AURORA — Pulte’s plan to build a mixed-use development on Aurora’s side of what used to be Geauga Lake and Sea World took a step toward becoming a reality Wednesday.

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously in favor of the company’s conceptual plan, which now will be sent to Aurora City Council, which will discuss it further.

If the conceptual plan gets council’s OK, Pulte then will need to submit preliminary and final site plans for several phases as development continues.

Pulte director of entitlement and planning Jim O’Connor said Pulte has purchased 245 of the 560 acres Aurora has zoned as mixed use. Pulte is proposing 308 residential units encompassing 111.4 acres.

That leaves about 20 acres of commercial area and a 98-acre area Pulte plans to donate to the city as a park. That is in the ledges area, which also includes a former campground area.

Pete French, a member of Aurora’s Planning Commission, said he’s pleased with the plan.

“I think that’s great that you’re not specifically trying to optimize the houses on the property,” he said. “I liked everything I heard.”

Commission member Laura Dugauy noted some residents have said they are not happy with more residential development at Geauga Lake or anywhere in the community.

“I think when you bring this up to Aurora residents who just love Aurora the way it is, they just can’t imagine 300 more homes,” she said. “I’m surprised there aren’t more people here tonight. It made me feel better to see how your plan has grown and changed.”

According to plans submitted to city, Pulte originally proposed 321 homes.

While perhaps not appealing to some existing residents, Aurora Director of Economic Development Jack Burge said more housing is needed to attract business development.

“When we interview new people to come here, whether it’s retail, banking services or medical, there’s a chicken-and-egg question — what comes first, the residential or the commercial?” he said. “Commercial will not look at us in a favorable light unless we have more density, unless we have more rooftops.”

Burge said news of the planned mixed-use development has spurred new interest in the city from businesses.

“I’m kind of delighted to see the project move forward,” he said. “I think what it’s going to do is spur development.”

Within the residential areas, O’Connor said Pulte used the additional space to increase lot sizes and reconfigure some areas to create better visual effects.

For instance, he said two houses within the development have been adjusted so people entering the development face them.

“You’re not looking down a bowling alley of houses,” he said. “That is in direct response to the feedback and input we’ve received here.”

Within the mixed-use development, there would be two pods of commercial use and two pods of residential units, according to the plans. The two commercial areas would be located on Squires Road just east of Liberty Ford and on North Aurora Road just south of Liberty Ford.

The western residential area would include 183 units, including 24 townhomes in five clusters. The eastern residential area, accessible from Squires Road, would include the remainder of the residential units. Those to the east would all be ranch homes and would be situated on slightly larger properties.

“This process is about making sure our plan is consistent with the goals and intent of what’s being expressed in the code,” said O’Connor. “The commercial remains unchanged. We are in the process of talking to developers about the possibility of collaborating on this site.”

 

Reporter Bob Gaetjens can be reached at 330-541-9440, bgaetjens@recordpub.com or @bobgaetjens_rpc.