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Plaza agreement doesn't stop restaurant approval
Plaza agreement doesn't stop restaurant approval
By SUE REID
The Solon planning commission gave approval last week for a site-plan modification and parking variance associated with an Asian carryout restaurant in the Solon Town Center commercial plaza on the south side of Aurora Road (Route 43).
Approval represents a change from previous requests from the property owner for the site, as various proposals to locate restaurant uses within the plaza have been turned down by the planning commission or City Council since its construction in 1989.
City Planning Director Robert S. Frankland said in a memo to the commission that the denials had been based at least partially upon representations that were made by the property owner when the building originally was approved that no restaurant uses would be proposed within the building.
Commission members were provided with relevant minutes and other records relating to the history of the property.
Mayor Susan A. Drucker asked property owner Allan R. Longo, who was in attendance at the meeting, about what was represented in the minutes regarding no food establishments going in the plaza.
Mr. Longo said there was never anything in writing to that effect.
Mrs. Drucker said there are minutes.
"There was one man who fought this all the time," Mr. Longo said.
Commission members also were provided with a letter from former Councilman Dale F. Pelsozy, who appealed to the planning commission in 1997. He said he "vigorously opposed" any food establishments going in that location. He said he believed it was not in the best interest of the residents on Baldwin Road or for the city as a whole.
The plaza is in close proximity to residences along Baldwin Road and past objections surrounded issues of adequate parking and increased traffic and noise.
"The owner had promised there would be no food establishments going in this shopping center, and I believe it is appropriate to hold him to this promise, given the earlier concerns," Mr. Pelsozy said in the letter. "In fact, I believe there were some variances granted in order to allow the building of this shopping center, and, therefore, we are on solid ground to hold the owner to this promise."
Mrs. Drucker said she still is concerned for residents on Baldwin Road. "What is their protection?" she asked.
Mr. Longo said there will be adequate parking for what he is proposing. In addition, the restaurant would be a carryout with just two tables and no different from a dry cleaner located in the plaza, he said. "What is the difference between food establishments and other stores there?"
Commission member William M. Mazur said there are other restaurants in the area, including a McDonald's.
"This would be the only building in that area that the city took the approach that restaurants were not permitted," Mr. Frankland said.
Officials based that upon the statement at the original meeting that the property owner would not put a restaurant in the building, Mr. Frankland said. "I am not sure it was an explicit condition for site-plan approval, but the city has interpreted that since 1989 of not allowing restaurants." The commission was looking again at the issue to determine if it had authority to approve a restaurant, he said.
"The McDonald's was there long before the strip was put there," commission member George K. Hrabak said.
He said issues with food behind the plaza could attract rodents and would be a concern for Baldwin Road residents.
"I have been here 51 years, and I can guarantee that won't happen," Mr. Longo said.
Mr. Mazur cautioned Mr. Longo that noise must be abated after 9 or 10 p.m.
Mr. Longo had indicated the restaurant would operate seven days a week from about 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on average, but with shorter hours on Sunday and Monday.
If McDonald's is operating a restaurant, "how can we control what time he closes?" Councilwoman and commission member Toni M. Richmond asked.
"I'm not suggesting we control hours, but just be aware of the noise," Mr. Mazur said.
"I frequent your shopping center, and parking in front is difficult," commission member William M. Mazur said. He suggested that Mr. Longo might want to advertise that parking is available on the side and in the rear of the building.
Mr. Longo said, in his years of owning the plaza, the lot is never completely full at one time. The people for the Asian carryout will be in and out, he said.
Councilman Edward H. Kraus, who was in attendance at the meeting, said he has met with residents on Baldwin Road several times. He said he thinks it is great that Mr. Longo has a tenant for the plaza and supports all of his efforts to that end.
Mr. Kraus said there has been a growing problem behind the plaza between the business establishments and a wall that is close to residents' back yards of debris and noise. He said that perhaps a fence put back there would help alleviate some of the noise concerns.
"Maybe there is a way to alleviate some of the issues that undoubtedly some of the residents on Baldwin will face," Mr. Kraus said.
Ms. Richmond said those problems already are identified there, and the Asian carryout is not even an occupant yet. They are not problems created by him, she said of the carryout owner.
Mr. Kraus said residents understand that the problems may continue, but they don't want to see them exasperated.
"You are bringing up legitimate concerns," Mrs. Drucker said, "but they are not concerns of the applicant."
Mr. Kraus said the intention is not to prohibit the center from thriving. "It wasn't so much what was going in there but what has gone on in past years," he said. "This was 21 years ago, without a document in writing," he said of the original concerns.
"They just want to make sure their issues are addressed and not made worse," he said of the residents.
Mr. Longo will go before City Council on Sept. 13. Pending approval, plans are for the new China Dragon, to be operated by Minjie Li, to move in in November, he said.
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