CUYAHOGA FALLS -- City Council will vote April 10 whether to approve plans for a 62-unit senior apartment complex on Pleasant Meadow Boulevard off of Wyoga Lake Road.
On April 3, some 50-60 residents filled Council Chambers, 10 of whom spoke out against the project for reasons that included the loss of trees, increase in flooding and decrease in property values.
The site plan application was approved by the planning commission on March 21 during a meeting that drew 50-60 people, according to an administrative specialist for the city's community development department. According to the city planning division's staff report, owner Cuyahoga Falls Senior LLC of Cleveland submitted a major site plan application for 62 apartment homes in a four-story building.
The architect is RDL Architects and the engineer is GPD Group. The complex, according to the application, will be a green building -- one that promotes sustainable living. NRP Group LLC of Cleveland represents the owner.
In reviewing the site plans with Council, the city's senior planner, Nick Sugar, said the site is in an area where flooding is an issue. "This is an area of concern because we have Mud Brook flowing through it," Sugar said.
Sugar said there are three buffers along Mud Creek to prevent flooding: a 30-foot preserve buffer, a 75-foot managed buffer and a 100-foot limited development buffer. "Historically, the city has been acquiring property along Mud Brook," he added.
Planning Director Fred Guerra said the city has a tree protection requirement and the developer is expected to replace any trees cut down that had an 18-inch or greater tree caliper, or trunk thickness. Guerra said a total of 1,805 inches in caliper will have to be replaced which he said equates to between 175 and 250 trees. The city is working with the Cuyahoga Falls Senior LLC to determine where to plant the new trees on the same lot.
"The [city's development] code wants you to protect trees on the site, but it doesn't stop you from developing the site," he said. There is also a wetland area the developer will have to mitigate, Guerra added.
At-Large Councilman Jeff Iula (R) said he received a call from a resident who said one day there was a woods on the property and the next day only three trees were left standing. Guerra said the city does not own the property but the taxes generated from the project -- because it is located in a tax increment financing district -- can be used to create open space elsewhere.
This is the third development project proposed on this site since 2000, Guerra said, and it has "less impact than the other plans that came before it."
Mary Hada of NRP Group said she has been working with the landowner on this project for the past couple of years. "We have worked with the city to meet all the criteria and additional things to make this a coordinated effort for the site plan," Hada said, "to where the city could go ahead with their trail and we could preserve the green space but then also do the housing for the seniors where it's already zoned R-5 (mixed density residential)."
Hada said tenants must be 55 or older, and the owner will sign a restrictive covenant with Summit County that states the apartments will be "elderly housing for 30 years." Acceptance will be based on income, landlord references and credit and criminal background checks, Hada said, adding the income requirement is 60 percent of the adjusted median income and under.
Guerra noted the location of this project -- at the dead end of Pleasant Meadow Boulevard -- is favorable because senior housing "is going to generate as little traffic as possible."
Nici Lucas, a business owner representing residents, said she had a petition signed by more than 200 people opposed to the project. "This is going to destroy a peaceful view, lower property values and create a disjointed and scrambled look," Lucas said. She said residents told her they "feel like no one else is listening" to their concerns.
Tom Cargo of River Rock Drive said this area in question has long been dealing with storm water coming in from Hudson, Boston Heights and Stow. "This is a huge problem," Cargo said.
"I'm concerned about the schools," said Sharon Blackford of East Prescott Circle. "Seniors don't support school levies."
Renee Nist of East Prescott Circle said the clearing of so many trees so close to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is wrong. "You're disrupting the habitat," Nist told the developers.
Martha Meadows of River Rock Drive called for the city to fix the existing flooding problem in the area first before any more developments are approved. Meadows said her allotment's homeowner's association has spent "thousands of dollars" to control storm water from the north with "no, zero, zilch assistance from the city This problem is serious."