CUYAHOGA FALLS — About 80 people filled council chambers Tuesday evening and several of those attendees expressed their opposition to a 148-unit town home development that is proposed on a golf course property on Akron-Peninsula Road.
For the project, council is being asked to rezone the 28-acre Sycamore Valley Golf Course property, 1651 Akron Peninsula Road, from E-1 Employment District to R-3 Sub-Urban Density Residential. The zoning map amendment is being requested by Sycamore Valley Development Co. LLC.
Council heard from many residents about the plan, but did not discuss it on Tuesday night. Council’s planning and zoning committee will review the issue on March 4.
Danny Karam, the project’s developer, said the town homes would be about 2,200 square feet and be built by Ryan Homes.
If the project receives the necessary approvals, Karam said his firm will purchase the property from Sycamore Valley Golf Course LLC. He added he is hoping the first phase of the $35 million project will happen this year and a second phase will occur in 2020.
“I’m more than confident in telling you that my team has thought through this process thoroughly ... our goal is to meet the continued growing demand for low-maintenance town home and empty-nester products,” said Karam.
Greg Modic, who represents Karam, said the development planned by Karam will be 5 units per acre.
The planning commission in January voted 5-2 to approve the zoning map change with several stipulations, including a requirement that the developer put together a Mixed-Overlay Conceptual Development Plan. The planning commission discussed the conceptual overlay plan on Wednesday night.
Fred Guerra, the city planning director, said the typical R-3 zoning would allow a developer to have four units per acre. With the overlay component, the developer can build six units per acre. Guerra said while the current area is a “workable” industrial zone, he noted it is not likely that a company would make a large investment in an industrial facility because the area is not close enough to highways.
Several residents told council in a public hearing that they were against the rezoning and the project itself because they felt the development would increase flooding problems and not fit in with the area’s rural character.
Resident Scott Myers told council, “Please don’t change the zoning before seeing the final plan.” He noted with each new development approved in the former Northampton Township, the area is “in danger of being overdeveloped.” Myers added he believes “only the developers have the city’s ear,” a situation he said is starting to put “a bad taste in people’s mouths.”
Resident Bruce Nichols said he was concerned about flooding problems becoming worse if the development is built. He noted he gave council member Russ Iona a tour of the area to show him the flooding issues. Nichols said the Summit County Engineer’s Office tried to mitigate the flooding problems by extending the span of the bridge over Mud Brook creek at Akron-Peninsula Road.
“It has failed,” said Nichols. “It has flooded twice since then ...Mud Brook is not big enough to overcome the strength of the Cuyahoga River and everything backs up.”
“High density development should meet its natural end here,” said resident Gina Burk.
Resident Chris Roman noted that council last year approved a plan for 89 single-family lots on 64.6 acres on Sourek Trail in a rural area near the national park — despite objections raised by many of the same residents who are objecting to the new proposal. Roman apologized to audience members for not speaking out about that project. This time, however, she let her voice be heard.
Roman said she felt the development was “totally inappropriate for this area of Cuyahoga Falls.”
“You do have a choice,” said Roman to council members. “Your hands are not tied. You can say no.”
Resident Andrew Holland — who served as one of the leaders of the residents who raised concerns about the Sourek Trail project — said he thought the comments at Tuesday’s meeting were “almost a mirror” of what was discussed last year.
Holland noted there are positive aspects of the Sourek Trail development — the road is being improved, and gas and water service is being extended to residents in that area. He noted a Tax Increment Financing agreement in which a portion of the property tax money generated by the new homes is being used to pay for these improvements and infrastructure upgrades. Holland observed it does mean that the Woodridge Local Schools are not receiving as much property tax money as they would’ve received without the tax money being deferred.
“We are paving over Northampton and it’s got to stop somewhere,” stated Holland.
He asked, “Is it too much to ask to see the entire plan before you change the zoning?”
Resident Kim Nero said she felt the number of units planned in the development is “just too much.”
“Use your brain and your heart when you vote,” said Nero, who encouraged council members to act on “what your residents want and need. Please vote no on this short-sighted project.”
Millie Castillo said she is part of women’s golf group called the Duffy Daffers, and said they wanted the course to remain open.
“We don’t have many golf courses left,” said Castillo. “Give us Sycamore back. We need it. We love it.”
None of the residents spoke in favor of the project, however, the Iacomini family from Papa Joe’s restaurant on Akron-Peninsula Road, submitted a letter to the city planning department supporting the development.
“The 148 town houses on 30 beautiful acres of land will create a new start for the many vacant buildings on Akron-Peninsula Road,” the Iacomini family’s letter stated. “Our Cuyahoga Valley is a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered, and with population, new opportunities will arise.”
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.