SOLON, Ohio — Solon voters will be asked Nov. 3 to rezone about 32.6 acres next to Hawthorne Valley Golf Club to allow for 105 single-family homes for people 50 and older.
City Council approved an ordinance Monday (July 20) that will give voters a chance to enact a new chapter of the city’s planning and zoning code to create an R-2-A zoning classification and implement it for this property.
The one- and two-family residential zoning is specifically designed to permit developments for those age 50 and older. The land is currently zoned R-1-D, single-family residential.
Council also approved a development agreement for the project, along with a declaration of protective covenants — or deed restrictions — that would preserve 150 acres of the 204-acre property as green space. That land is the site of the former golf course at 27840 Aurora Road, which closed at the end of 2018.
Hawthorne Golf Estates is the developer of the project. TransCon Builders, of Bedford, is the management company.
“I’m basically comfortable with this,” said Vice Mayor and Ward 5 Councilwoman Nancy Meany, noting that the property is located within her ward.
“Do I wish we could have other things in place? Yes. But I think what we have here, I’m comfortable in allowing the voters to decide whether they think this is a good rezoning of this property.”
The issue would have to pass both citywide and in the affected Ward 5 to be approved.
Council held its third public hearing on the proposal Monday (July 20), after the city’s Planning Commission recommended it to council for approval, and passed the rezoning ordinance on third reading.
The meeting and public hearing were open to the public, but those who attended were required to wear face masks and sign a “COVID-19 assumption of risk and liability release.” Council meetings have been physically closed to the public since March 16, when council began meeting remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Concern about utilities
Three residents attended the public hearing, and one of them — Christine Jindra of Richmond Road — spoke to council.
“My two main concerns about the proposal are the fact that the ownership of the 150 acres (of park land) is up in the air — it troubles me quite a bit that we don’t know how it’s going to be operating — and the utilities,” Jindra said.
“The water pressure is already pretty low on Richmond Road, and I’m very concerned about what that’s going to do to my ability to take a shower and run the dishwasher at the same time.
“Overall, I think this idea is great,” she continued. “I would love to see it turned into a park, and I’d love to see the (Cleveland) Metroparks or another group control it. But I’m really, really troubled for the city to go forward with this without knowing how this is going to operate.”
Larry Apple, project manager, said Hawthorne Golf Estates has been in correspondence with the Cleveland Water Department and will forward to the city and neighbors information it receives from the department that shows the water pressure is adequate.
“In terms of the future use of the park land, we are open to conversations with any nonprofit or governmental organization that would like to buy the property and keep it as open space as the deed restrictions will require,” Apple said.
Jindra responded, “I would like to see some assurance and help from the city to make sure we don’t have problems in the future.”
Meany said after passage of the ordinance that the developer will have to return to the Planning Commission with a site plan, “and that will get into all the utilities, and our engineering department will be involved.”
“So there will be a lot of vetting,” she said. “I know there have been issues on Richmond (Road) in the past with water pressure, so certainly that will be taken into account once we get to that point.”
Kyle Baker, director of real estate for the Cleveland Metroparks, also spoke via telephone during the public hearing, as he did in previous hearings.
Baker said the Metroparks has requested involvement with the city and the developer in regard to the development agreement, since Hawthorn Parkway is a private roadway owned by the Metroparks. The proposed 105 single-family homes would be accessed from Hawthorn Parkway.
“We have had no discussion with either the developer or the city,” Baker said. “Cleveland Metroparks just wants to make the council and the developer aware that in order for this driveway to be put on Hawthorn Parkway, and further development to happen, Cleveland Metroparks will have to be a part of that conversation, and we will have to enter into some sort of agreement with the developer.”
Meany said discussions between the city and the developer have focused primarily on the rezoning of the land, due to time restrictions. The deadline for local issues to be filed with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections for the Nov. 3 ballot is Aug. 5.
“I know you’d like this to be a three-party agreement, but due to the time limitations with us getting this down to the Board of Elections, so that our voters can vote on this, we really don’t have time to try to get you guys involved,” Meany told Baker.
“Whatever issue there is between the property owner and yourself as far as this roadway, it’s going to be up to you guys, but I’m not sure how involved we as the city should be in this. This isn’t our land,” Meany said.
Apple said Hawthorne Golf Estates is confident that the driveway access on Hawthorn Parkway will fully meet the requirements of the deed, which dates to 1946.
Ward 3 Councilman Jeremy Zelwin said council’s vote on the rezoning ordinance doesn’t preclude additional conversations between the Metroparks and the developer.
“We have plenty of time before the election, hopefully, for everyone to come to an agreement,” he said.
Proposal would fill need
Apple explained that the proposal would likely fill a need in the city for people ages 50 to 70.
“Solon’s population is aging,” he said. “The population over (age) 50 increased almost 15 percent (from 2010 to 2017) to almost 40 percent of the city.
“During this same period, the city’s total population was stagnant and actually declining.”
The proposal meets the goals of Solon’s master plan, Apple said, “to promote the creation of new senior citizen housing opportunities to enable Solon residents to continue to live within the community if their housing needs change.”
The city has a history of zoning land to accommodate the needs of its residents and its seniors, he added.
“But there’s a major gap, and that gap is for people (ages) 50 to 70 who want to stay in the community and want to own their own home,” he said. “They’ve bought houses, they’ve raised families, and now they want a maintenance-free home with a first-floor master (bedroom) and no yard to worry about.
“Solon homeowners are moving to (other East Side communities) to new maintenance-free housing developments. Hawthorne Golf Estates gives them an opportunity to stay here.”
In addition, the proposed development would generate a projected tax revenue of more than $1 million annually for the city and the Solon Schools, Apple said. The parcel currently produces only $6,000 a year in property tax, he said.
Each single-family home of at least 1,500 square feet would have a two-car attached garage and would be designed to have a first-floor master bedroom, he said.
The legally binding deed restrictions would preserve the 150 acres of park land as green space if the rezoning is approved, Apple said.
“Preserving a golf course is not a new idea,” he said. “The former Acacia Country Club (in Lyndhurst) is now Acacia Reservation, part of Cleveland Metroparks, a 155-acre green space oasis. The same thing could happen here.”
As part of the development agreement, Hawthorne Golf Estates has agreed to pay for a traffic study of the intersection of Hawthorn Parkway and Aurora Road, Apple said.
“Our proposal is different from previous plans for the area,” he said. “In the past, up to 184 units of housing were proposed on 62 acres, with many being attached duplex or triplex houses.
“There was no guarantee of permanent green space. Moreover, there was no development agreement that guaranteed the proposal would be built as promised,” he said.
Zelwin said he “wholeheartedly supports both the ordinance to place this on the ballot and the development agreement.”
“I want to thank the developer for entering into the development agreement,” he said, “because it protects, with the deed restrictions, the 150 acres and provides an opportunity for the developer to sell this piece of property and have it be public space if someone comes forward and purchases that land.”
Council voted to reschedule its Sept. 7 meeting to Sept. 8, since Sept. 7 is Labor Day.
Meany said council will continue to open its meetings to the public, provided people wear face masks and sign a waiver of liability. She added that per guidelines set by Gov. Mike DeWine’s office, a maximum of 10 people is allowed in council chambers.
Read more from the Chagrin Solon Sun.