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Cuyahoga Falls -- City planners on Sept. 7 approved a major site plan for Stark Enterprises to build a 9,428-square-foot retail building with three tenants on State Road in one of the outparcels of Portage Crossing.
The building would be constructed along State Road just west of the Cinemark movie theater and north of Pizza Hut.
"We're excited to have one of our last outparcels [in Portage Crossing] now in development," said Tom Fitzsimmons, general counsel with Stark Enterprises. "We have tenants in place but unfortunately we can't announce the specific tenants yet as we're under some confidentiality obligations with them."
Nick Sugar, the city's senior planner, said officials were told that the uses "would entail retail, a doctor's office and a restaurant."
"Those are all tentative right now," he added.
Sugar said the site is one of three remaining Portage Crossing outparcels: A second one is next to Starbucks and the third site is along Portage Trail near Pet Supplies Plus. The site was part of the original master plan for Portage Crossing.
The building "will appear slightly out of place along State Road" due to it being 145 feet from the road, the planning department's staff report said. Most of the other buildings along the road are anywhere from 50 to 70 feet from the street. The property was rezoned to C-1 in 2012 in anticipation of the Portage Crossing project.
Sugar noted city officials would like to see the developer put in a sidewalk "to function within the Portage Crossing development, link everything up." It would entail putting in a sidewalk behind the building and linking it up with the sidewalk that goes around Cinemark.
The original plan submitted by Stark called for only a right turn into the driveway and a right turn out of the driveway, according to Sugar. However, Stark Enterprises is asking for a change. The city planning department is reviewing a traffic study it received from Stark the day before the planning commission meeting. Fitzsimmons said the study is intended to support Stark's belief that there should not be any turn restrictions going into or pulling out of the driveway for the site along State Road.
"We think it should be a full left turn in, right turn in, left out, right out," said Fitzsimmons.
He added the study shows that allowing all turns in and out of the site "doesn't affect any of the surrounding intersections to any level of service that's problematic."
The study also proposes extending the southbound left turn lane beyond the site line, Fitzsimmons said.
Since city officials had just received the study, Fitzsimmons requested the planning commission approve the site plan with the stipulation that the planning and engineering departments approve the traffic study requests on "an administrative basis."
Planning Commission member Russ Iona said he felt making a left turn from the driveway on to State Road is "tough."
"If the safety forces or if the engineer believe there's a safety issue with having a left turn out of there, we'll be happy to talk about that," said Fitzsimmons. "We think the numbers justify it. We think the safety justifies it. We think it's an important way in and out to alleviate some of the traffic bottlenecks at the other side entrances."
Commission member Ed Monaco encouraged the planning department to "take a strong look at [the turn issue]."
"I believe it's going to be very difficult coming out of your parking lot to make a right-hand turn," said Commission member Mark Milosovic. " I would really caution us that there's certain times of the day there's a lot of traffic on that road. It's very difficult to make a turn without a light."
Planning Director Fred Guerra said they would review the traffic study and determine the appropriate manner in which to proceed. Sugar told the Falls News-Press on Sept. 15 that the issue is being reviewed by the engineering department and the administration is expected to make a recommendation on the issue when the plan is reviewed by City Council on Sept. 19.
On the sidewalk issue, Monaco suggested the city work with the developer to put in an additional sidewalk to connect State Road to the building site and throughout the Portage Crossing development.
Guerra said his department will work with the developer on the matter and agreed that more sidewalks would be good from a safety standpoint.
The project was approved pending a few stipulations by the city, including the sidewalk issue being resolved, the submission of a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan, and approval of plans to change the driveway after reviewing the traffic study.
City Council is scheduled to review the plan at its next meeting on Sept. 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the Natatorium, 2345 Fourth St.