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Voters could expand uses in warehouse district
Voters could expand uses in warehouse district
By SUE REID
Solon voters will be asked May 4 to update uses within the city's industrial warehouse district.
The issue is based on a request submitted by Reit Management and Research LLC last summer. It asked that the city consider expanding the current range of uses permitted within the I-1 industrial warehousing zoning classification.
Reit Management said the request was made to enhance the economic viability of the district, as the company is a significant property owner within the I-1 area, owning about 90 percent of it.
The I-1 zoning classification is limited to the Naiman Parkway vicinity and is in close proximity to approximately 35 single-family homes, those being primarily located along the west side of Brainard Road. The district only permits warehousing operations, the distribution of certain goods and professional and business offices.
Over the past several months, representatives from the city and Reit have met to explore the potential for expanding the range of uses that are permitted within this district.
Ward 5 Councilman Lon D. Stolarsky, who has worked with his constituents in the area, said the uses there are somewhat outdated. "Reit was losing a lot of business opportunities by the narrowly drawn uses in that area," he said. The city had to say no to possible tenants "to the point of being ludicrous," he said.
"We were turning down people who wanted to assemble computers, for example, and an upholsterer who wanted to add upholstery to her interior decorating business," Mr. Stolarsky said. "We had to tell them no, because that was considered assembly."
With the zoning change, for example, the definition of various levels of light industrial would be added, and other uses would be permitted per the ordinance, including printing and publishing and some types of transit-type businesses like limousine services. City Council had removed schools, such as colleges and universities, from the proposed language.
Mr. Stolarsky said the uses would not be expanded to such things as machine shops, but rather light assembly and the most minor assembly uses. He said he made it clear to Reit that he would not support changes that negatively impact the surrounding residents. Some residents had expressed concerns over the possibility of increased traffic and noise in the area.
Jeannette Seminatore and Gregory Pizzino, who both live on Brainard Road, had appealed to Mayor Susan A. Drucker and City Council in letters in which they noted issues with the proposed amendment, especially with relation to traffic.
In terms of traffic, city Planning Director Robert S. Frankland said, currently the uses in the district generate more traffic then the proposed uses.
"The city's guiding principal throughout this process has been to consider the accommodation of certain additional lower-intensity uses only if such uses are accompanied by a greater degree of protection for the adjacent property owners than exists under the current zoning classification," Mr. Frankland said.
"The protections that were included were the most stringent for the industrial areas regarding light, noise, smells and things that could really impact the residents," Mr. Stolarsky said. "We toughened them up. They are more stringent then they were before."
"The purpose (of the zoning change) is to lesson impacts and protect the integrity of nearby neighbors, but use the commercial area in an effective way," Bruce Rinker, the attorney representing Reit, said. Mr. Rinker said the text changes have been fine-tuned to allow for more flexibility. Reit is trying to bring in uses that are better economically and attract more business, he said.
That is one of the reasons Brainard Road resident Joseph Oblinger said he would support the zoning change on the ballot.
"It's going to bring in more taxes," he said of more business activity. "Raintree Park has real nice buildings. They keep their landscaping up, and the buildings look real good. I'd like to see them have it rented out completely because a lot of people do not know, but it brings in taxes for the Orange and Solon school districts. Half the houses on Brainard are in the Solon district and the other half is in Orange." Raintree Park is down in tenants, he said, and he hopes the changes will attract new ones.
In addition, live screening has been promised in the buffer zone at the end of his yard, said Mr. Oblinger, whose back yard backs up to Raintree Park.
"I'm happy with that," he said. "I'm satisfied what Reit is going to do and am happy with the city for what they are going to do."
Mrs. Drucker said she, too, supports the rezoning.
"The proposed I-1 district amendment will promote a broader range of uses that will strengthen our industrial base and at the same time it will protect the interest of our residents.
"Not only did Reit do a great job, along with Councilman Stolarsky, of notifying residents, but they've had several resident meetings and a public hearing kept open for several weeks," Mrs. Drucker said. That was done in order to give residents the opportunity to ask questions and get informed, she said.
"Reit did a good job of trying to inform residents, council and the administration on their proposal," Mrs. Drucker said. "They also worked well with Mr. Stolarsky and Mr. Frankland on putting the amendment together to help the industry over there.
"Our great concern was that we needed to make sure our residents are protected," Mrs. Drucker said.
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