi-story dwellings, rental units, parking lots, traffic or garbage marring our beautiful city. If we did, we could have bought homes in another area and saved at the very least $50,000. 

I, along with many other Pepper Pike residents, will continue to vote with this in mind, along with making further decisions based on our quality of life here, which is not based on the number of retail stores, yoga studios, bookstores or ice cream shops.

The pristine land, nature and beauty we have in this area are resources that can’t be replaced once they are gone. This area needs no more changes in zoning or retail/mixed-use development. 

What we would like to see for the Beech Brook property is a park, walking trails, and/or dog park, along with an enhanced/upgraded pool/water play area in the existing pool area at Orange High School.

Please keep Pepper Pike natural and beautiful for all to enjoy for years to come and spend city monies and tax revenues in an intelligent, holistic, sustainable and environmentally conscious way.

Melanie A. Parker

Pepper Pike

Consider legacy of projects

It seems that this project has been sold to mayors of Pepper Pike, Woodmere and Orange whose residents will be impacted the most in the name of funding for Orange schools and shopping, sidewalks (who in U.S. suburbs uses them?) and culinary convenience. Axiom (Messrs. Bryan Stone, Steve Bittence and Yaromir Steiner) is pulling wool over everyone’s eyes. Residents have to be totally naïve and gullible to be sold on their game plan to short change the population, whose average age is better than 60 years. Many of these residents would not be around to see what is being proposed.

Mayors, who have done good for the communities by supporting this project, are wiping their good legacy with bad legacy and unacceptable future happenings. They come as follows:

Death of Beachwood Mall, which has kept property values of Beachwood, Moreland Hills, Gates Mills, Pepper Pike, Orange and Chagrin Falls at stable level, will accelerate. 

Traffic on Lander Road, Chagrin Boulevard, Harvard Road and vicinity will be a disaster beyond the best traffic studies. Any bridge building to ease traffic will be eye sores for Orange and Pepper Pike. Pepper Pike would be listed as “WAS” a great community.

Pinecrest has not been able to generate and fund the revenues their studies promised. 

If Axiom (Messers. Bryan Stone, Steve Bittence and Yaromir Steiner) wants this development to proceed, they have to do and guarantee each of the following. In my estimation, most of residents believe and belong to Cuba Gooding’s “Show me the money” generation. Basically, the idea is put their money where their mouth is. If the companies and the elected gatekeepers cannot do it, then the residents are being taken for fantasy ride. I believe in “Do or do not, there is no try.”

Axiom (Bryan Stone, Steve Bittence and Yaromir Steiner) have to spend the monies to develop and present details of the plan before the population of the respective town votes for the re-zoning. 

Necessary traffic studies have to be completed and presented to the population, keeping in mind that most of such studies never live up to their projections. 

If the zoning is approved, Axiom has to deposit monies in a non-refundable account to assure it will benefit respective cities and the school districts and it will only be used for the schools. Axiom has to guarantee these monies going forward from the calendar year 2020. There are no ifs and buts about it. Projected financial benefits have to be audited by independent auditors.      

Above are viable expectations from the developers and city officials. City officials are population representatives and if they think otherwise, they need to be booted out.

Developers have to walk the talk and not otherwise. Elected officials have to make sure that there are “sorry” clauses. Axiom wants “yes” first for tomorrow, which they themselves would not guarantee. I also believe in today not tomorrow as it never comes.

Girish Malhotra

Pepper Pike

Keep Pepper Pike beautiful

The proposed rezoning of Beech Brook in Pepper Pike has become public knowledge thanks to the grass-roots political action committee Say No To Rezone. Yet very little progress has been made to improve the city’s communications with the residents and very little progress has been made by city officials to vet this proposed development and the developer. Councilmen are still demanding the specificity from the developer that they need to do their due diligence. No date has been set for putting the rezoning issue on council’s agenda since the mayor pulled it from the agendas in November, December and January.

Let us keep several key points in mind: (1) There are four retail districts and 50 restaurants within 1.9 miles of Beech Brook, (2) the Beech Brook property is 68 acres (the size of 51 football fields) and is 10 acres larger than Pinecrest, (3) Lander Circle already has five “F” ratings by the Transportation Board, (4) allowing a brewery next to the Orange City School District campus is not a good idea, (5) the city’s website describes Pepper Pike as a bucolic, environmentally-friendly, residential community, (6) the tree canopy of Pepper Pike has decreased 10.3 percent more than Hunting Valley’s tree canopy in the last six years.

This proposed development is literally in the backyards of our neighbors in Orange Village. Orange residents must continue to express their concerns to the city officials and mayors of Pepper Pike and Orange Village. They should have a voice even if they don’t have a vote. After all, residents of both communities pay taxes to the same school district.

