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City should have appealed, neighbors says
City should have appealed, neighbors says
By SUE REID
Solon residents living near by a court-ordered rezoning that will appear on this November's ballot packed City Hall Monday. They cited a lack of communication on the part of their ward representative, as well as a failure of the city to protect the integrity of their neighborhood.
City Council is to address the issues at an upcoming meeting. Meanwhile, residents were asked to communicate with Ward 4 Councilman William D. Mooney or City Hall if they have alternatives regarding what type of zoning is placed on the ballot besides R-2 two-family residential.
The rezoning involves approximately 2.45 acres at the southeast corner of SOM Center (Route 91) and Miles roads. Parkstone Capital Partners, which owns the land, sued the city in October 2008, arguing that it could not develop the three contiguous properties under the current zoning, which is R-1-D one-acre, single-family residential.
The Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas upheld the owner's contention and ordered the city to change the rezoning. The court found that the current zoning is not economically feasible for the developer and that it should be entitled to a higher density zoning. The court ordered that the city propose a more appropriate zoning for the property on the Nov. 2 ballot.
The property owner had requested that the properties in question be rezoned to R-2 two-family residential during the course of litigation, revising the request from C-4 motor service commercial.
"When asked by our attorneys about it, the most logical choice would be the next step above -- R-2," Solon Planning Director Robert S. Frankland said. "It's in the city's interest, I believe, to keep the properties residential. R-2 is the most restrictive residential zoning above R-1."
It was the opinion of the law director that the judge was opposed to any single-family residential, Mr. Frankland noted.
Miles Road resident Robert Cox said the city did not represent the best interest of the residents in choosing the R-2 to go before the voters.
"A consensus of residents, ultimately, would like to have it maintained as it is -- R-1D," Mr. Cox said. "In a perfect world, if that is not possible, we would like the option of city buying it or neighborhood working with city to purchase it to make it green space or gateway to the city."
"I don't want to mislead the residents and say, yes, we'll buy this parcel," Mayor Susan A. Drucker said. "With our revenues down, it is not a possibility. Buying a parcel of land would not be a priority. Maintaining our city services is a priority. Right now is not a good time financially."
"Someone did not exhaust everything it could to protect the property from this happening," Mr. Cox said of the court-ordered rezoning. He asked if the city appealed the ruling of the court.
When the city received the ruling, it would have had 30 days to file an appeal and decided not to do that, officials said.
"You cannot start a battle when the starting point is unreasonableness in zoning," Law Director David J. Matty said.
Even a bigger issue, Mr. Cox asked, is, "Why weren't we informed?"
Residents asked why they were not notified by Mr. Mooney of the results of the court ruling.
"It was my failure at the end of the lawsuit not to notify you," Mr. Mooney said.
"There must be a reason," Miles Road resident Elizabeth Elia said.
"There is no reason," Mr. Mooney said. "I should have notified you."
"We are paying for that lack of notification -- big," Ms. Elia said.
Country View Lane resident Terry Parmalee said he cannot believe how out of touch the elected officials are. "Ed Suit sat in that seat," he said of Mr. Mooney's predecessor on City Council. "Half of the time I disagreed with him, but he was involved. He knew what was going on."
Country View Lane resident Danielle Bryant appealed to council and the mayor to not allow multifamily housing in an area that does not have it. "Don't let the city go downhill," she said.
Mrs. Drucker told residents she shares their frustration. "I still think it should stay R-1, but that's not an option here," she said. "I think we should take this to a higher court."
Nancy Morel, president of the Chagrin Valley Estates Homeowners Association, said the city should have notified residents of the fact that there was a 30-day window to make an appeal. Residents would have assisted the city on that, she said, even if it meant hiring their own attorney.
"Is this how you treat residents?" Ms. Morel asked. "We were thrown under the bus. We are here to ask you to protect the integrity of our neighborhood," she said.
"Where do we go from here? " Ms. Morel asked. "We would have been in your court if you came to us within those 30 days.
"Are you willing to go to bat for us?" she asked.
"The ball was dropped here," Bridle Trail Lane resident Adam Waldbaum said. "You decided for us" he said of it being R-2, as opposed to another zoning classification such as C-4. "You didn't ask if we'd prefer a bakery, office or gas station."
"It may have been a mistake not appealing this, and it won't happen again," Councilman Edward H. Kraus said. "If a judge makes a decision we don't like, we'll appeal it. Shame on us for not getting opinions and concerns of neighbors."
Mr. Mooney thanked the residents who spoke. "I did listen," he said. "I did hear, and you have my support for an appeal," if the zoning fails at the ballot.
Councilman Lon D. Stolarsky said he has no doubt that Mr. Matty and his office represented the city well and vigorously. "Sometimes you lose," he said.
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