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Nestle open house draws 70 attendees
Nestle open house draws 70 attendees
By SUE REID
Nearly 70 attendees gathered at Nestle USA last week for the first of two open houses slated for this month aimed at educating the community on Issue 95.
The initiative petition before Solon voters Nov. 8 seeks to rezone single-family residential land to industrial manufacturing to allow for the company to expand its research and development segment with the building of a product technology center.
Photographs and maps of the proposed center, which could measure anywhere from 120,000 to 150,000 square feet, were set up throughout Nestle's Bainbridge Road building lobby to allow residents to visualize the project, as well as ask questions of company representatives.
Residents in attendance, the majority from the 5th Ward who would be directly impacted by the project, stood on both sides of the fence regarding the rezoning issue.
Richmond Road resident Paul Labonte said he is not against the project but objects to the driveway coming off Cannon Road. The project will also increase traffic in the area of the park, he said.
The land to be rezoned runs parallel to the Cleveland Metroparks South Chagrin Reservation and is at the corner of Cannon Road and Hawthorn Parkway.
"I don't like that it will increase traffic in a residential area," Mr. Labonte said. "If it came in off of Harper Road, I'd have no problem with it.
"I'm not against the project, but I'd stand up that it's a residential area," he said.
Carol Caruso, who lives on Oneill Drive, said the project presents a wonderful opportunity for the city.
"We don't get as many opportunities of this size and quality," Ms. Caruso said. "Nestle has been a wonderful corporate citizen, and it's a great project.
"Jobs, jobs, jobs," Ms. Caruso said.
Cannon Road resident Rob Harger said he is indifferent about the project. "I see some benefits," he said, "but also the traffic."
Cannon Road resident Jessica Fugate, who opposes the project, said it was good to see some improved drawings that night. "It looks better than the original," she said.
Mrs. Fugate, who lives directly next to the property to be rezoned, raised issues regarding the parking area for the proposed facility. Although Nestle moved the parking lot to the side of the building to accommodate residents' concerns, the area is in a flood zone, she said.
Rudy Verner, chief engineer for research and development for Nestle, said it is in a flood plain, but Nestle has been in discussions with the city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the wetland impacts and mitigation process.
If successful on the Nov. 8 ballot, they will go through the necessary permitting process, Mr. Verner said, which can take anywhere from nine months to a year.
"Our biggest hurdle beyond passing the vote Nov. 8 is going to be wetland mitigation," Mr. Verner said. How many wetlands that will be impacted as a result of this project has not yet been determined, he said.
"Once we determine how much is impacted," we will then see how it will be mitigated. Documents need to be prepared to conduct a survey, he said.
"We won't have all the answers until the engineering is done," Mr. Verner said. That engineering would be done following an affirmative vote Nov. 8 because it is a $3 million investment, Mr. Verner said.
The building, which would result in 40 to 60 new employees, would cost anywhere from $50 million to $60 million to construct. It would be the 11th product technology center for Nestle worldwide.
Cannon Road resident Cindy Colaner said she is in favor of the project. She moved to Solon from Hudson four years ago, she said, for its strong industrial base.
"I think this project will raise our property values," she said, and there will not be issues regarding increased traffic.
Cannon Road resident Gary Boron said he remains opposed to the project. "I think they are going too fast." He said he still has questions regarding sewer and drainage issues.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Nancy E. Meany, who was in attendance at the open house, said she encourages residents to ask questions about the project and let their concerns be heard.
"Nestle has been here a long time and are good corporate citizens," Mrs. Meany said. "They are willing to listen and address the concerns the residents have."
Mayor Susan A. Drucker, who was also in attendance, said Nestle has made several commitments in its effort to work with the city and address the residents' concerns. Some examples are moving the parking lot and changing the way the area is lighted.
Mrs. Drucker also noted the concerns raised about increased traffic. "There's not going to be all that drastic traffic on Cannon," she said. "There will not be an influx of 80 vehicles" each morning.
Mrs. Drucker said she has been communicating to residents that the project is a "security blanket for the city and cements Nestle staying here.
"We need to embrace companies like Nestle," Mrs. Drucker aid. "At the end of the day, it's the income tax dollars and industry that makes Solon strong." Residents are just as important, she said, which is why Nestle is working to alleviate their concerns.
"Nestle is a wonderful neighbor and has always made the schools whole," she said.
Brainard Road resident Cindy Bomeli, who is a teacher with the Solon schools, said Nestle and Stouffer both have been a "positive presence" in Solon for decades.
"I don't think people realize how Nestle and Stouffers have carried the city and its schools through lean times," Ms. Bomeli said. She said she would love for her students to be able to stay in Solon following graduation, raise their families and work for Nestle.
She said she hopes the vote is successful Nov. 8. "I will be voting yes," she said.
If the vote fails, "we will have to regroup and talk about the alternatives," Mr. Verner said. "The reality is, the research and development is growing, and we've outgrown space we already use."
Mr. Verner said Nestle began thinking of the project a year and a half ago and where it should be built. "It took a lot of convincing of Nestle's headquarters" in Switzerland, he said. The facility should be here in Solon "because the businesses we support are headquartered here."
"We're very excited about this project," Roz O'Hearn, Nestle spokesperson, said. The facility would advance the frozen food business Nestle is developing worldwide, she said, "and be located right here in Solon."
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