A local land conservancy and an anonymous donor have expressed interest in the Beech Brook property. It could be saved and used as a park for everyone to enjoy.

The bottom line is that residents in Pepper Pike and Orange Village don’t want this development, nor do they need this development. We urge Pepper Pike City Council to say no to rezoning.

Be sure to attend the public hearing on Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Pepper Pike Learning Center, 32000 Chagrin Blvd. Show up and speak up.

Manny and Judi Naft

Pepper Pike

Support Grendell for judge

As someone who very rarely shares my views publicly, I am writing to give my voter support for Judge Timothy Grendell in his quest to remain Probate Juvenile Judge of Geauga County.

I have supported Judge Grendell for many years, whether on his campaign endeavors or as a former employee of Probate Juvenile Court. I have witnessed numerous cases before the Judge. His decisions have always been fair, not always popular and always in the best interest of justice.

Rendering judgments and decisions that are not “popular” does not make them wrong. Let’s be honest, if any issue in life requires judicial intervention, it is not usually for a good reason. There is always going to be the other side who doesn’t like how it concluded.

I was told that Judge Grendell’s opponent in the upcoming election ran as a Democrat, registered and voted as a Democrat and was referred to as a “Progressive Democrat” by the husband of the Geauga County Democratic Party chair. Admittedly, it is a bit difficult to follow the partisan gymnastics with regards to loyalty.

I do know that Judge Grendell has been loyal to the Geauga County Republican Party for his entire political career, and in addition to numerous acknowledgements and awards, he is a voted member of the Lake/Geauga Young Republicans Hall of Fame.

When not on the bench, he works tirelessly in all facets of the community. He has the experience and the knowledge of both Juvenile and Probate law. He has held hearings in the evening hours, on Saturdays and traveled to homes, hospitals and nursing facilities to make decisions that offer families protection and uphold those laws. He is a good father and an awesome grandfather. His goal is not to ruffle the feathers of those who oppose his decisions, but to carry out the duties of his position and enforce the laws of the court legally and objectively.

I hope that all voters of Geauga County who already know these things about Judge Grendell will understand that their vote matters and will continue to support what they know to be true. I also hope for those of you who are not aware of the accomplishments of Judge Grendell, you will educate yourself throughout the crazy campaign days ahead, put on your safety glasses so you can see clearly through the mud-slinging and innuendo and cast your vote to keep him right where he is as Geauga County Probate Juvenile Judge.

Laura A. Cooke

Munson

Don’t ignore will of people

I moved to Moreland Hills in 2018 from the city of big shoulders. I was very disappointed that the mayor and law director allowed such a horrible development across from the Orange schools, known as Moreland Commons.  After all, they claim to be conservators of the Chagrin Valley. Variances of the project apparently occurred after the voters approved the rezone.

I moved here because of the beauty of green spaces and forested areas.

Now the same developer, Axiom, wants to destroy/develop another green space less than a mile away. The 59 new homes at Moreland Commons will be enough to create a lot more traffic congestion, if Beech Brook has the same fate, it will be unlivable.

The developers claim to build a road from Lander to Chagrin to ease traffic is absurd, as it will only move the congestion one block away.

Sadly, I will not be able to vote on this rezone effort, even though I, and most that live in Moreland Hills and Orange, will be affected as much, if not more so than Pepper Pike residents.

The reason I mention where I moved from is because the way business is done there is obviously happening here.

One must wonder how the will and needs of the people are so routinely ignored.

Well, we don’t really have to wonder. The bottom line stays static.

Jill Gloger

Moreland Hills

Truth and nothing but truth

It’s sad to see Mitch McConnell pushing for a Senate vote to acquit President Donald Trump of any wrong doing without any further documents and witnesses. It reeks of a cover up. If President Trump has done nothing wrong and had the “perfect phone call” as he says, then why is he using executive privilege to block witnesses from coming forward?

If a person is innocent, then any person would do whatever he or she could to prove and show the public that he is truly innocent of what he has been convicted of. The Republican senators are afraid to go up against Trump for fear of losing money for their state or their position. The senators are putting their personal interests first before putting the country’s interest. Two Republican senators have indicated that they would be interested in witnesses and docuemtns to be presented. I admire them for putting the country first and not their own interest.

The senators considering voting for an acquittal do not have the backbone to stand up to a corrupt president. Trump has lied numerous times and name-called well respected leaders of this country. He behaves like a child and is an embarrassment to our country. The people of this country need a leader that upholds the Constitution and works for the people and not for his personal interests. I greatly admire Nancy Pelosi for not retorting back to Trump in the very disparaging manner that he has toward her.

Trump is childish and needs to speak in a civil manner. His rants and tweets are unbecoming of a president. Senators, do your job, and quit worrying if you will lose your seat in the senate. You will be more respected for doing your job by listenting to all of the information. How can any one of you truly hold that senate seat and not want all the facts?

Shame on all of you. You are not doing the job for which you were elected. So let’s hear the truth and nothing but the truth.

Gloria Hering

Medina

Witnesses make fair trial

So, let me get this straight. President Trump froze the disbursement of congressionally authorized funds for Ukraine to use for its defense in its war with Russia to pressure Ukrainian President Zelensky to open an investigation against Joe Biden and his son. Trump did so, not to advance the betterment of our democracy, but to involve a foreign power in influencing our 2020 election to his advantage. (Sound familiar? See 2016 election.) Fun fact: The Government Accounting Office recently determined that the president’s action was in violation of the Impoundment Control Act. Another fun fact: The GAO is an independent non-partisan agency, that is, not controlled by either political party. (And no, it is not party of the fictitious deep state.)

It is also worthy to note that Ukraine depends very heavily on support of the U.S. to continue its fight against Putin’s fascist Russia. And without the support from the U.S., Ukraine would be extremely vulnerable to takeover by Russia. Moreover, (another fun fact), Trump has a closer relationship with dictator Putin than with any leader in the free world. Furthermore (another fun fact), Trump has had numerous off-the-record conversations with Putin. Clearly, for Ukraine to be weakened and Russia to be empowered by withholding of funds would undermine not only Ukraine’s struggling democracy, but the security of free Europe as well as our own.

So, to re-cap:

Trump violated the Impoundment Control Act.

In the eyes of the world, he thereby weakened our support for Ukraine.

He sent a message of such diminished support to Russia.

His action potentially undermined our national security.

His effort would have undermined the integrity of the 2020 election.

To put a cherry on top of this sundae, Trump has ordered numerous administration officials to ignore subpoenas issued by the House committees conducting the impeachment investigation. And he has refused to turn over numerous subpoenaed documents. If this is not obstruction of Congress, then what is?

Sen. Rob Portman regards impeachment as a “really extreme measure.” Since impeachment is provided for in our Constitution, I don’t see how it can be considered an extreme measure. Some say we should wait to see what happens in the November election. If so, who knows what other damage Trump will cause to our democracy before then? Or what if he loses, how do we know he will vacate the White House? In my view, a situation of potential extreme harm requires us to utilize whatever legal weapons we have to avoid damage to our democracy.

No doubt Sen. Rob Portman and his Republican colleagues will continue to drink the Kool-Aid and will no doubt vote not to impeach. Nonetheless, for the benefit of the American people, they should at least support efforts to have witnesses testify at the trial.

James A. Ciocia

Twinsburg

Safety first

As I drive in the early morning or late afternoon on streets in Chagrin Falls, Bentleyville and Moreland Hills where there are no sidewalks, I encounter walkers and runners along these streets apparently totally unaware of their safety and the need to wear some bright, more visible clothing. I am not sure if dark clothing is a fashion requirement for all walkers and joggers, particularly for the ladies, and for men and children who are also dressed similarly in dark apparel. They are totally unaware of the possible risk of being struck by motorists that may suddenly come upon them, even though they are walking toward oncoming traffic and lack the common sense to wear brighter clothing that would make them more visible at a distance for oncoming traffic.

M.B. Taft

Chagrin Falls

Thanks for gift

I am writing to thank Chagrin Falls residents for sharing the true meaning of Christmas with children in need this past holiday season.

Because of the generosity of donors in Chagrin Falls and across the United States, Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, collected more than 8.9 million shoebox gifts in 2019. Combined with those collected from partnering countries in 2019, the ministry is now sending 10,569,405 shoebox gifts to children worldwide.

Through shoeboxes – packed with fun toys, school supplies and hygiene items – Chagrin Falls volunteers brought joy to children in need around the world. Each gift-filled shoebox is a tangible expression of God’s love, and it is often the first gift these children have ever received. Thanks to the generosity of donors, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 178 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 160 countries and territories since 1993.

It’s not too late for people to make a difference. Though drop-off locations serving Chagrin Falls are closed until November, information about year-round volunteer opportunities can also be found at samaritanspurse.org/occ.

Thank you again to everyone who participated in this global project—many who do so year after year. These simple gifts, packed with love, send a message to children worldwide that they are loved and not forgotten.

Dana Williams

Operation Christmas Child

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